For the past 10 years or so, the use of content management systems has become standard among most reservation services providers. While the promise of populating one database that in turn electronically updates several other databases sounds like a great idea, I believe it is in fact a very bad idea. Before I explain why, understand that most reservation services providers have thousands of hotel customers. Each of these hotels has a myriad of descriptive, policy and other marketing information that needs to be loaded in several databases, including four separate global distribution systems, the Pegasus hotel content database and the central reservations system that usually powers the hotel’s website and call center operations. So, from a pure productivity perspective, it is easy to understand why these companies quickly adopted automated content management tools, given the mountains of ever-changing information that they have to process and update.
So what is wrong with working faster and smarter? I will admit automated content management systems are indeed much faster than manual updating of multiple databases. However, they are anything but smarter. If all of these databases were structured the same way and if each of them permitted the same amount of information for each topic, everything would work well. However, this is not how the hotel content landscape is structured. For example, let’s use the example of a basic hotel description. Ideally, this would provide us with a good general overview of what is unique about the hotel, its location, services and amenities and general room description. Of the four GDS, there are very different capabilities for the hotel description. While Galileo and Worldspan both allow plenty of space, Amadeus is constrained by 99 lines of text that must also include a list of searchable facilities, as well as detailed descriptions of business facilities, accessible facilities, fitness facilities and spa facilities. In practice, Amadeus can realistically contain about 30 lines of text at 52 characters per line for the hotel description. Too technical? Stay with me!
The situation is worse in Sabre - the largest and arguably the most important of the four GDS. Sabre allows only 2,000 characters, which includes punctuation and blank spaces. Now, here’s the rub - how do you craft a really great description that takes advantage of the space available in some databases and still keep to the limits imposed by those databases that allow far less space? Those who think automated content management systems are a great solution will tell you that the automated content management system software has been programmed to edit the information to size it appropriately for each database. This sounds like a great solution, but understand that while it makes life easier for database management staff, it is stealing revenue from your hotel’s cash register.
The reason is this - automated content management systems are not smart enough to know how to edit paragraph text. What they do is count lines or characters from the top, then truncate or cut off the text when the limit is reached in each database that is connected to the system. So you take the time to write a nice informational property description that has let’s say 3,000 characters. The automated text will contain only the first 2,000 characters when viewed in the Sabre GDS. The last 1,000 characters of text will be edited out. This can even result in incomplete sentences and words where the text has been truncated. If we design the property description so that it does not exceed 2,000 characters for all databases as a preventative measure, we eliminate the possibility of truncation. However, we have deprived ourselves of the ability to tell a much bigger and compelling story by doing so in several other systems that allow far more space.
Use of automated content management systems forces us to make a choice: either risk a disjointed, incomplete and awkward description, or design our marketing story so that it fits in a very small place. I will argue that neither is a good option. Fortunately, it is still possible to manually load content that is carefully crafted for each database. This requires that the hotel insist this be done by its reservations services provider. Some of these companies will do so without much argument. Others will put up a lot of resistance. Some may even refuse. It is the hotel’s responsibility to provide the pre-formatted text; don’t expect your reservations services provider to help. They do not have the time or the skills. Roommarketer has been successful getting manual content updates built for all of its clients. The results prove that the extra effort is well worthwhile. As marketers, we have a responsibility to fight for the best content possible in each venue where our hotel competes. Tell your best story every place you can and watch your revenue grow!