Category: News

Tourism in the post Covid world: challenges & opportunities

The pandemic has been an unfortunate turn of events for the past two consecutive years, leaving the tourism and hospitality industries suffering its impact the hardest.

After two years since the pandemic hit, tourism and hospitality industries are taking baby steps toward the recovery road

The recovery of tourism and hospitality post COVID-19 is happening now

However, we are truly excited and curious awaiting to see how both industries resume their glory. If we were passively trying to cope with the coronavirus outbreak in the year 2020, and almost two-thirds of the year 2021, the government has been actively taking progressive actions, steadily picking up where we left and finally moving forward.

The global tourism landscape

According to a McKinsey.com report, the tourism expenditure had dropped sharply to at least 35 to 48 percent globally, especially the international tourism sector that accounted for approximately USD 1.3 trillion in export revenue. That was more than 11 times the loss of the 2009 economic crisis, crazy yet? Unintentionally, putting over 120 million tourism jobs at stake, as well as small and medium-sized tourism enterprises have been forced to close down.

Travelers’ habitual shift – the challenges deriving from your customers

Ticking off their bucket list

The travel demands have surged significantly in 2021, confirmed by 75% of travelers who took the research by Expedia Group. People have already envisioned their next vacation as soon as the restriction is lifted, creating their bucket-list destinations which they have never considered to do pre-pandemic, all due to year-long lockdowns.

Many have planned and made their all time favorite destinations list and can't wait for their next trip

Spending long term lockdown consecutively for the last 2 years has affected us all in travel behavior and habits

Take drivable leisure trips

Travelers are eager to be up on their feet again, has been noticed a drastic change in habits and behaviors. They prefer to travel within drivable locations, either by private or rental cars, which provides them a sense of safety. That is the result of sudden authorized restrictions applied whenever a new wave of outbreaks creeps in. It reassures that they can manage to get back home just in time before the lockdown takes place.

Prefer longer stay

The hybrid work has been adopted widely. This trend does not seem to settle down anytime soon and shall continue paving its path in the future. People take advantage of this flexible working to have longer stays holiday with their beloved ones to make up for the lost time.

Thorough research beforehand

If before, travelers searched for attractive landmarks, activities around town, nowadays their search priority shifted. A deeper search on the property, the facilities, the nearby neighborhoods, the amenities, and any related photos they can get their hands on is mandatory. Cancellations and cleanliness policies are also on top of the list. All to make sure they are in control and be ready for all the possibilities when things go sideways unnoticed.

Deep dive into property's information across the internet to make sure they find what they are looking for before complete their booking itinerary

No longer an impulsive holiday trip, guests are doing their background research before booking their travels

The open opportunities for hoteliers

Digitize your property

In other words, make your hotel known and reachable on the web. Promote your property across all available social media platforms and OTA channels. Focus on your targeting audiences. If you haven’t known who they are, it’s time to sit down and determine your potential customers.

Showcase your property profile with clear, accurate, and attractive photographs, which play a crucial role in the decision-making. The most concerning aspect any guest would always look for is room photos. This includes but is not limited to photo of the bed, bathroom, lobby & other facilities like swimming pools, conference rooms, fitness rooms, spas, shops, etc. They want to know what they will get, and they will expect no more no less.

Offer flexibility

The cancellations policy has become one of the concerns throughout the booking process. It is less likely for travelers to book non-refundable trips compared to pre-pandemic. Just risky in general. Giving guests a flexible cancellation policy would reinforce their purchase commitment. A case study of Eric Brown – an owner of a vacation home in Texas, USA on changing his strict 60 days cancellations to two weeks one had helped him to score 30+ bookings in a week.

Try adjust your hotel cancellations policy to be more on the flexible side. While assuring your guests best interest first, it also guarantee delivering a higher conversion rate

Customers treasure the flexibilities while travelling, whenever the uncertainty is involved, especially post COVID-19

Active in communication

Tech-savvy guests are keen on exchanging information with the property before their arrival. Be available to assist your guests as needed to eliminate their undesired features that your property might be able to remove in advance. You perhaps sneak in a few incentives such as discounted meals, upgraded room, free parking, or spa vouchers and will be amazed at their voluntary spending on other expensive amenities and services during their stays in return.

Provide customer-oriented technologies

Everyone stays connected online whether they are on vacation or not. Get your hotels equipped with the latest technology software to stay relevant in this modern day. Start with hospitality management solutions or what others would call a hotel PMS. It is the central system of your hotel operations. Trust us, a PMS helps everything work seamlessly, efficiently and costs much less. If you haven’t had one in mind yet, check out our cloud-based hospitality management solution CiHMS and choose the best fit package for your hotel.

Introducing our CiHMS - hotel management software which helps automate all your hotel operations seamlessly, effortlessly at a reasonable budget

CiHMS is a cloud-based hospitality management solution that you would ever need: powerful yet flexible at your fingertip

Other technologies to look into are touchless experiences from check-in/check-out to the keyless entry of room cards and public areas, robotic technology for room delivery, laundry services pick-up/ drop-off, voice and facial recognition, etc. There are numerous technologies out there on the market, and these can be quite an investment. Again, understand your customers, know your priorities and select the best match for your property while exceeding your customer expectations.

What about Vietnamese tourism?

Although the international tourism sector in Vietnam took only 17% of the market share, its spending expenditure captured more than half of the whole tourism spending itself. Up to 80% foreign travellers to Vietnam are from Asian countries like China, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. Many are looking forward to visiting Vietnam on their next vacation, whenever we are ready to open for international travels again. According to Vnexpress, 63.4% of Japanese are eyeing for Vietnam travel tours.

With such demands, the acknowledged challenge for Vietnam is to control the Covid infection cases. Then gradually lost its travel restrictions and eventually opened the borders by starting the vaccine passport program. To achieve such a scenario, the Vietnam government has been aggressively pushing the vaccine campaign at full speed.

The national vaccine campaign is now in full swing. We slowly welcome vaccine passport flights over the last couple weeks, marking the start of tourism recovery in Vietnam

The vaccine passport program has been widely applied in other countries across the globe. Vietnam is taking its first step toward this right direction, remarks the its first efforts in tourism recovery strategy

Many hotels are firm to evoke upcoming promotional travel tour packages as their marketing move. It can be tempting at first, but not sustainable in the long term and might come back to hurt you financially. International tourism might take time to resume its normal stage pre-pandemic. It is best to focus on the domestic tourism sector for now, which seems to shift toward high-end travel experiences after going through the long-term lockdown and not until they complete both vaccine doses.

The world post-COVID-19 fills with challenges and opportunities for the tourism and hospitality industries. There isn’t any clear sign of when the next outbreak will occur, and whether or not we will be able to control it. It is best to take small steps with caution, don’t you think?

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Can your hospitality management solution handle a single booking with 82,000 transactions?

CiHMS is a fairly new hospitality management solution in the market. We recently launched our software to the public amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Understanding the hardships and challenges a new PMS might have faced, we acknowledged the lack of practical operations on multiple business models’ practices at a much larger scale. Challenges come hand in hand with opportunities. In the midst of the pandemic, we had received an event to prove that our system is capable of big-scale at any time: 192 reservations – over 82,000 transactions, were routed into a single guest profile. Our clients were amazed at how massive the routing function can handle without missing any details.

Routing functionality comes in handy amidst this pandemic for our customers in welcoming a group of 200 quarantined people to their properties

With the help of the routing functionality, our customers welcomed a group of 200 people to quarantine during the pandemic at ease without a hassle system-wide

What does it mean by Routing Transaction?

In hotel operation, Routing is an action of forwarding charges/transactions in a set of reservations to a room, guest folio. This functionality allows hoteliers to manage all the transactions for the group in one spot. This tactic is quite common. For example, a company books several rooms for a corporate meeting and wants all room charges routed to one specific room for corporate payment. In this case, the routing for each room reservation sends rate and tax charges to that specified room.

A clear process on how routing transaction works

All transactions of the group reservations will be forwarded to a specific room with the routing functionality

Routing options can be varied depending on the characteristics of the group. Typically, reservations can be routed by room charge only; room and laundry; room and breakfasts; or all charges. For our CiHMS PMS, we can customize options for routing depending on hotels’ operational needs. Giving flexibility in group reservations can help prevent unexpecting requests that hoteliers might not be able to see all through. Take last year as an example, we allowed routing rooms by TA (travel agents), which has been widely used when traveling was in season. It had sped up the check-in and check-out procedure for guests.

Routing in action

During the pandemic, the Vietnam government has called out the local hotels and resorts for help in providing accommodation for quarantined people. Some have voluntarily become “quarantine-friendly” hotels to contribute their share back to the community. Recently, one of our clients has joined this positive campaign and welcomed large groups of guests for long-term stays: 192 reservations for a quarantine period of 21 days.

  • Serving 3 meals per day and snacks upon requests
  • Room services and laundry were available
  • Following the strict sanitary standards and “Safe to stay” policy to ensure the guests and employees working in a safe environment.
  • All transactions regarding the group activities were forwarded to 1 single guest profile.

This “quarantine” experience has proved that CiHMS system capabilities can unleash PMS performance during a crisis, and our hospitality management solution is reliable.

Routing transactions can be easily done from our CiHMS hospitality management solution right at the front desk

Routing procedure is carrying out by front office staff for our guests, using CiHMS hospitality management solution

The 21 days went by in a click. Thanks to the routing functionality, our customer had successfully issued the VAT tax invoice with detail of 82,000+ transactions for the guests at the check-out tables.

We were blown away knowing such a massive number of transactions had routed for a reservation on the event. An OTA might pass over an average of 200-300 bookings for a group booking at the max. The group duration might fluctuate anywhere from 3 to 12 days top. Generally, this probably generates up to 10,000 transactions at best. If this pandemic did not happen, we would never know how many transactions a routing function can process. Again, our very high standard requirements in software development seemed to pay off.

At CiHMS, we strongly believe it’s not just another hospitality management solution, but also an opportunity for hotels to practice outside of their comfort zone, ready to adapt and transform with the constantly evolving world.

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[Feature Update] Direct OTA channels connected with CiHMS Distribution Channel Manager

The Distribution Channel Manager (DCM) module developed within our hospitality management solution CiHMS aims to manage all your bookings from all OTAs in one platform. Is it necessary? Absolutely! With the help of a DCM, hotels can easily approach targeted customers through direct as well as indirect OTA channels. According to a recent study from D-Edge.com, OTAs have brought over 63% of the market share in the Europe region, and 61% in the Asia Pacific. Although the COVID-19 pandemic did slow down the travelers, the market share of OTA remains high.

Hotels often sign contracts with an OTA to be listed on the OTA’s website without any upfront fees. The OTAs only make money, which is calculated as a percentage of the room’s total value, once the reservation is successfully booked and paid. OTA is gaining its popularity with its huge marketing expenditure to attract customers around the world from TVCs to online advertising through social media and sponsorships, even spending a huge budget on billboards, various marketing channels to promote their brands. In general, it’s a low-risk investment to get connected with an OTAs channel, especially if your hotel has a limited budget for marketing.

CiHMS-DCM is a Channel Manager of our hotel management system targets to manage all bookings at once

Channel Manager in CiHMS – your ultimate hospitality management solution will centralize all your bookings on one platform, allows you to manage, monitor, and modify easier, quicker while stay synchronize in real-team across all distribution channels

Each OTA is targeting different types of audiences. Understand who your potential customers are to match it with the OTA profile and get the brand visibility your hotel is seeking for. There are not one or two OTAs, but a couple of hundreds per se. Imagine logging in all of these OTAs to monitor, manage and update your hotel rooms manually. It is not only a boring job but also tedious.

Thanks to the CiHMS Distribution Channel Manager, you are getting connected with all the available OTAs either directly independently, or indirectly via distribution points. At the moment, our CiHMS is connecting directly to the 5 leading OTAs worldwide: Traveloka, Agoda, Expedia, Tripadvisor, and the latest: Trip.com. Booking.com is coming up next, and more to come.

“Here at CiHMS, we respect each and every client equally. CiHMS allows hotels to approach their valued guests responsively in their best interest,” said Mr. Hoang Nguyen – CEO of CiHMS. “Direct connection with leading OTAs globally helps hotels to scale and grow their guests’ list, simplify and improve their operational practices.”

CiHMS Distribution Channel Manager also enables direct OTA connections through public API technology. With this methodology, hotels can instantly get connected with their favorite OTAs directly with a single click. CiHMS is quite new to the market, but speeding up quite fast and thriving to exceed our customers’ satisfaction.

Have you checked out our DCM yet? Contact us for a free demo of CiHMS-DCM. To go in-depth on what a Distribution Channel Manager is and why hoteliers need one, check out the details in our previous article. Contact us for a free demo of CiHMS-DCM.

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Cashless payments in the hotel sector: trends & challenges

Customer acceptance of cashless payment has outrageously increased since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Although there is little medical study and evidence to support the transfer of virus via cash transaction, the fear is there and encourages customers to go cashless. Getting out of the house cashless is no longer unrealistic in this current timeline.

Not only the hospitality industry experience the cashless payment trend, it happened everywhere else

Cashless payment is not new but slowly adopted by merchants due to customer slow adaptation. COVID-19 hit the world by surprise and now, everyone is riding this cashless payment trend

Many would prefer to look for the “Card accepted here” sign before walking in the restaurants, supermarkets, or pharmacies. It brings the absolute convenience of quicker transactions, unnecessary human errors, irresistible discounts, and unexpecting loyalty points earned in exchange for mileage or gift cards. This payment trend has sneaked its way into the hospitality sector. Travelers, especially popular among international guests, are often keen on paying for their accommodations and dining through cards, e-wallet, or mobile apps. What does this mean to the hospitality industry? Any challenges and what will the upcoming payment trend be?

What cashless payment really is?

Cashless simply means no cash involved. Payment is cashless if it is made by cards or electronic methods instead of cash, and known as digital payments. This payment methodology has been widely used in amusement parks, festivals, concerts, fairs, during flights, etc. According to the Vietnam Insider, Vietnam market transaction value had soared 177% in the first half of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. There are many different ways of cashless payment, these include:
1. Bank cards: Credit cards and debit cards are the most used payment forms globally.
2. Mobile wallet applications: There are numerous mobile wallet apps on the market for customers to choose from. This method of payment is quick and functional. Users can send, receive, and store money as they wish. MoMo, Viettel pay, Moca, Airpay, VNPT pay are the few e-wallet apps that have gained popularity in the Vietnam market. The government also has encouraged citizens to pay their utility bills, such as water, electricity, internet, and television cable bills through e-wallet apps.
3. QR code: it stands for Quick Response code, which is a pattern black square grid and can be read by smart devices such as mobile phones, tablets, and computers. After scanning the QR code into the devices would redirect customers to proceed with the payment on a certain payment gateway.

One of the popular cashless payment method is QR code. People can quickly proceed their payment by scanning the QR code using their tablets or mobile phone

QR code is also a cashless payment method. It allows customers to proceed with the payment on their phone simply by scanning the QR code

4. NFC technology: is short for Near Field Communication. The technology enables users to pay by tapping a chip card onto a POS/ reader device. It can be credit, debit, wrist band or simply a smart card with a built-in chip using NFC technology. There are phones with NFC-enabled technology which can be linked to your e-wallet or bank cards.
5. Gift cards & vouchers: physical gift cards and vouchers or non-physical gift cards and vouchers (also known as e-gift cards, e-vouchers) are used for customer rewards and birthday presents.

Hospitality industry with cashless payment trend

Transaction speed

Undeniably fast transaction in all cashless payment transactions. Hotels now allow customers to deposit money into their keycard. Incorporating the NFC technology, customers can enjoy their stay without the need to carry their wallets around the property. It results in less waiting time for customers and avoids over-waiting queues.

Transaction can be done in a few second using the NFC technology integrating in smart watches, bands and cards

NFC technology integrated into smartwatches, smart bands, smart cards allow customers to quickly pay for their transaction without entering their card pin or sign their payment slip

Security

Reducing the fraud of counterfeit money, human errors, robbery of cash internally and externally. It’s also easy to manage and control by the accounting system.

Brand image

Going cashless let hoteliers track customers’ behavior during their stays. Understand their favorite location within the hotel property, their most spending item, which dining restaurant they would prefer, and much more. From this information, hoteliers can easily record and serve their guests better, achieving customer satisfaction is no longer an “impossible mission”. Keeping up with technology would position your hotel brand above others in the industry. It builds customers’ trust and loyalty, keeps them coming back for their next trip.

Maximize sales and revenue

Due to the ease of payment, customers tend to enjoy and would be willing to spend more than they plan to on added-value products and services such as spas, private tours, brunch package, etc. To promote customers, a few hotels would offer generous discounts if their guest’s accumulated spending exceeds a certain amount at the time of checking out. It can later be exchanged for money and deducted right from their stay expenses, or later used for the next stay.

The challenges for the hotel industry

With endless advantages the cashless payment trend has brought into the hotel industry, the challenges are also there. Below are a few worth mentioned:

Security

While it is secured to go cashless for guests, it is challenging for the hoteliers to make sure their connection is not in breach and stable. Digital translation relies heavily on the Internet connection. To ensure your network is safe and always up and running means strict monitoring policy and IT staff to standby 24/7.

No security breach connection to avoid the risk while implement digital transactions. 24/7 monitoring and an IT staff stand-by is a must

Digital transaction means a 24/7 stable internet connection. Otherwise, transaction failure can occur

Higher cost with credit/debit charging fees

Depending on the card authorizer, the processing fee might be different. If you own a hotel chain or multinational hotel corporation, you would be treated with special low processing fees, somewhere between 0% – 1%. Otherwise, the normal rate would apply to your guests’ transactions.

Digital transaction knowledge update

At the current rate of technology development, digital transactions are constantly getting created and updated. Be in sync with the new releases and the latest tech to avoid any risk and fraud regarding digital transactions for guests as well as your hotel.

Customer denial to go cashless

The fear of overspending if you do not “see” and feel the money going out of your pocket is stopping customers from moving forward with the cashless payment trend.

The cashless payment trend has been more accepted by customers in recent years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. People are willing to change without hesitation and their adaptation rate is surprisingly high. If it would take an average of 10 years for the old generations to get used to digital transactions, COVID-19 has cut the time by 5th. In 2 years, cashless payment has been casually used on a daily basis. Not only the hospitality industry experienced it, but it is applied in all industries worldwide.

Customers are now expecting us to move on and practice the new contactless experience trend. Front-desk staff can be replaced with self-check-in and check-out via phone or tablets, housekeeping request and room-services getting requests through hotel apps, self-service restaurant receiving orders through tablets integrated into guests table. This is not a fictional movie, it is the reality now. The time is here, and if you are not riding this cashless payment wave, you are missing out. Are you aware of this cashless payment trend? If yes, have you applied it to your hotel practices? How about a contactless experience? Any plan on it yet? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

We also have an upcoming regarding the Cashless payment trend coming up shortly this week. Register to join us now. There is a limited offer for this webinar. More information can be found @Live webinar: Payments trends in the hotel sector. We see you then!

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OCR technology in CiHMS proceeds check-in process within seconds

The great news is here. Our hospitality management solution – CiHMS just came out with the new feature, which uses OCR (Optical Character Recognition) technology to speed up the check-in process for hotel guests. Quickly scan, quickly stored in our VinBigdata and the amazing technology would make all guests go from A to Z in seconds. In today’s blog, we’ll be sharing with you this great cool OCR technology and how it works with CiHMS.

We have just released the new feature with OCR technology for the CiHMS hospitality management solution

OCR technology is now integrated with our hospitality management solution – CiHMS allows you to get your guest check-in at a much faster pace

What is OCR then?

OCR is short for Optical Character Recognition or also known as Optical Character Reader first invented in 1914. Since then, the technology has been developed to improve its accuracy. To this date, OCR technology has come somewhat near its perfection. The technology is used to convert text, handwritten text, typed prints in images, photos, paper documents into machine-readable text data. Early on, OCR technology was to serve purposes to the blinds, the visually impaired populations. Thanks to its conveniences and usefulness today, OCR technology is now widely used in various industries.

The OCR technology helps hotels to achieve contactless hotel experience in a near future

OCR technology was invented at the beginning of the 1910s, but only gained its popularity in recent decades, especially in the travel and hotel industries

For the hotel sectors, OCR has been applied to shorten the guests’ check-in process. Together with the cashless payment trend, which we have discussed in our previous blog, OCR technology shall take us a step closer to making a contactless hotel experience possible. Traditionally, once your guest arrives at the hotel front desk, the employee has to scan their guests’ personal identification papers and manually enter each customer’s data from those scanned files onto the system. How can things be different with the OCR technology?

How does it work with our hospitality management solution – CiHMS?

Thanks to OCR technology integrated with our hospitality management solution, the employee can quickly “scan” guest personal identification through a tablet or mobile device’s camera from the CiHMS staff app. The system then automatically recognizes all the fields to input them into the system.

To dive a bit deeper into the technical aspect of it, this merely is the “transporting” information process between CiHMS and VinBigdata. As soon as CiHMS Staff app has received the information (in this case, are photos taken by employee’s tablet, mobile devices, or via an ID card reader), it would immediately send the images to VinBigdata where the OCR technology would analyze, process and come back with results to CiHMS. This allows the CiHMS to create the profile with this given information respectively. Automation might be intimidating to many hoteliers, but it minimizes the risk of human errors and keeps data stored efficiently. Check-in can now be done without an actual front-desk staff, customers can come in and scan their personal identification documents through a scanner and get check-in automatically if their information matches with their bookings on the system.

What are the types of personal identification that CiHMS supports?

There are 9 different kinds of personal identification CiHMS system currently supports:

  • Vietnam national identification (old version)
  • Vietnam citizen identity card
  • Vietnam new chip-based citizen identity card
  • Vietnam birth certification
  • Passports of all countries
  • Class A1 driver license
  • Class A2 driver license
  • Class B1 driver license
  • Class B2 driver license

If your hotel needs assistance in other types of personal identification, please contact us with your requests. We would be more than happy to receive your feedback and inquiries.

This latest feature has been updated and applied to at least 35 hotel properties of our clients. Using tablets to boost the check-in process has definitely given our customer’s guests a professional first impression of the hotel operation process. This is one of the many amazing features we have been planning to release since April as we mentioned back in our series blog “A new approach to hospitality management solution – CiHMS is ready for the world”. Meanwhile, look out for our upcoming webinar this month on “How can Hotels survive through the COVID-19 Pandemic”. Drop us your thoughts on this new feature, what feature would you like your hotel management solution to have, leave them down in the comment section down below.

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CiHMS is now partnered up with Google

Looking for information? Searching for your next holiday ideal destination? Typically, we would go on to “Google” it. This has become the conventional habit that all the generations unintentionally established over the last decade. That is the result of how fast and convenient Google results come back with your initial keyword input. Undeniably, Google has gradually defined itself as a “free, easy and accessible” encyclopedia across the globe. 

Recently, Google Travel products have launched the Free Booking Links last March 9, 2021, to allow hotels to receive traffic and bookings via Google hotel search. This feature brings such huge opportunities to hoteliers approaching internationally and domestically. Understanding the importance and competitive advantages hoteliers may gain with Free Booking Links, the CiHMS Hospitality Management Solution – has partnered up with Google to provide a seamless connection with Google for our customers. How does this work actually and what are the benefits you – hoteliers get from this partnership? 

Free Booking Links is the new feature released by Google in March 2021 strives to support hotels to appear on google search engine easier, attract direct sales and user engagement at zero cost

The free Booking link feature was recently announced by Google. The new feature is going to change the online distribution in the hospitality industry worldwide

Google Free Booking Links

There are millions of travelers constantly searching for hotels and destinations on Google daily. To show up on Google search engine, hoteliers have to do SEO effectively, practicing, and monitoring it. Some even have to dedicate a large portion of their marketing budget to Google Ads, making sure to maintain their ranking and position on the Google search result pages. The broader your target audience is and depending on how high you want your search result position to be, the budget can fluctuate anywhere from 4 to 6 figures easily. 

Google is constantly observing and evaluating their user experience along with their interactions within Google’s travel products to best enhance it. Free Booking Links feature was first experimented with in September 2020 aiming to help hoteliers gain direct traffic and reservations through the Google search engine at a free cost. 6 months later, this new product feature was officially introduced globally and has contributed to the change in customer searching habits especially in hotel searches. You might have already experienced this feature without acknowledging it. Free Booking Links appear among the mixture of ads (which are marked with “Ads” to distinguish) whenever you search for hotels. 

Free Booking Links is not Google Ads. It appears right under the Ads, and placements cannot be bought likes Ads

Free Booking Links appears in Google hotel search in the results search page right after Ads. Allowing the hoteliers to approach direct customers

Free Booking Links allows hoteliers to have their hotels listed with their best room rates available for travelers to choose from. There is no payment or user engagement from Google collected for those links. Free Booking Links may look like Ads but they are not. The placements are ranked based on a variety of signals, including but not limited to: best matched available room rate for a custom search query, up-to-date feed price, price accuracy score, and matching price between your feed price and the landing page. While you can bid to rank higher in the Ads section, better placement cannot be bought for free booking links. 

The following information would normally be shown in the Free Booking Links section:

  1. Hotel’s properties: those are the hotel’s name, address, phone number, websites, and directions to the hotel. There would also be reviews, your hotel’s pictures, average customer rating score, hotel descriptions, and highlights. 
  2. The “Book a room” button drops down all your hotel room listings.
  3. The booking module with top-ranked booking links and customers can easily adjust check-in, check-out date, number of guests to find the best rate available. 
  4. Filtering option to view by nightly rate, nightly total or stay total.
  5. Booking link ads which have to be paid for and labeled with an “Ads” badge. These ads are from OTAs, travel agencies, or even your own hotel running Google Ads for the selected hotel shown in this Free Booking Links section.
  6. Free booking links under “All Options” and can be configured by hoteliers.

Here are all the elements consisted in Free Booking Links section

The benefits of Free Booking Links

The advantages that come along with Free Booking Links are the followings but not limited to:

  • Free traffic: Yup, to show up on Google Free Booking links means you are visible to the world. These are natural traffic sources and are potential leads that are 100% Free. 
  • In control of your guest experience and data: Google doesn’t charge anything on clicked links and the engagement for Free Booking Links. You can control your guest experience from the Free Booking Links section to your landing pages. Google allows you to track and enable you to generate Reports for your Free Booking Links to further configure to take advantage of it to the max. 
  • Maximize your revenue with real-time rates and room availability: This benefit is for our CiHMS customers who own our hospitality management solution. CiHMS will automatically update your rate and availability directly with Google without you doing any further work in real-time. While others have to regularly update their feed price and send it to Google, we would do all that work for you. Fast, easy, and effective.

How to be eligible for Free Booking Links

You have to have an active Hotel Center account. If you don’t, you can register for one here. However, the process may take longer and there is no confirmation regarding the detailed timeline for this process yet. 

The other fastest way is through a Google integration partner, which is us – your CiHMS hospitality management solution. We are proud and honored to get contacted and become an approved Google integration partner. Make sure you have already set up your Google My Business profile for the property you wish to be listed on Free Booking Links. Please keep in mind that your hotel information on Google My Business should match with the hotel properties you have registered with us, otherwise problems may occur. 

If you are a CiHMS family member and not sure whether or not your hotel appears on the Free Booking Links section, contact us for more details. Any changes and modifications may take up to several weeks to apply on Free Booking Links, please be patient. 

The Free Booking Links feature has definitely brought out numerous potential to hoteliers at no charge, although this pandemic has not ended. COVID 19 shall pass and this tough period soon ends, it is exciting looking forward to the resume of the travel industry. Take this time to improve your hotel portfolio, physically and virtually, including its infrastructure as well as its online presentation. Make your property “within reach”, searchable, and in its best practice. Free Booking Links is worth trying at zero cost and would allow you to accomplish all the above. Why haven’t you started it yet? Have you tried out this feature yet? If so, share your thoughts in the comment section down below.

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Digital transformation in the hospitality industry

Digital transformation has been around for decades since the first entrance of the World Wide Web. However, in the hospitality and tourism industry, it was a game of the traditional agencies in the last two decades. Some still favor the old way of seeking out the information provided by the agency, which only gives out to their customers if they visit it in person. Oddly slow services, time-consuming and do not guarantee you walk out of the place with your ticket or room booked.

The hospitality industry has recently changed and adapted the digital transformation process

Digital transformation has been slowly carried out in the hospitality industry for the last two decades

As the digital world has evolved, customer behavior started to change and had a profound impact on the hospitality and travel industry. People expect to have a customer-centric experience, from choosing their destination easily within a few clicks, extending information on the accommodations including customer services, available activities, room features, and the list goes on. Are your hotels catching up with the digital transformation evolution? How to follow the digitalization footprint? In today’s blog, we will keep you “up to date” with the digital transformation trends and you may find your own path to digitize your hotel slowly.

The Definition of Digital Transformation

You might have heard the term relentlessly over the past few years, but what is Digital Transformation exactly? It is a process of adapting digital technology to change the existing way of doing business processes, replacing manuals with digital procedures. This journey will affect your organization’s culture, your people, and your customers whether you like it or not.

The digital transformation in hotels has been widely acknowledged in the past few years

The hospitality industry embraces digital transformation as a crucial part of development

Many have mistaken digital transformation can easily be done by applying and using the latest technology into their existing businesses. This is called digitalization instead. It is the act of moving your business to the digital world. While digital transformation is much broader. It is about the process of doing in a new and digital way. In 2018, Forbes did mention the high probability that businesses had failed along their digital transformation process and could not reach their initial goal as much as 70%. Every revolution needs a strategic plan, and the journey of digital transformation is no exception.

Why is digital transformation good for your hotels?

Mobile integration

Everyone owns at least one digital device for their own personal use. Technology has affected the way people perceive knowledge and slowly defined their habits. Booking hotel rooms can now be done quickly via the mobile app or your hotel website. If your hotel integrated mobile-first hospitality management software, your customer can do even more with mobile devices, from checking in to ordering room services, from selecting your room upon arrival to unlocking your hotel room’s door keyless, and checking out without actual interaction with your front desk.

Booking hotels can be easily done via personal digital gadgets. Digital transformation lets organization to approach latest technology and set themself apart in the competitions

The increase in digital devices ownership has affected customer purchase behavior in hospitality industry. The need to digital transformation is to stay relevant

A few hotels take it up a notch by offering virtual hotel tools and an augmented reality experience. The customers can explore the hotel facilities, restaurants, and more such as beaches, museums, shops, and cafes. These perks have been widely used for hotels to set themselves apart from their competitors and prove their fast adaptation to the latest technology.

Optimize daily operations with IoT

IoT is best described as a network of interrelated computing devices, mechanical and digital machines through the internet to enhance user experience. Through modern technology, the hospitality industry has welcomed IoT and applied it further by allowing their Property Management system (aka hotel management software) to integrate with their guests’ personal digital gadgets.

It boosts up the hotel operations significantly internally. No more paperwork for manual check-in and keeping housekeeping in sync with the front desk through your hotel management software. Hotels have also installed built-in sensors for room light, TVs, and answering guest queries with in-room voice recognition. These lift off a tremendous workload for the front desk operation ultimately cut down hotel costs and expenses.

Maximize customer experience

With the help of technology, your hotel receives constant data flow from your customers, their real experience, and satisfaction. Analyzing this information can utilize your hotel’s practices and improve your hotel operations effectively. It acts as a preference for customer future stays, assuring every customer experience personalized while enabling hotels to provide customizable packages that fit a similar customer demographic.

The benefits of the digital transformation journey are undeniable. Your business might already be in one of the six stages of digital transformation without noticing. Which stages are you at? Let’s go through these stages with us.

The six stages of Digital Transformation

The digital transformation can be tricky to some, as it might requiret a culture and structure change

Digital transformation consists of six stages

Stage 1: Business as usual

As the title explained itself, you keep on doing whatever you are doing at the moment in your business.

Stage 2: Present and active

Moving on to stage 2 when you start recognizing the competition and the need to experiment with new ideas, playing around with technology unintentionally, applying them into business practices. Confronting challenges, hardships, chaos. Find your way to overcome, and slowly notice your organization transforming.

Stage 3: Formalized

Instead of getting comfortable with your status quo, you find your organization to be adventurous, start implementing new technology experiments intentionally. This is where your transformation begins. The experiment has brought in good results and your executives give out all the green light signals. Encouraging your organization to move forward with confidence. In this stage, you often find changes in your company’s culture. Without these changes, the transformation shall fall flat.

Stage 4: Strategic

During this stage, departments within your organization also recognize the power of digital collaboration. All weigh-in to create a new strategic roadmap. Your business seniors level gives change agents a seat at the table. A more dynamic approach and investment are made, roles are defined, tasks are assigned.

Your digital transformation has moved on to the 4th stage where roles are defined and tasks are assigned after your strategic roadmap has been defined

The change agents are giving licenses by the seniors, the digital transformation approach has shown its effectiveness, all in for the new strategic roadmap

Stage 5: Converged

Getting the strategic roadmap done, it is time to form a dedicated team driven by your organization in achieving your strategic goals, making sure you stay on track of your digital transformation journey. Your organization’s culture and structure might have already changed at this stage. You are almost set and well on your way to success.

Stage 6: Innovative and adaptive

Businesses who have successfully come to this stage means the digital transformation is now a part of your organization. It is when your organization’s top hierarchy understands and sees the benefits of digital transformation. They accept constant change is essential to the business. Your organization identifies new tech, and innovations. Proactively approach to adapt to the changing business world at ease.

You probably have achieved culture and structure change in this stage of digital transformation, from here you are well on your way to succeed

At the sixth stage of digital transformation, the highest level of your hierarchy in your hospitality business starts to agree that only change is constant and the digital transformation is the right strategic roadmap.

The efforts made into moving towards your digital transformation journey are huge, the struggles and pressures are put not only onto the leadership, but also the employees. Staying in your comfort zone often brings your organization closer to disruption. In this technology era, digital transformation becomes essential in business practices, especially in the hospitality industry where customer-centric is the norm.

If you are looking for the experts’ advice and opinions on digital transformation, watch our recent webinar video Webinar: Digital Transformation In The Hospitality Industry.


Don’t forget to tune in to the next blog where we share how you can find your own path of digital transformation, the challenges you might face along the way, and how to overcome them and achieve your journey. Take care!

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The launch event of CiHMS – hospitality management system: Hello world!

On April 9th, 2021, the Grand Official launch event for CiHMS – an All-in-one hospitality management solution was held at the Gem Center, Ho Chi Minh City. Thanks to all the guests that came to join us on this special milestone. We were extremely honored to welcome our dear customers, exciting investors, keen tech-savvy professionals, as well as enthusiastic experts in the field. Though the software has already been deployed for a number of customers since the beginning of this year, we believe CiHMS deserves the spotlight at the launch event itself. It is also a celebration and our appreciation party for the team, who have been striving harder every day in the last two years to get CiHMS to where it is today.

Hotel management system - CiHMS was officially launched last April 9th, 2021 with numerous of guests, customers, investors as well as tech experts

The launch event for CiHMS – hospitality management solution on last April 9th, 2021

CiHMS is an all-in-one hospitality management solution that can transform your hotel operations from the inside out. It helps to automate daily operational activities from the front desk to the back office. Room rate, allotments, and availability now can easily update on one platform and synchronize in real-time with hundreds of booking channels, across multiple properties. CiHMS also provides a centralized reservation system that allows you to quickly get an overview of your business with detailed reports in just a single click.

On top of that, our hotel management system is cloud-based software, meaning you can get access to the software from anywhere at any time with your mobile devices or a computer connected to the Internet. Cloud-based computing technology also frees your financial burden on IT infrastructure investment with zero cost on building your own server or IT staff to monitor and maintain it. No longer worry about regular maintenance, software update, and system upgrade. Leave them all to us!

Fully integrated with other 3rd party components, expandable to your business size as it grows, CiHMS is truly a flexible and scalable hotel management system while staying strictly secured. We respect and put our customers as our first priority. Being certified for PCI-DSS, HTNG, and is going to get our ISO 27001, ISO 27018 in a few months’ time now, CiHMS is determined to achieve data transparency with our customers while protecting their data privacy. (To read more on CiHMS features, please dig in here)

Mr. Hoang Nguyen - CEO of CiHMS shared the hardship in the journey of building the all-in-one hotel management software witht he attended guests

At the launch event, Mr. Hoang Nguyen – CEO of CiHMS shared the journey of CiHMS and how to build the complete hospitality solution from the start

Instead of paying in a full lump sum as you would for an on-premise hotel management system, CiHMS enables our customer to pay upon subscription services: Essential for small hotels, Plus for 3-4 stars hotels, Boutique & Premium targeting 5 stars hotels, resorts, and multi corporation hotel chains. During the launch event, Mr. Hoang Nguyen – the CEO of CiHMS also shared: “CiHMS has been developed with the latest technologies aiming to help hotels to operate effectively, minimize its operation cost, and provide customers experience at its best. Thanks to its capability to connect with hundreds of OTAs domestically as well as internationally, opening new doors and opportunities to hoteliers approaching themselves into a bigger market with greater revenue”. The launch event definitely closed on a high note. It has been a journey with CiHMS. Thank you all for your attendance. It meant the world to us!

If you haven’t read our CiHMS journey yet, don’t forget to check out the series at our very first entry: Buy or Build your own PMS.

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Building a hospitality management solution in progress – Fail fast, learn fast

Our hotel management software pilot testing calendar during 4 months progress

Counting down to our first MVP release

The first MVP (Minimum Viable Product) version for our own Property Management Software was completed after spending 4 relentless months building the whole system from scratch. Following was the pilot test in September 2019. The first Alpha version of the CiHMS – the hotel management software – was installed and ran pilot testing in our customers’ City Hotel facilities. During the pilot testing period, there were also Beta, Gamma and Delta versions released. The whole process officially ended around December 2019.

We thought we had every feature figured out, until going into the actual pilot testing phase, which was carefully assisted and consulted by the experts and professional advisors in the field. Everything cannot be applied with the theory-based approach, neither does our Hospitality Management Solution. Only the practical procedures, real human interactions can reveal our PMS’s incompetent capabilities. We were able to learn, improve and adapt the updated features and changes for a better performance into the PMS.

In today’s blog, we’ll share with you our personal experience, failure throughout the pilot testing phase, and how we tackle and grow from it.

What is pilot testing?

For software development, pilot testing is the act of testing your software under a real-time operating condition. This allows us to verify the feasibility, cost, time, risk, and performance of our PMS in a small-scale, short-term experiment before the full deployment in all our customers’ properties. It is like a rehearsal before a live performance of your Broadway show, in this case, it is for your software. Prior to the pilot testing time, we had to:

  • Build a pilot plan
  • Schedule for the pilot test
  • Deploy and test the pilot testing
  • Evaluate pilot testing
  • Rinse & Repeat
The pilot testing for our hotel management system - CiHMS was planned out in detailed before launching

Our hospitality management solution pilot testing was carefully planned out to guarantee smooth implementation

During the pilot testing time, it was important for us to choose one of the following strategies after gathering and evaluating test data:

  • Stagger Forward: adding more candidates into the pilot group
  • Rollback: Restore the pilot group to its previous state
  • Suspension: Stop the pilot testing
  • Patch and continue: Deploy patches to fix the solution and continue on with pilot testing

First Pilot Testing Milestone: The City Hotel

We set ourselves up for the plan and carried them out gradually. The first pilot testing took place at city hotels. We started offloading all the metadata, which technically meant all the information related to your hotel, it was the detail that described the property information, the number of rooms, room types, etc.., of the first hotel into our alpha version of the CiHMS. The system was run for one month, while the room rate and reservation management were successfully imported into the travel agents’ booking portal to sync with the system room rate in real-time.

Then it hit us with complaints and conflicts among our product functions and the client’s front desk team expectation. Constant comparison between the old system and the new one worn out the coding team. We not only have to pay extra attention to the user experience itself, but also to achieve additional requests from the FO team. The night audit process, evaluating and closing daily cash flow in and out of the hotel account, was somewhat different from what we perceived.

The Beta version was released during this period to mostly fix a number of occurring bugs and re-code the night audit features. Once the new version was deployed, the staff started to cool off. They recognized they spend less time and effort on the night audit workloads than before. Everything was automated with a click of a button and started to make sense. It did take two to tango, indeed.

Second Pilot Testing Milestone: Resort, Spa & Entertainment Complexes Hotel Chain

After evaluating data, we chose to “stagger forward”, adding more candidates – hotel properties into the pilot group. These new nominees were evidently complicated with numerous operations linked with multiple systems. It was dreadful, and accomplishing this milestone did feel rewarding.

Second pilot testing for our hotel management software had failure but we did not surrender

We also took risks in CiHMS Pilot testing period, had to roll back couple of times but never backed down

We had to roll back a couple of times due to integration failure with various existing software in the property. Fortunately, these did not discourage our team. We learned to pick up where we left off, patch, and continue to the next solution. At the end of November 2019, a Gamma version of CiHMS was released with full integration with SAP – our customers’ Financial Accounting System and other management systems.

Third Pilot Testing Milestone: Perfecting the system

It was our final stage of pilot testing after running the hospitality software solution CiHMS for 2 consecutive months. We got “perfect” data comparing with the existing On-Premises system at the time. That was a relief for our team. All features were based on practical procedures and protocols from actual hotel operations, no longer theoretical assumption. It helped to eliminate impractical and unnecessary functionalities that other Hotel Management Solution providers would suggest as extra perks in their software that ended up never getting used. We stuck to the cycle of Implementing, Validating, Adapting/Change, and repeating.

Our CiHMS Hospitality management solution had its first pilot testing in our customer's property in September 2019

Pilot testing our hospitality management solution was tackled on September 2019 and ended later on that December

Though CiHMS has recently entered the hospitality management solution market for over a year, 4 months of pilot testing did help CiHMS as the product as well as the company to mature and grow quickly.

Performance test in Nha Trang

Apart from the pilot testing phase, we also did an intense performance test that took place in Nha Trang at one of the customers’ hotel properties. The test involved roughly over 200 front-office staff in our customer hotel’s property. It was required for everyone to log on to the system and performed all their daily tasks such as booking, check-in, check-out, restaurant booking, etc. at the same time.

This proved our system can handle numerous concurrent users at the same time and made sure absolutely no overloading nor crashing due to system incapabilities when we fully deployed the CiHMS in all our customers’ properties. We were extremely lucky to borrow the needed human resources from our customers’ hotel property to carry out this test. Without their help and support, it would be much more difficult for us to gather a large number of people, train them to carry out hospitality procedures and put them in the test environment to run the test.

Agile Methodology

The optimal approach for software development is the agile methodology, which practices the collaboration between self-organizing cross-functional teams with customers. It allows the team to deliver in workable increments, provides flexibility and responsiveness to changing business needs and customer feedback.

Building our hotel management software based on agile approach had helped us to stay focus and achieve the tight timeframe

Agile methodology was applied in our hospitality management solution development

At CiHMS, we adopt the agile methodology from the start and this was a strategic move, looking back. Unlike the waterfall methodology, a Business Analyst (BA) had to come up with extremely long and time-consuming descriptive product information, and technical requirements which were likely expensive and impossible to change. The BA then controlled and knew how to implement the project thoroughly.

In agile software development, our Product Owner and Business Analyst did not need to have experience in the implementation process. They approached the customers to generate user stories. From there, the team prioritized the product backlog, split into each sprint with workload estimation given by the team members who were in charge. Regular stand-up, sprint planning, review, and retrospective pushed the building process and product delivery forward at a much faster pace.

The methodology was also applied during our pilot testing. We were able to reach out to the customers’ difficulties, create new user stories in the product backlog, improve and release them immediately in the next sprint. Agile methodology has changed our workplace culture to be transparent, value the people over process and tools, working software over documentation, respecting customer collaboration over terms and contracts, most of all, responding to change over following a plan.

The pilot testing ended, meaning we had to get ready for the full deployment on all of our customers’ properties. We had carried out the process in record time, exceeding experts’ expectations and our own. To know what we had achieved, be sure to check in next week with our next blog on: ”Go live with our Hospitality Management System: Zero to Hero”.

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Manage booking from agencies efficiently with Booking Portal

Travel agencies (TAs) are an important channel, contributing a lot of sales for hotels, besides online travel agencies (OTAs) or direct booking. Depending on your business size, the number of travel agencies you have can vary from a handful to dozens. When it comes to booking management, this can be a hassle for both sides. Hoteliers could have a difficult time controlling the inventory between agencies and making sure room, and rate information are correct. On the other hand, travel agencies are struggling to get the best rooms at the best rates available. Phone call reservation with the hotel is time-consuming and not effective as information is quickly outdated.

A booking portal or a reservation system was created to bridge this gap and remove the difficulties for agencies and hotels from making reservations.

How it works

A Booking Portal plays the role of a middleman. It is a platform between agencies and hotels where agencies can place direct bookings.

• For travel agencies

With the Booking Portal, agencies can check real-time information of inventories, rate plans for them from the hotel. They can search, book easily and instantly. Also, there are options to view booking history, make adjustments, add or cancel reservations. All in one platform, no hassle, no delay.

• For hotels

The software makes life easier for hoteliers in managing travel agent profiles and their bookings. You can make sure the information is always in sync, and you can check the performance of any agency in no time.

Managing booking through agencies is easy with the Booking Portal

Benefits of the Booking Portal

  • Remove manual processes
    One platform for all activities: check, book, edit, and even cancel. Everything is quick after few clicks, no phone call, no waiting time, and no error. The process is now automated with real-time data and updates for both sides.
  • Reduce overbookings
    Agencies can only book rooms and rates available for them. Having a central pool of inventories helps hotels reduce the risk of overbookings.
  • Increase revenue for both
    As people said a satisfied customer is the best business strategy. Through a booking portal, hoteliers make it easy for travel agents to satisfy their guests’ demands, which returns in a win-win situation for both hotels and travel agencies.

Do I need one?

There is no correct answer to this question, but it all depends on your TA network. If you find it taking too much time and effort with your current way of doing things, probably it’s time to consider having a booking portal.

Contact us now for a free consultation about Booking Portal!

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