Hotels Go Online to Chase Wet Season’s Fewer Tourists

With the tourist season about to end, hotels and guest houses will soon be fighting over the fewer visitors who come to Cam­bo­dia during the rainy months.

This prompted Angkor Temple Hotel last month to get on the Internet at asia-hotels.com. So far, the Siem Reap property has made one booking through the site, said manager Setkao Philip.

“That’s a good way to get bookings,” he said. “And it’s very flexible. You can change the rates for low and high seasons” at the site.

Phnom Penh’s New York Ho­tel also got on the Internet earlier this month, though “no one has booked through Internet yet,” manager Kim Veng Tan said.

“The main thing is to get the message [across] that you’re there,” said Nigel Summers, director of Horwath Asia Pacific, a Hong Kong-based management consulting firm. The Internet is an effective way to do so, he said.

Visitors to Cambodia come from all countries and all market segments, and usually have one at­­tribute in common, he said.

“The type of travelers Cambo­dia attracts are more sophisticated than the mass market,” Sum­mers said, adding that they tend to search destinations on the Web and use it for reservations.

Summers and Noah Shepherd, managing director for the Web design and marketing outfit ETC Asia Co Ltd, based in Phuket, Thailand, were speakers at Internet workshops held in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.

The workshops were organized by the Mekong Project Development Facility (MPDF), which is managed by the private sector arm of the World Bank, to show Cambodian small hotel and guest house owners how to use the Internet for business.

Large hotels have international ties and the resources to market themselves. Small properties “lack the tools” to do so, said Don Boring, MPDF program officer.

Workshop speakers explained the options available to hoteliers, from having an e-mail address and signing in with an online book­ing service to appearing at a tourism Web site or having one’s own Web site, Boring said.

Many participants had never considered this technology as a way to do business. “Some were unaware that foreigners use e-mail every day,” Boring said.

Their attitude towards e-mail and the Internet were fairly typical, Summers said. “Across the region, the awareness [of the Web] is relatively limited, even in the case of large hotels. In the whole region, the Internet still accounts for a small amount of the bookings—under 3 percent.”

When small hotels and guest houses are family owned, Shep­herd said, “there will be younger members of the family who will encourage the older generation to get involved” online.

You Sobha, who coordinated the workshop for MPDF, said that reactions in Phnom Penh differed from those in Siem Reap.

Though in both cities, she said, “they did not understand the whole concept of having a Web site and how it works,” Phnom Penh hoteliers were hesitant to use the technology, while in Siem Reap, “they just did it…they felt they really need it.”

Some participants did not think they require the exposure. Moe­un Sereyvuthy believed that with 16 rooms, her family’s Dara Guest House in Siem Reap is too small to be listed on the Internet.

“I have many examples of small guest houses who have done very well from being promoted on the Internet,” Shepherd said. “There is an example of a small guest house in Vientiane that, after being listed on the ‘visit-laos.com’ Web site, received 40 direct bookings from people that [the owner] would have never had before, together with dozens of walk-in customers who said they saw his property on the Web site.”

The Internet workshops in Phnom Penh and in Siem Reap, which were attended by about 65 participants, included sessions to familiarize hotel and guest house representatives with Web sites and the Internet booking process.

Since the workshops concluded two months ago, “about five or six [hotels and/or guest houses] got registered on the Bigpond on­line directory,” said Chan Kosal, Web master for Telstra Bigpond.

Phorn Sara, owner of Eclipse Guest House—a 15-room property in Siem Reap—said that he plans to use e-mail and the Inter­net. “I also plan to buy four to 10 computers to offer Internet service,” he said.

In Phnom Penh, the owners of Vimean Suor Hotel are considering getting on an Internet site, according to manager Luk Sophal. “I think the Internet is very important,” he said.  “My hotel could advertise overseas.”

Boring said that one goal of the MPDF workshop was for Cam­bo­dian-owned property representatives to meet, giving them the opportunity to discuss their particular needs.

MPDF is a program designed to support the development and growth of small and medium-size businesses.

 

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