Travel Site's Mailer Helps Update Hotel Records

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A travel-related Web site's first foray into direct mail produced more than double the expected response rate.


MetroGuide.com Inc. sent mailers to managers of the 20,985 hotels found on its HotelGuide.net site to try to get them to update hotel information. Managers at 9,000 non-U.S. hotels on the site were not targeted.


"The response rate we expected was 2 percent, and I would've been more than happy with that," said Mark Metz, CEO of MetroGuide.com.


The actual rate was 5.2 percent. Names came from a range of hotels including motels, inns, bed-and-breakfasts, all-inclusive resorts and chains such as Comfort Inn, Econo Lodge and Marriott.


"We've had this form online for four years, and this was a print extension of what we have online," he said. "Previously, we only had about five hotels per day [updating their information].


"Our conversion rate will be higher if our information is up to date. We can sell more rooms when we have better information. The hotels with information that is more up to date and more complete get pushed up to the top of our search engine."


The mailer, sent in November, included a letter reminding hotel managers that participation is free and touting "additional online exposure through our directory that reaches over two million visitors monthly."


MetroGuide's 10 travel sites get 2 million unique visitors each month, most of them going to HotelGuide.net.


The response form asked information such as the phone number for booking reservations, credit cards accepted, hotel features and in-room amenities, on-site restaurants and directions. If on-site restaurants are available, recipients are asked to complete a dining guide on the back of the form.


"The restaurants located in our hotels are cross-linked via our DiningGuide.net site for travelers who access our HotelGuide.net site," Metz said.


Recipients had three options for returning the form: fax it via a toll-free number, mail it or complete the form online. Photos, preferably of the hotel front and guest rooms, could be submitted in .jpg or .gif format.


"The online update is the one we prefer," he said. "We set up a toll-free fax number but did not include a self-addressed, stamped envelope since we didn't expect many to be mailed back."


Forms were faxed by 647 recipients while 334 hotel managers filled out the online form and 122 mailed it back. One was returned via FedEx.


The total per-piece cost of the mailing was 22 cents.


Though the hotels pay nothing for appearing on the site, MetroGuide.com earns a commission for bookings placed through the site.


"Our commission structure is based on what a typical travel agent would receive," he said.


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