Having reached the height of summer, we wondered how useful the Internet is or has been to the hotel industry. For this purpose we interviewed Mr. RenÃ© Blanco, the Commercial Manager of the Las Dunas Beach & Spa Hotel.
Q. As you probably know, the Internet is the latest rave here on the Costa and I was wondering if you have found this to be of any practical use to you at this moment in time.
A. If we are talking about Las Dunas, the new web page that we shall be launching in a few weeks time will be something that so far does not even exist on the Costa. We have to ensure that the hotelÂ’s web pages are constantly visited by clients, we would like them to obtain all their information and also make their reservations on the Net. Although we are receiving reservations by e-mail, this is something quite new and we believe it is the way of the future. This is why we are also supporting your Web Express Guide initiative.
Q. Thank you, it certainly pleases me to hear this. How does the booking of the hotel look like this year, in comparison to previous years? Do you have more demand and, if so, is this due to the Internet?
A. Well, there two things here. First of all, yes we do have a very good prospective this year, particularly so when looking at September, October and November, the demand for this period is exceptionally higher than previous years. The golf season would seem to be taking a much greater importance and especially during the latter part of each year. On the other hand, we have to educate clients so that they may use the Internet more and make their reservations by e-mail. This is the reason why, as I said, we are improving our web page.
Q. You said you need to educate the public, in which way do you see taking a role in this process?
A. Quite simply by presenting a medium that is really designed for a client so that it may be more interesting for them to use. A web page that is maintained attractive, that is refreshed and changed constantly, creates an incentive to link to it and visit it regularly, daily or weekly.
Q. You did say that your are getting reservations by e-mail, to what extent are people using this system?
A. It depends on what people you mean. If you mean Americans, yes they do, in Europe we are still a bit behind. This is what I meant about educating people.
Q. What about intermediaries, how are they reacting to Internet?
A. I am receiving, every day without exception, two or three proposals from intermediaries. It would seem that lots of people want to adopt the use of this medium, without knowing if it is going to work in the end. Quite a number of companies are spending many millionsof pesetas in advertising campaigns to promote new web sites offering travel as well as the buying and selling of different types of products and services, but they do not really know what is behind the whole thing nor do they know if they will ever recover their investment.
Q. Apart from having to educate the public, are there any other obstacles that you see need overcoming with the use of Internet?
A. The most difficult thing to overcome is their fear to use the Internet! Quite definitely it is a problem with Europeans, asking for the credit card details is like taking away some of their privacy through the Internet. The way we propose to tackle this problem is to speak to clients when they check in and give them their own e-mail address alongside their room number. For example Â“firstname.lastname@example.orgÂ” and they will be able to use that address to receive and send messages as part of our program.
Q. This sounds great! Do you mean that they will be able to use the Internet on the TV set in their rooms?
A. You got it! Although this is part of a third phase, each room will have a set with access to the Internet. But what I am saying is that, once a client is given the e-mail address he will always retain it and be able to use it, wherever in the world he might be.
Q. That is a phenomenal idea! When do you foresee that your third phase will be accomplished?
A. I cannot be exact, but quite possibly by the end of this current year.
Q.That is not very long. How long has the hotel been on the Internet?
A. Our web page has existed for about two and a half years and itÂ’s two years since we started taking reservations via the Net, but it is grossly under- utilised.
Q. In your experience, have we got to the point where e-mails are being used in predominance to faxes?
A. No, not quite. I would say that the fax still represents a good 75% of total messages received, leaving a 25% for e-mails.
Q. If I may go back to the site improvements that you mentioned, are you envisaging animation? You know you can see films as well now?
A. No. I donÂ’t think that people are interested in a show, they would rather prefer to participate. It has to be interactive. It is participation that makes it all the more interesting to use.
Q. As a matter of curiosity, has anyone booked a table at your restaurants via the Internet?
A. No, not yet. I would quite believe that Americans might! But I imagine that a European, would still phone to confirm, after sending his e-mail.
Mr. Blanco, thank you ever so much for your time.