As the hotel industry emerges from the COVID pandemic, it’s clear that the desire for travel has not diminished these past two years. However, today’s guest expectations have never been greater. The hotel owners and operators who evolve their offerings to meet and exceed those expectations will stand out from the crowd.
Hospitality teams have expanded their strategies to examine and improve all aspects of the guest journey, from the dreaming and research phases, through the booking phase and on-property experience, all the way through post-stay follow-up. At each touchpoint along the guest journey, there are opportunities to “wow” the guest as well as drive more revenue.
Pre-Stay: Adapt to Changing Guest Behaviors
Hoteliers have always been acutely focused on building better connections with their guests. Whether it’s pre-booking, at the time of conversion, while the guest is on property, or after they’ve checked out, hoteliers are improving their engagement with travelers at each touchpoint.
Today, the stakes have intensified. Alternative accommodations are rising in popularity for leisure guests, and hotels see their unique, service-oriented nature as a differentiator. At the same time, third-party distribution partners continue to add pressure to margins, which have been slow to recover post-pandemic.
It’s time to think more like an online travel agency (OTA) and tailor the booking experience. Hoteliers need to provide travelers with the right offer that speaks to them and will convert at the highest rate. Like OTAs, hotels can use simple guest recognition programs to reward guests booking via their direct channels while remaining in true parity with OTAs.
Hoteliers also need to strategize pricing just as much in the vacation rental space as within their traditional comp set. That means hoteliers should monitor vacation rental rates and inventory in their area and list on vacation rental websites where that’s supported. Then, focus on touting the services hotels can offer guests that vacation rentals cannot, such as:
• A 24-hour front desk
• Onsite F&B
• Mid-stay cleaning
• Hotel amenities
On-Property: Focus on the Guest and Employee Experience
The on-property experience is just as much about the employee as it is about the guest. When the employee experience gets a boost, so does the guest experience. Hoteliers need to give their teams the right tools to do their jobs and automate manual processes so that employees can focus on the things that deliver exceptional guest experiences.
Here are three ways hoteliers can enhance the guest and employee experience while on-property:
1. Unburden the guest experience by making their stay as convenient and streamlined as possible. Investing in technology such as mobile check-in, mobile guest messaging, and mobile amenity/upgrade offers allows guests to instantly craft their ideal stay.
2. Empower employees so they can freely engage with guests anywhere on property. Technology should facilitate great hospitality, not stand in its way. Hoteliers should leverage tools that feature mobile accessibility so staff can break free from the front desk and meet guests where they are, robust automation and mobile communication that can amplify the productivity of small teams, and an easy-to-use user interface, which can reduce employee training time from weeks to a few days.
3. Deliver the gift of choice by giving guests every opportunity to customize and personalize their stay, from delivering expanded asset classes at booking (e.g., standard overnight, hourly, or day-use), to offering a choice in check-in and check-out (e.g., mobile, kiosk-based, or staff-assisted), to ensuring that their preferences and special requests inform every digital or physical touchpoint of their journey.
Post-Stay: Build Loyalty Beyond Points
Guests are still customers even after they leave a property. That means hoteliers shouldn’t cease all communication. Follow-up communication helps to build brand trust and loyalty. Remain focused on the post-stay guest journey to increase the likelihood that guests will return. Hoteliers also need to communicate the benefits of booking direct when guests choose to return.
Here are three ways to build trust and loyalty through post-stay communication:
1. Send a thank-you email after departure. It’s critical to follow up with guests directly after they leave a property. Give them a way to send direct feedback. If the experience was poor, this gives the opportunity to save the hotel from a negative online review and hoteliers can begin service recovery (which builds loyalty). If guests have feedback for the hotel, it’s equally important to act on that feedback. When guests know hoteliers are listening and adapting to their needs, they will build loyalty with the brand.
2. Send emails to stay relevant. Update prior guests on what’s new at the property. Show them how another stay can still be a unique experience. By sending communications that help the brand stay relevant, hoteliers can continue to build loyalty with guests.
3. Personalize emails to gain attention. When hoteliers personalize emails, there is a better likelihood that the people they are trying to reach will actually open and read the message. And again, the more a brand stays relevant to guests, the more loyal they will become.
Conclusion: Tap into Tech to Meet Goals
Hoteliers can’t maximize revenue at every touchpoint of the guest journey alone. They’ll need help from their tech stack. Hotel systems providers that serve a specific role in the greater tech ecosystem have come to understand the appeal of a single provider and geared their businesses to act more like them. The movement to open APIs and sharing data that was once siloed is the first step in the right direction. And simpler, cloud-based integrations are driving down what ultimately matters most—cost. A carefully cultivated tech stack made up of deeply integrated systems will act as if it’s one single platform, yet each part will provide best-in-class functionality.
Sponsored by SHR.