Hoteliers today are all trying to gaze into their own distinct crystal ball to better understand what guests want and how they can deliver on these guest needs and desires. In a recent Phocuswright Research Report titled, U.S Traveler Technology Survey Sixth Edition, travelers are looking for more engagement with the hotel property and those who run the hotel.
Gazing into a crystal ball to see the future has always been alluring. Imagine if a person could truly see the future. What an incredible impact this would have on our world. Hoteliers today are all trying to gaze into their own distinct crystal ball to better understand what guests want and how they can deliver on these guest needs and desires. In a recent Phocuswright Research Report titled, U.S Traveler Technology Survey Sixth Edition, travelers are looking for more engagement with the hotel property and those who run the hotel. When it comes to apps, 49% of travelers wanted to use their mobile device for check-in and check-out while 32% wanted to manage and make their bookings. Finally, 16% wanted to chat and text with hotel staff.
When it comes to sharing their travel experiences, travelers were using their mobile device 48% of the time to text with their travel companions and others, and 31% were using messaging apps. What this shows us is that today’s travelers wants to be in control of their trip - from the shopping and purchase of their specific trip elements - right through to their in-destination transactions. In days’ past, there was a more personal connection between traveler and those who worked in a hotel or at an airline because travel was less easily attainable. Unfortunately, we have turned the travel and hotel experience into a commodity, and the implementations of some specific technologies have taken us here. The systems that run hotels and airlines have been able to drive major efficiencies. However, at the same time, the traveler or hotel guest now feels as if they are just a merely a seat or room number. The hotel industry is trying to change this perception, but it’s proving to be extremely difficult.
The hotel industry is also trying to keep up with the alternative lodging industry (Airbnb, HomeAway, etc.) as this space has greater technological flexibility due to its “newness”. They have also been able to use the social sphere to initiate relationships between the owners of the different locations and their guests by letting both parties review each other. The hotel industry would never do this. In another Phocuswright report, Private Accommodation Muscles in on Hotels in the US and Europe, it is stated that private accommodations are flourishing in the U.S. and growing at double the pace of the overall travel market. More and more travelers are choosing private lodging rentals over traditional options for leisure trips.
So, how do hoteliers give guests what they want?
Hoteliers need to define the types of guests that stay at their hotel. Are they there on business? Are they traveling for leisure? Are they bringing their family? Once the basic elements are determined, the hotel can dig deeper to understand further what their guests are looking for. There are some fundamentals that every hotel can do to exceed guest expectations. They can make sure that the rooms are clean and bright, help each and every guest with their on-property requests quickly and efficiently, and most importantly, hotel employees can smile.
Once the hotel has done everything they can to deliver the best guest experience to their guests, they can start analyzing their data. The data that can be squeezed out of a property system or a central reservation platform can go a long way, but at times, it may not enough. Why? Because the persona and requirements of the guest can change based on the purpose of their stay. As stated earlier, a guest can have different requirements if they are traveling alone versus with their family. So, each guest record must have the capability to include multiple personas and profiles.
Also, there are intangible items that may not be obvious using the data provided through systems integration. For example, maybe the guest has a hectic schedule and just wants to be left alone - and does not want to speak with the on-site staff. The hotel must be able to cater to this type of guest, and this requires service level options like self-serve check-in capabilities, mobile room keys, service requests and ordering via tablet or smartphone, and the list goes on and on. This guest is what we would call a “low-touch guest” in this circumstance. One the flip side, you may have a guest that is a high maintenance and wants everything is taken care of them by the hotel, – and loves interacting with the hotel staff. These types of guest would be called “high-touch guest”. Once hoteliers authentically understand who their guests are, they will be able to deliver the hotel experience that he or she requires.
Finally, we as an industry have often put up barriers between the hotel and our guests. These obstacles - like the front desk, business center or even the cart that a housekeeper rolls through the hallways - make it challenging to connect. We need to leverage new technologies that take the handcuffs off our guests and our employees, so the engagement model increases and we can deliver more personalized experiences. We also need to be open and honest with our guests and invite their feedback, whether it is good or bad and embrace the changes that may be required.
The hotel industry is a wonderful world on many levels, - but it is time we get back to basics! By breaking down the barriers, capturing profile data, and embracing innovative technologies, we can give guests memorable experiences that drive great reviews and keep them coming back.