By: Kerryn Gower
We’ve all been there. You finally wake up from the dreaming phase of the travel planning journey and pick on a destination to visit. Now the planning begins. We all have our go-to travel booking websites and apps, and they each present a lot of information, packages, and special offers convincing you to make a booking. Beyond just rate, hotel shoppers consider plenty of other factors, such as amenities, activities, and nearby restaurants.
But these factors aren’t always enough to capture the attention of a traveler long enough to secure a booking. Today’s travelers expect more. They expect unique experiences every time they travel. Simply offering free breakfast or Wi-Fi has become expected. They’re not anything travelers would share by word of mouth, or online, with their friends and followers.
As travelers become savvier and seek out new experiences, the hotel is in a great position to leverage their destination to offer something unique to their guests. Consider recreating one of the five experiences below to drive an increase in direct bookings.
1. Get Back to Nature
Your hotel doesn’t need to be located off the beaten path for guests to experience the peace and tranquility of the outdoors. Shangri-La Hotel, Vancouver is located in the heart of one of the most vibrant cities in the world, yet they offer guests the chance to escape it all. The West Coast Wilderness Adventure offer whisks guests away by floatplane from Vancouver to Whistler, where they can explore the village before embarking on a canoe tour. The adventure takes guests through rivers and lakes to enjoy the serenity of nature before heading back into the city.
Hotels that want to give guests a taste of the outdoors without flying them to a different location can offer alternative experiences in local parks or recreational areas. Offer guests access to complimentary bikes or give them a credit for bike rentals. Many cities offer bike sharing systems, such as Citi Bikes in New York, that allow guests to rent a bike for the day or even just a few hours. Equip guests with a unique map (whether digital, in print, or both!) that takes them on a tour of your destination. This is an easy, fairly inexpensive way to place your hotel at the center of the best things to do and see in your area.
2. Ride the Wave
Oceanfront hotels have the chance to offer amazing beach experiences for their guests. The Gilded Iguana, a Costa Rica hotel designed for surfers, invites guests to hit the waves with their full-service surfing school. Located just steps away from the region’s most famous beach, the hotel has professional surf instructors and surf equipment to provide guests with a seamless experience they don’t have to worry about planning themselves.
Any hotel near an outdoor recreation area, like a beach or a mountain, can offer amazing experiences to their guests. Waterfront properties can create experiences around fishing, kayaking, snorkeling, and more. Mountain resorts can offer skiing, snowmobiling, or snowshoeing packages. Capitalizing on what experiences are unique to your destination is key to attracting guests. People don’t travel to Aspen or Miami Beach to stay inside their hotel room, after all!
3. Cook Up Something Special
Food and travel go hand in hand. In Cabo San Lucas, The Resort at Pedregal offers world-class dining at several, stunning restaurant concepts. They also invite guests to learn how to create the unique flavors of Mexico by taking chef-led cooking classes that demonstrate how to prepare authentic dishes within their hacienda-style kitchen.
Even if your hotel doesn’t have a restaurant, there are still opportunities to offer guests unique ways to experience the local cuisine. Partner with a nearby restaurant that may offer classes or create a custom guide to the best restaurants in your destination. Provide transportation or ride sharing credits (like Uber or Lyft) so your guests can fully enjoy the experience without having to worry about how to get there. Making discovery as easy for the guest as possible is key when creating a memorable experience.
4. Create Art with the Locals
A great way to connect with a new destination is through art. An even better way to experience art is to create your own with the help of local artists. At the Ayers Rock Resort, located in central Australia, guests have the option to embark on many different experiences, including art workshops taught by local indigenous people. Attendees learn about ancient symbols and, under expert guidance, have a go at creating their own.
Art is all at once universal yet can be very unique to your location. By bringing in local artists to teach classes, hotels can offer guests an experience (and often something interesting to take home!) that is tremendously unique. Guests will have a tangible item for the rest of their lives that they can connect to their trip – and to your hotel.
5. Give Exclusive Access to Museums
Museums are popular attractions for travelers. Partnering with a local museum can set your hotel apart when travelers are looking for an experience that includes accommodations and admission to local attractions. The Kimpton Alexis Hotel in Seattle celebrated Museum Month in February by offering half-price admission to more than 40 nearby museums.
Take it a step further by offering a behind-the-scenes tour, available exclusively through your hotel. Travelers are always looking for ways to go off the beaten path, and by providing something unique and special, they will be talking about their trip (and your hotel!) for years to come.
In 2019, social media reigns supreme and we all “do it for the ‘gram,” especially when it comes to travel. Offering one-of-a-kind experiences is an impactful way that hotels can stand out from their competitors. Travelers are more likely to share and post online about their amazing surf experience or a new recipe they learned from a top chef than they are to talk about the hotel alone, so leverage your resources place your property at the center of the traveler’s experience to appeal to more potential guests than ever before.