By Kacey Bradley
With more and more lodging options becoming available, it’s up to hotels to provide the best customer service they can. And, while that certainly includes the actual interactions between staff and clients, it also consists of the booking services your facility provides.
Each year, this technology changes as the world advances — 2018 will be no different. In fact, the trends in booking have already begun to rise to the top. Here are six of them:
1. The Fall of TripAdvisor — and the Rise of Other Booking Sites
Once upon a time, your hotel’s reputation depended upon its star rating on TripAdvisor. The site allowed visitors to provide post-trip feedback that depended on your service — a fantastic stay equaled a high star rating and vice-versa.
But TripAdvisor's reputation took a huge hit when it was revealed that the site removed allegations of sexual misconduct made against particular lodgings. On top of that, their on-site booking application isn’t well regarded. For these reasons, you should start checking more sites for client reviews and suggestions. Facebook and Google are two of the potential challengers to TripAdvisor’s reign, though the former has yet to include booking features.
2. Direct Booking
To that end, this could be the year that customers turn their backs on these types of third-party booking sites. There are definite advantages to booking directly with a hotel: potential customers can speak to staffers, learn more about the facilities and possible upgrades and receive direct discounts, to boot.
The only problem is that many hotels’ online booking technology is not nearly as streamlined as the systems offered by discount websites. So, make this year the one in which you spruce up your website and entice customers to book with you directly: it can do so much for you and your customers.
3. Predictive Pricing
If you log onto Google and search for flights, you’ll find something extremely beneficial: predictive pricing, which allows customers to see when it will be cheapest for them to travel. Hotels are already taking advantage of this technology, but they’re using it in a way that’s great for their business.
That’s because the technology can aid you to predict what competitive pricing will be at different points in the year; similarly, it can help you predict when demand will wax and wane throughout the year. Starwood Hotels has already invested in the artificial intelligence needed to forecast this type of information, and it won’t be long before more chains follow suit.
4. The Ability to Chat
Once upon a time, customers could only contact a hotel by phone. After that, email allowed them to send questions and comments, but those wouldn’t receive as instantaneous of a response. In an age in which everyone sends texts, though, this speed just won’t cut it anymore.
That’s why your hotel’s website should include a chat feature ASAP. As customers look for deals or book, they can chat with a representative of your organization, who can guide them through the process. It’d be good practice to extend this feature and make chat a part of your customers’ stay: it’s one of the top hotel technology trends of 2018, allowing clients to contact the front desk without having to pick up the phone.
5. Go Mobile
It may seem obvious to give your hotel a mobile presence, but it’s about more than just social media. Take the Chinese tourism market as a great example: there, the tourism market is rapidly growing, to the point that it’s forecasted to become the largest in the world by 2022. Mobile technology has been a massive factor in the strides taken thus far.
That’s because, in China, it’s normal for customers to do everything on their phones. For starters, they can quickly tap to book their hotel stays. On top of that, they can use their phones to pay for their rooms, as well as for most other things they’d buy on vacation. In other words, they make it ridiculously easy for customers to make travel and hotel arrangements, thus enticing them to travel more. It wouldn’t hurt to take steps like that in the U.S., either.
6. Providing Non-Hotel Bookings
Finally, a hotel stay is no longer just about having a bed and bathroom. The team at Airbnb has realized that it’s all about the experience, so they’ve widened their bookings to include more than just properties: they allow clients to book excursions, activities and tours.
Because this type of experiential tourism is on the rise, brands including Expedia have followed suit. Even if you can’t offer a full slate of activities that clients can book online, advertise activities available to guests. You could also partner with local companies who provide tours and outdoor excursions and have staffers on hand to reserve spots for those staying at your hotel.
With an eye to technological trends, you can make your hotel’s online presence a more functional one. And, with that kind of ease, potential customers will have no hesitations — and nothing standing in their way — when it’s time to book it.