By Larry Mogelonsky, MBA, P. Eng. (www.hotelmogel.com)
We no longer work in the hotel industry but rather the more broadly encompassing ‘accommodations industry’. Such is the real impact of the sharing economy and alternate lodging providers, as led by Airbnb, that they have so completely changed how the average traveler views their options when booking a place to stay.
While we plebs in the traditional hotel sector have had a pretty good past couple of years from RevPAR and occupancy growth standpoints, rest assured that these numbers have been buoyed by a healthy economy and that we may suffer if another downturn is forthcoming, particularly if those juicy group contracts start to succumb to any form of rate arbitrage.
Rather than be an unwavering harbinger of doom for our industry, I always try to take a proactive approach to any new entrant or competitor. Now that these alternate lodging providers are pushing into other market segments, it is time to emulate these disruptors in order to build modern products that can compete on more than just price.
One of the reasons the sharing economy has grown in leaps and bounds is that operators on these digital platforms are able to provide guests with experiences that hotels have yet to properly facilitate. Travelers want to be embedded in the community and live like locals. They want interesting spaces. They want access to great food. They want to visit places and interact with their environments in bold and interesting ways. They want memories.
Where traditional hotels have an insurmountable advantage over any bed and breakfast is in our ability to wield capital for new projects and improvements that work towards delivering upon those guest desires. While single-unit operators may be more agile insofar as guestroom upgrades or other tactical executions, they will never be able to implement new features or amenities outside of their immediate cashflow.
Taking this principle to heart, hotels can disrupt the travel landscape by offering truly unique experiences for their guests. Give consumers something they will not find anywhere else and make it easy for these customers to purchase.
A good start to this is in the bundling of room nights with onsite F&B, spa, gifts, tours or any other activities you already have. It’s this last point that requires a bit more elucidation because guests the world over are looking for fun and memorable things to do. Moreover, your guests’ daily lives are already busy enough so they’ll reward the hotel that’s able to make their jobs easy – that is, letting the property handle all the arrangements. After all, you’re the local expert, not them.
In devising what to offer your guests as activities or experiences, it is always best to start small and focus on the one or two core experiences that have an authentic precedent with your property and your surrounding area. Every property is different, which makes this exercise both very exhaustive and also rewarding.
Once you have an enticing slate of packages with unique experiences, the next step is how you present them to your prospective customers. Ideally, you want your website to handle the bulk of your bookings as it reduces the workload of your reservation agents while preventing any reductions to your margins from external commissions. For this, a simple, straightforward and mobile-first presentation will suffice.
Beyond this, you are now getting into how you manage all your channel partners, which is the subject of those voluminous marketing plans written every fall. But if think in terms of how you can learn from these new age disruptors in terms of what experiences you provide for your guests then your hotel will have a very healthy future. My concluding thought is that disruption does not mean the end but a chance for new revenue generators, but only if you know how to make them work for you!