This article was co-authored by Peter Ricci. Dr. Ricci is the Director of the Hospitality and Tourism Management program at Florida Atlantic University (FAU).
By Dr. Anil Bilgihan, Ph.D. – Associate Professor at Florida Atlantic University, College of Business
As the hospitality industry becomes more competitive, the role of the sales and marketing department has never been more crucial.
Add in the ever-improving sophistication of revenue optimization and you truly have a fast-moving evolution of the overall sales, marketing, and revenue process.
Through the development of innovative programs to increase occupancy and make profitable use of hotel facilities, hoteliers can significantly boost their revenue. One of the key drivers of this change is the integration of sophisticated digital technology into hotel marketing strategies. In this article, we examine how virtual reality, voice search, chatbots, and the emerging Metaverse are shaping the future of hotel sales and marketing. In an increasingly competitive and dynamic hospitality industry, it is essential for hotels to adopt innovative marketing strategies to stay ahead of the curve. As technology continues to reshape the way consumers search for and book accommodations, hoteliers must adapt to capitalize on emerging opportunities.
Virtual Reality: Showcasing the Full Range of Hotel Facilities
Virtual reality (VR) is fundamentally transforming the way prospective guests explore and assess hotel properties. By incorporating VR technology into booking systems, hotels can provide comprehensive, immersive 360-degree tours of their premises, enabling customers to make well-informed decisions grounded in firsthand experiences. This approach not only endows hotels with a competitive advantage but also fosters trust and confidence in the booking process. Furthermore, VR experiences can be effectively harnessed for social media campaigns and virtual events, broadening the scope of hotel marketing initiatives.
In addition to offering immersive tours of hotel rooms and communal spaces, VR technology can be employed to showcase a property’s event, wedding, and food and beverage facilities, thereby enhancing group sales. Furnishing potential clients with virtual walkthroughs of these areas enables hotels to effectively exhibit the distinctive features and capabilities of their property, thereby increasing the likelihood of securing reservations for these lucrative services. Moreover, VR facilitates the creation of customized experiences tailored to specific customer segments, such as event planners or wedding coordinators, which further augments the sales process.
Engaging with VR prior to booking not only confers a competitive edge to hotels but also bolsters trust and confidence in the reservation process. Furthermore, VR experiences can be exploited for social media campaigns and virtual events, extending the reach of hotel marketing efforts. Some notable examples include Marriott’s “VRoom Service,” which allows guests to virtually explore various travel destinations from the comfort of their hotel rooms. Similarly, Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts devised VR tours for event planners, showcasing their diverse meeting and event spaces, thereby enabling planners to visualize their events with remarkable precision.
Hotels can harness VR technology to craft captivating tours of their properties, permitting potential guests to examine rooms, event spaces, and amenities prior to booking. These virtual tours can be disseminated through the hotel’s website and social media channels, attracting increased bookings and generating higher revenue.
Artificial Intelligence: Harnessing the Power of Artificial Intelligence for Unparalleled Guest Engagement
Artificial intelligence (AI) tools, such as ChatGPT, can significantly enhance hotel marketing efforts by generating creative, targeted content tailored to the specific audience of a hotel. Implementing AI-generated content in marketing strategies can bolster various aspects, including social media engagement, email campaigns, blog posts, online review responses, ad copy, search engine optimization, and more.
Social Media Content: AI tools like ChatGPT can produce captivating social media posts that showcase a hotel’s unique selling points, promote upcoming events or special offers, and foster interactions with followers. By engaging the target audience with AI-generated content, hotels can elevate their visibility and secure more bookings.
Email Campaigns:By leveraging AI-generated content, hotels can devise personalized email campaigns for guests, ranging from pre-stay welcome emails to post-stay follow-ups or targeted promotions. Offering tailored content based on guest preferences can improve customer satisfaction and encourage repeat bookings.
Blog Posts and Articles: AI tools can generate informative and compelling blog posts or articles related to a hotel, local attractions, or travel tips. Providing valuable content to potential guests positions the hotel as a trusted resource and entices travelers to book.
Online Review Responses:AI-generated replies to online reviews, as previously mentioned, can positively impact a hotel’s online reputation. Utilizing AI as a review response generator ensures a high response rate in a shorter time, making guests feel acknowledged and appreciated.
Ad Copy:Hotels can create attention-grabbing ad copy for paid advertising campaigns using AI. AI-generated headlines and descriptions that emphasize a hotel’s unique features and benefits can increase click-through rates and drive more direct bookings.
Search Engine Optimization: AI tools can help identify specific keywords for a property, improving search engine optimization and online visibility.
Summarizing Survey Data:AI tools can quickly analyze extensive customer survey data, providing valuable insights into guest preferences and experiences.
Personalized Email Marketing: Combining AI and data analytics enables hotels to develop highly personalized email campaigns for guests based on their preferences and previous stays. By targeting specific customer segments, hotels can boost guest satisfaction, encourage repeat bookings, and increase revenue.
Social Media Advertising: Hotels can capitalize on social media advertising by using AI-generated content to create engaging posts, promotions, and targeted ad campaigns. This approach enhances a hotel’s visibility, attracts new guests, and generates more bookings.
Online Reputation Management: Monitoring and responding to online reviews with AI-generated replies can improve a hotel’s online reputation, attract more guests, and boost revenue.
Integrating AI into hotel marketing strategies streamlines content creation, effectively engages audiences, and ultimately drives more bookings and revenue for the hotel. Creative ways to prompt AI narration of content can include adding emojis, invoking excitement, or crafting messages that appeal to specific markets.
Of course, AI is not without suspicion and possible nefarious use. In early April some global nations have put a temporary hold on further artificial intelligence exploration and development and some countries (i.e., Italy) have also put a hold specifically on the use of ChatGPT. Nonetheless, with time, dialogue, research, and demonstrated proof of strong usage possibilities, artificial intelligence is here to stay. Indeed, it can be a valued asset.
Voice Search: Catering to the On-The-Go Consumer
Hey Siri, check my calendar, and for the next available three days, book me a hotel room in New York City with a budget of $1100! Just like that, your room is booked. The growing popularity of voice-activated devices is transforming the way customers search for and book hotel accommodations. By optimizing their online presence for voice search, hotels can enable customers to book rooms and services entirely through voice commands, increasing the ease and convenience of the booking process. This also requires hotels to collaborate closely with voice search platforms and regularly update their information, ensuring that potential guests receive accurate and up-to-date details about the property.
With the widespread adoption of voice-activated virtual assistants like Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple’s Siri, voice search is becoming an essential marketing tool for hotels. By optimizing their online presence for voice search, hotels can tap into a growing segment of consumers who value convenience and efficiency. This entails implementing long-tail keywords and conversational phrases in website content and metadata, as well as partnering with voice search platforms to ensure hotel information is easily accessible.
Amazon has introduced Alexa for Hospitality, a suite of tools designed to create immersive experiences for hotel guests by integrating Alexa into various hotel services. With this program, hotels can offer voice-activated access to amenities such as back-office systems, housekeeping, concierge, and front desk services. Following a successful pilot program at select hotels, including Wynn Las Vegas, the platform is now ready for broader implementation.
In Alexa-enabled hotel rooms, guests can use the voice-activated device to access hotel-specific information, control room settings like lighting and temperature, and request additional services. Alexa for Hospitality also integrates with existing hotel technologies and hospitality solution providers like DigiValet, Intelity, Nuvola, and Volara. These integrations allow guests to order items or book services using voice commands.
Marriott International plans to roll out Alexa for Hospitality at select properties across various brands, customizing the Alexa devices to cater to each brand’s target demographic. Hoteliers can also use the platform to measure guest engagement through analytics and adapt services accordingly.
Alexa for Hospitality provides an enhanced, voice-activated experience for hotel guests by integrating with various hotel services and amenities.
Chatbots: Elevating Online Customer Service
By integrating chatbots into their online platforms, hotels can deliver targeted marketing messages, answer common questions, and guide customers through the booking process. This not only increases direct bookings but also allows hotels to upsell additional services, such as spa treatments or dining reservations, enhancing the guest experience and generating more revenue. Additionally, chatbots can improve customer service by providing immediate assistance and resolving issues quickly, ensuring that potential guests have a positive interaction with the hotel. Chatbots can enable customers to make reservations, modify bookings, and request information about hotel services and amenities. Chatbots can leverage AI and natural language processing to understand and respond to customer inquiries in real-time, enhancing the user experience.
AI-powered chatbots on Facebook Messenger may assists guests with booking reservations, answering questions about the hotel, and providing personalized recommendations based on their preferences. By providing instant, personalized service, chatbots may create seamless booking experiences for potential guests.
Edwardian Hotels London developed “Edward,” a virtual host that assists guests with various tasks such as check-in, room service requests, and local recommendations. Available through a mobile app, Edward uses AI to learn from guest interactions and provide tailored assistance, ensuring a high level of customer satisfaction.
By integrating chatbots into their online platforms, hotels can enhance customer service, streamline the booking process, and unlock new revenue opportunities through targeted marketing and upselling.
The Metaverse: Exploring the Next Frontier of Hotel Marketing
The Metaverse, a shared virtual environment that seamlessly blends physical and digital realms, presents a groundbreaking opportunity for the hospitality industry. As an increasing number of consumers immerse themselves in these virtual worlds, hoteliers can capitalize on this burgeoning trend by offering distinctive experiences, virtual events, and digital marketing campaigns that engage with this novel audience. Additionally, hotels can forge partnerships with Metaverse platforms to develop branded, virtual spaces where guests can explore and interact with the hotel even before booking a stay.
As the Metaverse’s debut approaches, hotels have a unique chance to engage customers through innovative means. By crafting sales and marketing strategies specifically designed for the Metaverse, hoteliers can create immersive experiences that showcase their properties and services, appealing to new customer segments and bolstering brand awareness. These experiences could encompass virtual conferences, events, or even virtual hotel stays, allowing guests to appreciate the hotel’s offerings in a distinctive and captivating manner.
The Metaverse holds immense potential for hotels to construct exclusive, immersive experiences that transcend the physical property, engaging guests within a virtual context. By incorporating hotel sales and marketing departments into the Metaverse, hoteliers can access new customer segments and drive brand awareness in ways previously inconceivable.
For instance, The Sandbox Hotel, a virtual hotel situated in the blockchain-based virtual world of The Sandbox, enables users to rent rooms, attend events, and even purchase virtual real estate. Similarly, Meliá Hotels International has partnered with a virtual reality company to create virtual experiences for their resorts, offering guests the opportunity to explore the properties and interact with other users in a virtual environment. Focusing on innovation, technology, and safety, Meliá Hotels International seeks to reinvent its value proposition for the MICE travel market. The company has introduced Meliá Hybrid Solutions, a suite of technologies designed to transform meetings and events using hybrid formats. Collaborating with virtual technology experts, Meliá provides professional and interactive solutions that facilitate global audiences to participate in high-quality events.
The hybrid solutions encompass Studio Sets, which enable simultaneous connections between multiple venues and virtual participants through livestream technology. Events can be broadcast live on various platforms, and customization options such as holograms, virtual interfaces, stage design, and augmented reality are available to heighten audience engagement.
Adapting to the post-COVID-19 era, Meliá Hotels International offers over 173,000 square meters of meeting and event space across more than 170 hotels worldwide, ensuring health and safety measures are implemented through the Stay Safe with Meliá program, certified by Bureau Veritas. Advanced technology and innovative solutions cater to the growing trend of remote participation due to travel restrictions and capacity limitations.
As the Metaverse gains traction, hotel chains can establish virtual outposts within these digital domains. By providing immersive experiences, virtual tours, and exclusive content, hotels can engage with potential guests and foster brand awareness in a novel manner. Hotels can also host virtual events, conferences, or meetings within the Metaverse, attracting a global audience without necessitating physical travel. This strategy not only enhances the hotel’s visibility but also generates additional revenue through virtual event ticket sales and sponsorships. By harnessing the Metaverse as a marketing channel, hotels can create targeted digital campaigns and promotions to reach a broader audience, including the development of branded virtual experiences, interactive ads, and partnerships with Metaverse influencers to generate buzz and drive bookings.
Embracing the Fundamentals: A Key to Success
While emerging technologies offer innovative ways to increase sales, it’s essential not to overlook the fundamentals of marketing your property. Your website and booking engine remain crucial tools in your arsenal. A visually appealing, user-friendly website with a seamless booking process is indispensable for attracting and converting potential guests.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is still a vital aspect of your online presence, as it helps improve visibility and ranking in search results, driving organic traffic. Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn continue to provide valuable opportunities for engaging with guests, sharing updates, showcasing your property and amenities, and creating targeted ad campaigns to reach a broader audience.
Content marketing remains an essential component of your strategy. By crafting compelling and informative blog posts, articles, and videos about your property, local attractions, and travel tips, you position your hotel as a trusted resource and encourage potential guests to book.
Leveraging revenue management software to analyze customer data helps you better understand guest preferences, booking patterns, and overall trends. This information enables you to maximize your RevPAR, create targeted marketing campaigns, and enhance your offerings.
Ultimately, the most effective marketing strategy for a hotel involves a balanced blend of both traditional and innovative approaches, tailored to the hotel’s unique needs and objectives. By staying true to the fundamentals while embracing new technologies, you can ensure a robust and dynamic marketing strategy that drives results.
As technology continues to reshape the hospitality industry, hotels must embrace innovative marketing strategies alongside fundamental practices to stay competitive and drive revenue growth. By leveraging virtual reality, voice search, AI-powered chatbots, and the Metaverse, hoteliers can create immersive experiences, streamline booking processes, and engage with customers in new and exciting ways. Concurrently, focusing on the essentials like a user-friendly website, search engine optimization, social media engagement, content marketing, and data-driven revenue management ensures a solid foundation for success.
By staying ahead of the curve and balancing cutting-edge technologies with proven fundamentals, hotels can unlock new revenue streams and ensure long-term success in the ever-evolving world of hospitality. Remember, staying ahead of the curve does not simply mean embracing the “latest and greatest.” Hotel operators, sales and marketing professionals, and expert revenue optimizers need to have the best training so they may utilize the best tools and achieve the best outcomes. There is no “one size fits all.” Lifelong learning and ongoing education on the various tools and technology resources is a must for today’s hospitality professional.
Reprinted from the Hotel Business Review with permission from http://www.hotelexecutive.com/
For more information about Florida Atlantic University (FAU), visit business.fau.edu