By Jos Schaap, CEO, and Founder, StayNTouch
In the hospitality industry, the only thing that’s constant is change. It’s clear you can’t talk about the hospitality industry these days without talking about disruption. As a hotelier, you need to constantly keep your pulse on emerging trends to avoid disappointing guests and falling behind competitors. The priority no longer lies in only increasing the number of guests you attract, but rather improving their experience to keep them coming back—whether it be online, on-property or across different touchpoints. Here are the three important changes that’ll make (and continue to make) a big impact on the hotel landscape.
Changing Guest Behavior and Expectations
In an increasingly competitive environment, the way hotels react to guests’ expectations has a dramatic impact on their profitability. Guests are continually voting with their wallets through their purchases. Immediate accessibility, mobile obsession, personalized experiences and contradictory preferences—these are just some of the challenges that hoteliers are tackling daily. Today’s guests are less interested in the quick sell (i.e. low price sale) and more concerned with building a long-term relationship (i.e. meaningful interactions). If they're an existing guest, they want to be treated from the standpoint of knowledge about the past business. Guests also realize the power they have via social media and online reviews – and will use it when not satisfied with a service. While defining various persona’s and generation-based profiles have their place, it is important to keep in mind that millennial guest on vacation with their family has different expectations then that same millennial on a business trip. Hotels need to meet the guests where they are and satisfy their sophisticated needs. The key consideration here is that guests and types of stays are not all the same, so it is counterproductive to treat them that way.
Technology Shaping the Guest Journey
As new technologies emerge, hotels of all sizes can’t afford to sit on the sidelines. In a world where new technologies pop up all the time, the hotels that put guest needs first are in a position to win. Over the last few years, hoteliers have realized that online and offline are converging and they need to integrate their systems. This evolution has driven more hotels to move to cloud-based PMS systems, as these solutions enable them to scale quickly, work from anywhere, and get real-time insights into various aspects of their business. Next generation systems offer advanced functionality without the restrictions and overhead costs of being tied down to large, complicated legacy systems.
Mobile devices are increasingly becoming an essential part of the guest journey – before, during and after their stay. In fact, sixty percent of all travel-related searches begin from a mobile device. From travel research and hotels booking to checking in and ordering services while on the property, smartphones and tablets are quickly becoming the preferred method of engagement for most travelers. Mobile technology can also help hoteliers increase their sales of ancillary products and services. But mobile is just the beginning. A study by McKinsey found that the uses of IoT in retail could have an economic impact of $410 billion to $1.2 trillion per year in 2025. That may be a long way to go, but that doesn’t mean forward-thinking hoteliers shouldn’t be laying down the foundation to prepare and take action. The future of hospitality is all about using technology to strengthen guest relationships and improve the guest's experience while making the day-to-day operations more efficient. Hotels using solutions built from the ground up with Open API technology are in better position to scale and prepare for future innovation.
One Size Does Not Fit All Service Delivery
The old adage was never truer: You can't personalize unless you know the person. Since today’s consumers go through multiple channels in their path to booking travel, collecting and studying data in silos won’t cut it anymore. Analyzing online and offline data together gives hoteliers a more comprehensive picture of their guests’ preferences and needs. By understanding what guests are looking for during their stay, hoteliers can ensure they have the products and services ready to deliver when guests arrive. “The one area where hotels [still] have the competitive edge over online travel agents is when the customer walks through the door. It’s here when the guest is immersed in the hotel experience, that hoteliers have a chance to upsell” (Eye for Travel, 2015). Exceptional service delivery means providing the right service, at the right time to the right person. This of course can range from offering self-service check-in, honoring the DND sign on the door for total privacy with staff little interaction to offering personalized ancillaries and upsells to create a dynamic guest experience.
When it comes right down to it, disruption is being driven primarily by technology. Any hotel that is not embracing this is setting themselves up for failure. The truth is that to be successful – you have to adapt to change.