By Roger Sholanki
Short-term room rental sites like Airbnb are now firmly entrenched as competitors in the hospitality industry. Millions of rentals – Airbnb alone has grown to include 5 million listings – have intensified the competition for guests and disrupted the industry. Hotels must position themselves to compete in this environment by implementing strategies including using technology, personalization, experiences and amenities to provide a superior guest experience.
Embracing technology is essential for hoteliers to offer the customized, frictionless experience travelers want. Guests expect that technology will be seamlessly integrated into the entire customer experience, from booking a stay to receiving the post-visit thank you email.
Investing in technology solutions is a smart strategy for hoteliers to match and exceed the experience provided by alternatives like Airbnb that make it easy for travelers to search for and reserve a desired property. Using technology, hotels can optimize the booking process, eliminating cumbersome and confusing reservation processes that lead to abandoned bookings and decreased revenues.
Additionally, review websites are increasingly influencing how people make booking decisions. In fact, research from TripAdvisor found that 77% of people usually or always reference reviews before booking a hotel.
Technology can simplify the tracking of hotels’ digital reputation and centrally manage reviews across sites such as TripAdvisor, Facebook and Yelp. With this technology, hotels can take control of their digital reputation by consistently tracking, monitoring and addressing feedback.
Personalizing guest experience is another way hotels can differentiate themselves from the competition.
Hoteliers can build loyalty and trust with guests with the help of CRM technology. This technology can provide a complete view of the customer through the predictive analytics and data-backed insights needed to effectively prioritize customer experience and deliver the personal attention guests have come to expect.
According to a Deloitte Consulting white paper, Next Gen Hotel Guests Have Checked In: The Changing Guest Experience, “hoteliers need to turbocharge the guest experience and tune into their needs to drive loyalty and increase repeat business.” With data mined from a CRM system, hotels can create customized guest profiles to better anticipate preferences such as room category and view, package types, restaurant recommendations, and rates.
Hotels can win the business and loyalty of travelers by highlighting and showcasing a wide range of amenities that appeal to guests.
While Airbnb touts offering all the comforts of home, hotel brands offer much more. Amenities such as daily housekeeping, room service, complimentary breakfast, spas and fitness centers, and on-site restaurants and bars are conveniences and luxuries rarely found in an Airbnb. All of these amenities contribute to an enjoyable travel experience for guests and are a valuable differentiator for hotel brands.
Taking a step beyond differentiation, hotels can also extend their amenities directly to Airbnb users by offering a “day pass” for the hotel’s facilities to non-guests. Doing so allows hotels to bring back some of the revenue lost to Airbnb rentals and to showcase their top-notch amenities and service-offerings, possibly re-engaging guests who will opt for a traditional hotel stay on their next trip.
For many travelers today, it is all about experiences. By virtue of the in-community location of many of their short-term rentals, companies like Airbnb deliver the localized experiences that guests crave. As demand for immersive community experiences continues to increase, hotels must keep pace with this trend by developing their own unique, customized local experiences that will attract travelers.
Strategies hotels can use to expose guests to the food, attractions and culture of the surrounding community include featuring performances by local bands, displaying artwork by local artists and creating hotel restaurant menus that offer farm-to-table local seasonal produce, meat and seafood.
The discerning traveler today has more choice in accommodations than ever before and more information available on the internet to easily find and compare options. To win the battle for guests and thrive in the sharing economy, hotels will need to reinvent themselves using technology, personalization, amenities and experiences to maintain and grow market share.