As more people get vaccinated and travel restrictions ease around the world, it’s clear that hotel demand will return almost as quickly as it disappeared a year ago.
Pent-up demand for traveling and new experiences is real and the early numbers indicate that vaccinated people are quickly booking hotel stays.
This presents a clear opportunity for hoteliers to win back guests. However, those who enter your doors have been dreaming about this experience for more than a year. They will have high expectations and you can’t afford to let them down.
Guests will have a heightened sensitivity to cleanliness and exceptional customer service. They’ll remember their best pre-COVID hotel experiences and expect new trips to meet or exceed those expectations.
At the same time, there will undoubtedly be some remnants of COVID precautions that will make staying in a hotel somewhat frustrating. Remember after 9/11, when travelers scoffed for months about having to take their shoes off before going through airport security?
With reduced staff, limited F&B options and other cost-cutting measures remaining in place, how will you live up to those expectations? We’ve all had that travel experience where you return home somewhat deflated because the trip was not everything you expected.
In this post-pandemic world, hoteliers can’t miss the opportunity to delight our returning guests instead of disappointing them. We must find ways to compensate for those remaining annoyances by improving in other areas, elevating the overall experience as opposed to compromising.
To do this, hoteliers must rely on technology and automation to fill in the gaps, leaning on new tools to handle tasks that were previously handled by teams of employees.
One way to “wow” this new group of guests is through personalization. Hotels must create personal connections with their guests throughout their entire journey and tailor their stay to fit their individual wants and desires.
Build better guest connections
Hotels can begin building personalized experiences before the guest even books and continue those unique experiences all the way through the guest journey.
- Ensure you’re serving the right content on all the booking channels to entice potential customers to book with you. When guests come to you direct, recognize them on your branded website, booking engine or call center application and provide them benefits that can’t be found on other channels. Give them access to manage their information, and serve them rates, rewards and offers that are customized to them based on their activity. Know which room type they booked previously and recommend that room type first. If they indicate that they’re traveling with more than two people, suggest a room with more than one bed.
- Immediately after booking, hoteliers must reach out and connect with the guest to let them know what to expect on arrival, particularly any new procedures that are in place. This is undoubtedly easier when a guest books direct and you know immediately who they are. But even when a guest books through a third party, you can reach out through that third party with a confirmation and welcome email and then ask the guest to provide more information so you can customize their stay and communicate with them directly. With the right integrated systems in place, all of these actions can be automated.
- Upon arrival, any personal touches that speak to guest preferences – such as their preferred pillows, room type, or welcome amenity – will go a long way in making the guest feel appreciated. For example, if you find that the guest is allergic to peanuts, remove any nut-based food from the minibar and leave a note that lets them know you’ve taken that step to make them feel more welcomed. If you know a guest likes a certain kind of tea or wine, stock those items in the room. Tailored on-property experiences will “wow” the guest and lead to more revenue spend per guest.
- Personalized post-stay communications will increase your review scores. Ensure you’ve collected their email address while on property and reach out directly to the guest rather than through an OTA. Address any issues that came up during the stay and offer an incentive to come back.
Personalization works best when brands or hotel collections are able to centralize their guest profiles.
This way, if a guest returns to a property within the same brand family and not necessarily to the same individual property, profile information is available and the experience can be tailored.
Understand the ROI of personalization
All of the above actions require at least some investment in technology.
For example, a CRM allows hotels to consolidate profile data and provides a place to dig into these details, look at who your guests are and what their activities are in your hotel, and then be able to drive targeted communications and actions. CRM technology is no longer just a segmentation tool.
To accomplish this effectively, your CRM must be well-integrated into the rest of your tech stack – particularly your PMS, RMS, CRS and booking engine – and must rely on AI to help focus on value creation along the guest journey.
Even as hotels recover from an incredibly low demand period, this would be the worst possible time for a hotel to be cutting back on the technology they use to better connect with their guests. It’s more important than ever for hotels to be able to communicate the value they bring.
Marketing to previous guests is important, but also consider that COVID has changed the way many people consume content and make purchases. You’re likely speaking to new prospects that are interacting with digital experiences, particularly on mobile devices, for the first time. Booking travel and hotel experiences is no exception.
The headwinds our industry has faced over the past year are finally turning into tailwinds. You can either coast along and be carried by the tailwinds, or you can accelerate, put things into high gear, pass your competitors and move into a leading position.