The travel industry is one of the world’s most robust. In the United States alone, leisure travelers generated more than $380 billion in 2017. As the economy continues its confident, forward motion, there is every reason to expect even more growth in the years ahead with plenty of cause for optimism throughout the hotel sector.
Yet one thing is for certain, the average consumer has become a lot savvier and will demand a great deal of the hotelier for their hard-earned tourism dollar. They will want to make sure that the property is well configured and can meet their every need, and furthermore, will expect to find technology that also matches their expectations.
Before you fling open your doors to those customers, you need to focus on five crucial areas that matter most to leisure travelers if you want to get your slice of that ever-growing pie.
All your leisure visitors will be looking for a unique experience. They want to create a raft of memories to take home with them and will expect to find more than simply a hotel room and standard amenities. Consequently, you need to focus on giving them what they want by capitalizing on your location and unusual attributes or USPs. If you’re struggling to leverage any of those, you will need to come up with some new ones. This may require a great deal of creativity so get to know the buyer persona of your average customer well to inform your strategy.
For example, you can cater to older travelers, who may be looking for integration rather than independence. If so, why not create dance lessons or a group activity each evening so your guests can mingle with people who have a similar interest and foster new relationships?
You cannot expect to maximize your potential as a hotel property if you do not offer dining options to your guests. Once again, be familiar with the average needs of your guests and provide a variety of different solutions for each part of the day. You may not need to focus too much on breakfast time if you cater for the younger set, but you will definitely need to have late-night service or a snack bar that is open 24/7 for all those night owls. Remember, people are outside of their regular schedule when they are on a vacation, so don’t expect them to eat at “traditional” times. They will be disappointed if your facilities are closed when they are craving something to eat.
Leisure travelers will want to explore the hotel’s facilities, especially if it happens to be a rainy day outside. Ensure that you have a well stocked, clean and up-to-date gym, swimming pool and other facilities, and not something that is just “adequate.” Furthermore, ensure that your steam rooms and spas are professionally staffed and offer first-rate service, especially if this is a separate cost for you and you expect to earn dedicated revenues. Foster relationships with off-site facilities as well like your nearest golf course or trail riding company so you can offer “special” rates to your guests and create a good impression.
Gone are the days when you can offer connectivity as an afterthought. Everybody wants to check their email or social media, even when on vacation. You must ensure that you provide high-speed Internet connections throughout the property. Furthermore, make it easy for them to log on to Wi-Fi with a simple password. Don’t make them log back on every five minutes should they move away from their device as this is guaranteed to annoy. Don’t think about charging for the service either as it should be one of your included services.
You may have long since given up on the humble bedside telephone as a profit center and understand that most guests simply do not make use of it, apart from the odd call to reception for an ice bucket. However, you need to replace this old-fashioned device with a customized smartphone and make this available to your customers instead.
These phones are specially designed to help the average guest enjoy their stay even more and look just like the phone that they are carrying in their pocket or bag. However, this device can be more than a valuable resource for the guest, but also a profit center for the hotel in its own right.
This type of solution offers your guests the chance to make free and unlimited calls to international destinations, in addition to domestic contacts. It provides 4G connectivity and a high-quality link so they can use this device rather than their own and, potentially, avoid any roaming fees from their provider.
The device is specially configured with information relevant to your hotel and surroundings. In short, it can double as a tourist guide that will help them explore. In addition, they’ll be able to use the device to book room service, schedule some time at a spa, operate the in-room TV, turn on the air conditioning and so much more.
When you focus on providing this type of service, make sure that you choose high-quality and impressive devices so your guests are inclined to interact. They should be configured with an operating system that is easy to work with and has multi-language support. Remember, this is also a chance to enhance your corporate message so you can customize a welcome greeting or other detail which they will see every time they switch it on.
Five Chances to Shine
If you’re in charge of promoting a hotel and maximizing room occupancy, you need to ensure that you stand apart from all your peers. Focus on these five areas and you will do just that.
Getting more bookings and increasing RevPAR (Revenue Per Available Room) is the real big deal for hotel owners. However, mproving your hotel’s average occupancy is not a simple matter as several factors affect numbers and results.
A common misbelief is that one can sell more hotel rooms by just lowering their price . This is a big blunder that must be avoided at all costs. A full hotel doesn’t necessarily mean more profits. By comparing the RevPAR, the ADR ( Average Daily Room Rate) and the Occupancy Rate is it possible to have an idea of what is really convenient for a hotel or a B&B owner or manager. For example, compromising for a 100% occupancy with a low ADR could bring down the revenues if compared to a lower occupancy with higher rates. So how can a hotel owner or manager improve effectively his/her hotel’s occupancy and revenue?
The answer to this question is neither simple nor easy to give but in this article we’ll try to share with you some useful suggestions on the topic. So, here are some ideas that will help you improve your hotel’s performance:
Study your data
Your guest history is precious. That’s why you should use a reliable property management system (PMS) allowing you to collect data about your guests’ habits and preferences.
This data is a precious resource allowing you to discover many key facts about your business like for example your average occupancy time by time throughout the year, the average length of stay of your guests, the type of travelers staying in your hotel etc. Thanks to this data you can understand when it’s best to advertise your hotel, when special offers might be useful, what services you should offer to your guests and how your hotel’s occupancy is affected by special events like conventions and business meetings.
Know your competitors
Why should a traveler choose your hotel and not a hotel just a block away? This is a question you can answer only if you know very well what your competitive lanscape is and how you are positioned in it. This competitive landscape knowledge is crucial for you business’ success because it allows you to understand how you can build a competitive advantage inside your market.
The term “competitive advantage” probably makes you think of downward pricing but in reality successful competitive advantages are built more on diversification and uniqueness of your business than on offering the lowest price on the market. In fact, lowering excessively your prices may harm your business so the most important thing to aim at for your business’ success is giving your guests a clear and strong reason to choose you instead of the competition. This way you not only get more clients but you also get clients who care more about buying the stay experience you can offer them than about its price.
Perform reputation management and storytelling
Nowadays more than 50% of travelers use reviews to choose their hotel. This is why you must focus on getting positive reviews from your hotel’s guests.
To do so you must make sure that your staff is friendly and professional, that your hotel is clean and neat and that you underpromise and overdeliver with your guests. Moreover you must find ingenious ways to remind your guests of reviewing your hotel if they are happy of your services or of letting you know privately what they didn’t like about the stay experience you offered them.
In case you get some negative reviews don’t worry. It’s something that no business can avoid but make sure you reply in a way that highlights your professionalism and show the world how much you care about constantly improving your business.
However, reviews are not more important than storytelling on social media about your business.
Building all the necessary social media profiles, keeping them active, interacting with your followers, replying promptly to private messages and publishing often nice videos and pictures are all important actions you can take to attract people’s attention to your hotel.
Use OTA’s and search engines
Every day millions of users around the world use the internet to find and book their next hotel stay.
These users use mainly two channels to search for the hotel that best satisfies their accommodation needs: Online Travel Agencies (OTA’s), like booking.com and expedia.com, and search engines, like Google and Bing. Each one of these channels have pros and cons.
OTA’s on the one hand are very effective in marketing your hotel and bringing you new customers but on the other they will charge you lots of fees for this.
Search engines (SE’s) on the one hand help you give visibility to your business’ digital footprint for free but on the other require a lot of time and efforts spent on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) if your goal is ranking high on search engine result pages (SERP’s).
The best thing to do if you want to maximize web bookings for your hotel is use OTA’s and at the same time work steadily and consistently on your hotel’s digital footprint’s SEO.
Once you start ranking high and therefore attracting direct bookings on your hotel’s website you can gradually decrease the number of rooms sold on OTA’s.
Build a solid and useful business partner network
Promoting your hotel’s brand and experience is not an easy thing to do if you do it just by yourself.
The hospitality market’s competition is stiff so it’s a good idea to team up with other players offering services that are complementary to the ones offered by your business, build a solid and complete stay experience and cross-promote all the services of your alliance with them.
Just to mention some, good partners include airport transfer providers, sightseeing tour organizers, sports experiences providers etc. You will be surprised by the benefits you can get in terms of increased occupancy from a solid and efficient partner network.
Summing up what we wrote in this article, if you want to improve your hotel’s occupancy and RevPAR you should learn as much as you can about your clients and your competitors, build a unique competitive advantage, make sure you build a good web reputation, build an active and attractive social media universe around your business, develop a strong presence on OTA’s and SE’s and, last but not least, develop a strong partner network.
The results you’re dreaming for your business can become a reality if you work smart and hard so start setting goals and taking action now!
Running a hotel can be an incredibly rewarding and fulfilling job. Each day, you’ll have the opportunity to show your guests a great time while taking care of their every need. However, not all of your customers will be as satisfied with the experience as you hope, and they may turn to social media and review websites like TripAdvisor and Yelp to air their grievances. This can damage your hotel’s reputation, making it more challenging to bring in new guests to your property.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to boost guest satisfaction, respond to negative reviews and prevent future dissatisfaction so that you can maintain a favorable reputation. Here’s how to do it.
Start by Collecting Data
It will be difficult to manage your hotel’s reputation if you don’t know where you currently stand, so your first step should be to find out. Collect comment cards from guest rooms, and have a look at your property’s page on popular review sites. It is also a good idea to keep track of the most common requests your guests have, like additional pillows, in-room safes, and other amenities. This will give you a sense of which areas of your service might be in need of improvement. Going forward, continue to track all of this data to update your records and continue to improve.
Educate Your Staff
Many customers won’t take the time to leave a comment card or review, but you’ll still want to know how they enjoyed their stay. Your staff can be invaluable in this regard, as they are the ones who engage with your guests face-to-face each day. Train your employees to report customer comments, both positive and negative, so that you can add them to the records you started in the previous section.
Part of your team’s training should also include teaching them how to anticipate potential issues. If they are able to prevent a problem before it occurs, your guests may never be the wiser. If a problem has already occurred, your staff should have the tools and authority they need to resolve the issue as quickly as possible. A speedy resolution to a problem could turn a negative review into a positive one despite the complications.
Monitor Customer Feedback
As you continue to collect information about the customer experience in your hotel through comment cards and online review portals, keep an eye out for any trends. For example, you may have had a lot of positive reviews in the past, but your most recent views may skew towards the negative. This could be a sign that the quality of your hotel is deteriorating in terms of customer service or the property itself. Of course, the opposite could also be true, with past negative reviews making way for more positive ones as you improve your level of service.
Even if your reviews are generally positive, it is still possible to get a negative review here and there. As hard as you might try, it is virtually impossible to please every single guest. Circumstances out of your control, like power outages, guests’ moods, supplier issues and other complications could impact the guest experience. Even if a negative review is an outlier compared to your other recent reviews, you still shouldn’t ignore it. Every negative comment is an opportunity to improve, so take advantage of that chance.
Respond to Customer Comments
Each customer comment or review also presents you with a unique opportunity to showcase your hotel’s professionalism and responsiveness. When you get a negative review, take the time to respond to the customer, apologizing for any issues that arose. This is a great opportunity to explain to the guest how you have improved your hotel to prevent the problem from happening again. You can also invite them to come back at a discounted rate to see how much your property has improved since their last visit. This is your chance to turn a negative review into a positive one. If the review is on a public forum offer to take to conversation offline to resolve it.
Don’t focus solely on the negative reviews, though; your satisfied guests deserve some attention as well. Thank them for their patronage, and let them know how pleased you are that they enjoyed their stay. This small effort can go a long way towards strengthening your brand’s relationship with your customers, making it more likely that they will want to stay at your hotel again in the future.
Make the Most of Digital Reputation Management Tools
There are a variety of free and paid tools available to you to make managing your online reputation easier. Sites like BrandYourself, or Customer Alliance for example, scour the web in search of any mention of your brand, hotel name or other keywords you choose in order to identify any negative results that turn up in the search engine results. You’ll then have the opportunity to address these issues. If you can find this information online, so can prospective customers, so it is in your best interest to ensure everything is as positive as possible.
Build Your Hotel’s Online Presence
Many of the strategies outlined above are reactive rather than proactive. With social media, your hotel’s blog and your brand’s website, you have the opportunity to tell your brand’s story in the way that you want it to be told. Posting regularly on your blog and social media makes it easier for potential guests to engage with your brand, solidifying your relationship with them. Don’t just post random things just to have something up there, though. Think through a strategy before you get started, and make sure that each post speaks to the brand and personality you are trying to convey and that you engage a conversation with your clients.
Reputation Management Is a Long-Term Goal
As frustrating as it might be, you can’t transform your hotel’s reputation overnight. It will take a concerted effort on the part of everyone who works at your hotel to provide the best possible service to your guests. Rest assured, though, that with consistent, focused effort, it is entirely possible to turn around negative impressions of your property, turning dissatisfied guests into loyal, long-term customers.
Staying in a good hotel comes with certain expectations. Comfort, rest, and the privacy to do what you need to do. It’s your base of operations and you need to feel confident that, whether traveling for leisure or work, your stay will be productive and without risk.
This is why we have implicit trust in hotels the moment we walk through the door. Paying for a service, you expect things to be taken care of. This is also true for web connectivity provided by hotels. Using hotel wifi means you are voluntarily handing over your information to a network without understanding how trustworthy it may be, and since most major hotels use a third-party network provider to cater to guests’ wifi needs, this can mean that those networks are not thoroughly checked to ensure they meet digital privacy and security standards.
So, what are the issues involved and what are the best alternatives to ensure your digital privacy while staying in hotels?
When you make an assumption of security on a hotel network, two things can happen.
Firstly, there is none: most hotel networks do not require a password for ‘guest convenience’ so the link is unencrypted, leaving it open to hackers.
Secondly, you jump on the network with your device and you see a hotel-related pop-up for a software install that is necessary to keep using the wifi. You click ‘Accept’ and download the patch, of course, because you’re safely behind closed doors. Right?
Downloading means willingly giving access to your computer because you may have unwittingly accepted a piece of malicious software designed specifically to hitch a ride on your system. It’s like a parasite, and hackers can then see your personal information, login and password credentials when you use them.
An equally simple hacker strategy is to set up a separate network masquerading as the legitimate hotel network. Many guests assume the correct network name and click to join. It’s a terrifyingly low-tech method to gain quick access to your digital life. For example, if you open your device in your room and see a generic “Hotel Guest WiFi” network, would you click to join?
Certain legitimate equipment that hotels use may also be suspect. The ANTlabs InGate device, for example, is a widely adopted technology that allows hotels to streamline setting up their WiFi networks. However, since the manufacturer failed to understand that their product had a vulnerability easily exploited by hackers, they were unaware that their clients’ hotel networks were easily compromised in 277 hotel locations globally.
The adoption of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) within the European Union (EU) since May 2018 has also meant significant changes to data protection standards throughout the EU, together with matching penalties for non-compliancy. Hotels, by their nature, are open targets for data attacks due to a large number of daily guest transactions and turnover. Under GDPR, hotels are obligated to report network security breaches within 72 hours to the authorities, and many hotels are inadequately prepared in terms of on-site network quality and staff training to deal with such threats. Education for new regulations is an additional financial investment for hotel owners, so there is still uncertainty surrounding effective adaptation to the new laws.
Given the general concern surrounding the viability of hotel guest networks, and how these may affect both smaller hotels and the larger worldwide chains, the most pragmatic consumer advice is simply not to rely on hotel WiFi.
So, what are your options?
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) encrypt your digital activity and mask your location by creating a discreet ‘tunnel’ from your system to the required remote site. Your data flow through a ‘tunnel’ on a public network, the difference is that you share that tunnel with everyone else.
On a VPN, this means you cannot be targeted specifically based on wherever you log on, and also that if hackers even gain access to your system, all they will see is an encrypted and illegible data stream. You generally understand that your data is going where it needs to and that nobody can access it en route.
However, there are a huge number of VPN providers and this is where some of the problems begin. It can be challenging to understand which services to trust and whether paying for a VPN subscription will guarantee your privacy when there are free providers promoting the same service. Some may display issues such as vulnerabilities while handling cookies, the tiny bits of data sent from a website and stored on your system while you are browsing that site. These vulnerabilities may be circumvented by changing your device settings from a plain HTTP connection to HTTPS, but many users find such operational complexity unacceptable when paying for a VPN.
You are still placing your personal details in the hands of another service, so ultimately a VPN’s success is dependent upon a thorough examination of that provider’s credentials, service quality and reputation.
Personal Mobile Data
Another option while staying in hotels is, of course, to simply continue using your existing mobile data plan. This makes sense. By staying with your regular data provider you are decreasing the potential for new network adoption and opening entry points for attackers.
However, traveling often means jumping outside of your mobile provider’s territory, incurring widely differing roaming fee structures, depending on the reach and consistency of your plan. These can sometimes feel more like penalties, for example receiving a text advising ‘100MB data per day’ effectively means a few minutes of map navigation, extremely light browsing, and minimal communications. Feeling hampered by data limits is stressful, whereas navigating new cities or surroundings with ample connectivity means you can actually enjoy and optimize the technology you carry with you.
Besides, contacting your provider prior to traveling simply to check how your costs will be impacted is arduous, and you also need to ensure you cancel any activated international roaming service once you return home.
One approach spearheaded by Manet has been to place free 4G connectivity and free international calls within the guests’ hands. By providing high-end Samsung smartphones in rooms, guests have a user-friendly, customizable device that operates on Android, the world’s most widely adopted system. The phone functions with all the convenience expected, without limits, works as a mobile wifi hotspot allowing hotel guests to stay connected on the web inside and outside their hotel and is fully integrated with the hotel systems for simplified access to hotel services and guest room linked device control.
Such solutions provide an effective remedy to guest concerns about using foreign WiFi networks susceptible to breach, or relying on personal expense to operate online when data should be part of a hotel’s service offering.
For the hotel, this approach also creates an opportunity for increased, simplified guest connection and service, while multiplying channels for revenue generation possibilities.
They are fresh, artsy and have smart and youthful attitudes. We’re talking about boutique hotels, the new stars of the hospitality industry, offering incomparable personalized services, characterized by fancy design and prestigious furnishings, located mostly in the heart of trendy cities.
Boutique hotels’ recent success is confirmed not only by numbers (the highest ADR – average daily rate – during the year and the greatest gains in RevPAR according to CBRE projects) and by industry insiders (in the last few years, more than 20 brands have been added to the ever-changing mix of hotels in the boutique space) but also by a growing number of travelers who want their hotels to be an integral part of a unique travel experience.
The reasons behind this success are many so we decided to learn more about them by putting under the magnifying glass 3 important boutique hotel trends.
The “Eco-Bio-Healthy” revolution
More and more travelers are interested in making choices that protect the planet and promote reconnecting with nature. Precisely for this reason, one of the top boutique hotels trends of 2018 is accommodating travelers in eco-friendly facilities. For example, in Bangkok, the New Akyra Sukhumvit has become the first single-use-plastic-free hotel.
Furthermore, vegan options, local food and 0km gastronomic products are now omnipresent in boutique hotel menus.
Therefore it seems that most boutique hotels are now riding the well-being and environmental sustainability wave highlighting the connection between nature, body and mind.
David Bowd, an industry vet and principal at West Elm Hotels, in a recent interview for Condé Nast Traveler highlighted the growing importance of the “bio” element in hotel menus saying this: “I think the ability when you travel to stay healthy, to have something on a room service menu that is a great salad or a great wrap—it’s not just another club sandwich and fries, which I still see everywhere. I get it: People want that, but I think there’s [room for] the healthy option as well”.
Localhood and authenticity
In an increasingly globalized and standardized world affecting inevitably with its dynamics the hospitality industry, authenticity is the new change of gear.
What travelers want today is a local perspective of destinations. They want to integrate themselves with territories and communities they visit and they know that to achieve this integration they need local guides who can help them live authentic and unforgettable experiences. What travelers desire most is, in one word, “localhood” a term we wrote about in one of our previous blog posts. A famous lifestyle and local experience influencer, Nyssa P. Chopra, founder and curator at The Cultureur, recently wrote: “Whether you’re looking for the best restaurant, the best luxury hotel, best vantage point for photos, unique experiential itinerary ideas or hidden gems of a local culture, I’ve done my research so you do not have to”. Her statement says a lot about modern travelers’ desires. Among all travelers, the ones choosing boutique hotels and b&bs seem to be the ones who appreciate most experiencing destinations just like locals do and discovering local hidden gems.
This is why boutique hotels are shifting their offer towards unique and local experiences regarding winemaking, traditional gourmet cuisine, signature dining options and in-room service, mimicking, in some cases, b&b’s.
Technology is key
In the search for your next boutique hotel vacation you might encounter “digital detox” hotels offering libraries, absence of web connectivity and meditative spaces to their guests. However “cyber-vices” are difficult to eradicate in travelers so boutique hotels seem to be definitely focusing more on technology than on libraries and reading rooms and seem very aware that being in step with the times does not mean going against localhood and the essence of hospitality. On the contrary, digital tools and services like web connectivity, smart rooms and AI travel assistants are proving to be very effective drivers of localhood, tradition and authenticity in the tourism industry.
Just think how important Google Maps are for travelers as they not only allow them to find the best route to every local point of interest but they also provide a wide range of other useful information like public transport services, POI reviews and pictures, traffic status and much more.
What we wrote above is evidence of the transformation boutique hotels around the world are going through overtime as attention to furnishing and design, the traditional distinctive elements of boutique hotels, is slowly but steadily being superseded by a strong focus on technology, respect of the environment, wellness and authentic local experiences. What more could travelers desire from their vacations? Well, there’s much more going on in hospitality than what you read here today but we’ll write about it in our upcoming articles so stay tuned on our blog!
For the moment, just keep in mind that boutique hotel experiences are getting more interesting every day and are truly worth discovering in your upcoming leisure trips.
You’ve heard it before: “Content is King”.
Maybe. Maybe not. For your guest, however, only one thing is king, queen, and the whole darn kingdom: their experience.
According to a study by Think with Google, consumer intent is far more important (and indicative of purchasing probability) than mere demographics.
In other words, it’s not who a person is. It’s all about what a person does and how that person behaves.
Why? Because customers make their buying decisions based on a series of interactions called “micro-moments”. These are seemingly small but incredibly significant details about the way a brand reaches out, interacts, educates, offers, and enhances the customer’s experience.
“Intent beats identity. Immediacy trumps loyalty. When someone has a want or need, they turn to their smartphone for help. When a need arises, people turn to search and YouTube to look for answers, discover new things, and make decisions…Understanding and…meeting [your customer’s] needs in the moment are the keys to winning more hearts, minds, and dollars.” — Think with Google, “Why consumer intent is more powerful than demographics”
So What Do Guests Need?
Excellent question. Let’s take a look at guest/consumer behavior for the travel, hotel, and booking experience.
• Says TripAdvisor, 83% of travelers rely on ratings when choosing a hotel
• 68% of guests want to speed up the check-in process by using their smartphones
• While email’s open rates are down to 20%, text messaging read rates are 98% (aka, marketers haven’t over-saturated the use of text yet so the time is ripe to harness the power of text as a mode of communication)
• 80% of customers prefer to self-serve in order to get the information that they need (TechRadar, 2018)
• Since guests are already reliant on and wedded to their smartphones, hotels like the Hilton are now offering customers a chance to use their smartphones/mobile phones as a hotel room key (Financial Times)
• According to Google, one in three travelers across the world are using digital assistants already to research and book travel, searching for everything from flights to hotels, suggesting that mobile is the platform on which consumer behavior is occurring (Google/Phocuswright, 2017)
Text messaging — using text as a platform and method — is an innovative, low-cost way to do more than just communicate with a customer. Instead, hotel marketers can actually use the communication method to enhance the customer experience.
Why? Because customers are already asking for and relying on text. And text messaging has its own inherent strengths that make it a natural contender in the bid for your guest’s attention.
When you take a look at the behavior consumers/guests are already exhibiting, text messaging is a clear solution:
• Hotels that have adopted automated text messaging for guest communication strategies have seen a 25% increase in their guest engagement (ALICE).
• Texting offers immediate contact because smartphone users send and receive up to 5x more texts than phone calls.
• Text messaging automation offers template responses to “frequently asked questions”, except that the responses are much more instantaneous: Answers to questions like “What’s the WiFi password?” and “What time does breakfast start?” meet your guest at the point of their need, via an instant text.
• SMS or “mobile” marketing brings together three key elements — customer service, customer loyalty and mobile integration.
• Since texting is already a part of normal consumer behavior, the barriers to adoption are low (even when compared to an app, which is dependent on the consumer actually bothering to go and download the app).
How are Hotels Making Use of Text?
Creatively, in fact.
There are leaders in the space as well as independent hotels that are equally as innovative in their use of text messaging to enhance and win over the guest experience.
To enhance the guest experience and reduce the amount of time guests were waiting (an annoyance that guests reported significantly reduced the enjoyment of their overall stay), Marriott implemented a text-based service to respond to customer requests. This included calls for room service and house-keeping.
Knowing their consumer/guest demographic well, Aloft decided to “speak” in the language of their mostly-millennial guests.
That would be the language of the emoji. To introduce text messaging into their communication strategy, Aloft implement an offer call, “Text it, Get it” (or TiGi, for short), where guests can text a specific set of 6 emojis (which correspond to packages offered by the hotel) and receive that service.
Here, there’s a double novelty going on: Not only is Aloft using a popular, informal and instant method of communication, they’ve also done their due diligence in creatively “packaging” six distinct “services” that their ideal guest has asked for (often, presumably) before.
Cure for a hangover anyone? TiGi!
Located in Nashville Tennessee, Holston House relies on text messaging to streamline their entire communication strategy, from start to finish.
Upon arrival, guests are welcomed via text and encouraged to check-in using a self-serve platform. During their stay, text allows a continuous flow of dialogue between the guest, their needs, and the hotel staff. At departure, Holston House uses text messaging automation to encourage feedback, send surveys, and resolve issues before the guest has left the premises.
With a generous budget, MGM Mirage uses SMS or mobile marketing, via text, to coach the customer’s future purchase, besides providing up-to-date customer service.
To bring together loyalty, customer service, and mobile behavior, MGM offers guests real-time promotions which are then texted to their guests’ phones. This might include discounts on entertainment events or information on the hotel’s own amenities that a guest would be wondering about.
They used insight garnered from their marketing platform to tailor messages to guests, based on purchasing and booking history. This drove up revenue and continued to evolve the tracking of what guests truly desired.
Hard Rock Hotel & Restaurant
The Hard Rock Hotel and Restaurant has always been ahead of the curve. They’ve started to use SMS or text messaging to promote events and products — but only to customers most poised to buy that particular product or service.
Right time, right place.
They also use “shortcodes” — such as texts with a prompt to message a particular code to a particular number — to promote their loyalty programs, a win-win for guests looking for exclusive offers, and the hotel, looking to build a solid guest list to market to in the future.
Here’s My Number…So Text Me Maybe
Both the big wigs and emerging hotspots are using text messaging automation and SMS marketing to bring together a customer’s loyalty, their intent or behavior on a mobile platform, and the integration of personalized marketing offers to make sure their current experience has been everything the guest had hoped for.
So how does a hotel benefit from all this?
While your front desk is sleeping, your guests might not be. Use text messaging to cut down on the number of employees required at the front desk or lessen the load/traffic on a busy front desk during the wee hours of the morning.
Text messaging allows guests to access the “point of contact” that a front desk represents, without the hotel actually having to serve and fulfill individual requests that may be “minor” but are no less time consuming and certainly contribute to a guest’s experience.
Earning better reviews
Text messaging can capture guests at the most pivotal moments — those “micro-moments” we were talking about — to translate their satisfaction into a better review.
See, it’s not only about capturing a review in a streamlined way (via a text survey) — it’s about actually using text messaging to capture guests right after a moment where you, the hotel, have managed to get their request done just right. Making use of this moment — and, indeed, gaining insight into when that moment occurred — is where SMS or mobile marketing comes into play.
Saving on time for both hotels and guests
Five front desk staff, a team of house-keeping staff, one booked-up weekend and 50 guests.
You do the math.
Text messaging as a method of communication can cut down on major time spent on routine, face-to-face interactions.
To make sure that all operations are running smoothly and respond to each guest’s expectation in a responsive, aligned and updated manner, hotels can use text messaging, not only as a means to ask and answer but also as a means to offer.
This saves immensely on time, not by “cutting down” or reducing human interaction, but, rather, using human interaction to where it is most needed.
Checking in, an action that can be automated, is not one of them. Bringing a guest their request, or responding to a booking snafu, however, is.
Engaging and nurturing customers who are on your list
Once a guest has booked with you or they’ve checked in, you’ve got their information — including email and phone number — to communicate with again.
Since we saw that email is not as effective as text for getting opened (hello, Gmail Spam Folder), the instant nature of texting allows guests to access the hotel’s amenities while the hotel can access a guest’s needs, tapping into their wants and delivering the products or services that respond to these.
But let’s think about the future: Once a guest has opted-in to a loyalty platform or your app’s newsletter, they are not just prospects but actual qualified leads simply waiting to find the right offer again.
It’s up to you to craft that offer, personalize it, and then deliver it at the right moment.
But before you can get there, it’ll take a series of interactions with your guests on your list to nurture that sale.
These series of interactions over text — from product and service offers, upsells, incentives, loyalty discounts, Q&A, guest requests, automated feedback and reviews, and information on amenities — all lead to one thing:
If a guest has a positive experience, from the moment of their pre-arrival to the moment of their departure, not only are they more likely to refer other travelers and guests like them, they’re also more likely to return.
So, what’s really going on here? Why is text messaging so effective?
Well, there’s a caveat here. Text messaging is only effective when used as one part of a communication strategy. Certainly, the immediacy and ease of text messaging makes it a viable method for hotels and a delightful, simple experience for customers.
But there needs to be some intent and structure behind it. A simple, “Welcome to our hotel” is unlikely to be the weight that tips the revenue scales in your favor.
Instead, it’s the opportunity to personalize and use omnichannel marketing that makes text messaging as powerful and potent a tool as hotels can have today.
Think about it: If you get a text welcoming you, inviting you to check in and then, once you’re checked-in, offering you the exact product or service that would enhance your stay (such as an invitation to grab some Vitamin Water or a suggestion for a nearby restaurant or cafe), how much more likely are you to, firstly, capitalize on these suggestions and, secondly, perceive your stay in a more positive light?
It’s a question worth asking. And hotels will be answering via text.
“Finders Keepers, losers weepers”, this old English adage, also a readjustment of an ancient Roman law (the res nullius) concerning the legislation of lost items, should be well kept in mind by the hotel industry operators.
In fact, hosting customers for the first time is, in perspective, a huge opportunity, like finding a diamond box at the edge of the road.
This affirmation is true as much as that offering customers a unique stay experience is equivalent to stimulating them to repeat their pleasant experiences and so to securing their loyalty.
Experiences delivered to customers depend much on the surprise or wow factor that every player of the hotel industry is able to create. To use a love metaphor, without “love at first sight”, conquering the hearts of new customers, and thus seeing them return, is really tough!
So how can hoteliers achieve customer delight and see their guests come back overtime? Below you can read some useful tips on the topic. While reading, always keep in mind that success in hospitality depends on how well a hotelier knows his/her guests and is able to anticipate their requests.
So here are our tips:
Underpromise and overdeliver: take control of your guests’ expectations
It might seem strange to you but there are still lots of hoteliers who keep promising services and experiences they are not able to deliver to their guests hoping that this way they will increase their guests and revenues. This is a huge problem for hoteliers as well as for their guests. For the latter because they arrive full of expectations and then receive a disappointing experience. And for the former because in the best-case scenario they’ll see their guests leave and never come back while in the most realistic scenario they’ll also get bad guest reviews on popular online travel portals. Bad reviews should be avoided at all costs given their enormous impact on travelers’ choices. So keep your guests expectations aligned to what you really can offer them by being transparent, truthful and building trust with them during every preliminary information exchange.
Perform proper targeting: know your guests, be proactive
“Anticipate, be proactive” is what’s written in a passage of the famous book “The Art of War” in which the Chinese philosopher Sun Tsu underlines the importance of studying the enemy in advance to be ready in case of battle. His recipe for success works for the hotel industry too where targeting properly customers by studying their habits and their preferences is very important for understanding their expectations. In every business, different customer groups have different expectations. This is true in the hospitality industry too as its wide variety of target segments like business travelers, leisure travelers, millennial travelers, group travelers, chinese travelers, female travelers, adventure travelers, wellness travelers, just to mention some, represent a wide variety of traveler groups with different accommodation and services needs and expectations. If for example, your target customers are families with children you must offer them kid-friendly facilities and services. If you’re aiming at senior travelers you must prioritize comfort and assistance services. If your customers are business travelers you must keep in mind and offer them convenience. The more you interact with your customers the more you discover about them and the more you understand what your main target clientele expects from you. If you’re wondering how to built interaction with your customers just think how many digital and technological tools are available today: from social networks to advanced crm platforms, from instant messaging tools to advanced digital marketing and advertising platforms.
Embrace technology: smart-up your hotel
While it is true that new technologies represent valuable allies for hoteliers in building engagemet and collecting information about travelers, it is also true that technology and digital tools rank high in travelers’ accommodation service preferences, choices and requests. Modern travelers rely on technology during their everyday life so they also expect ubiquitous digital service continuity during their travel and hotel accommodation experiences. A research report published by Oracle focused on the relationship hotel guest expectations and technology. More than 64% of the interviewees said that it is “extremely or very important” for hotels to continue investing in technology and 71% of them said they expect easy and fast check-in at their arrival. Just think how much keyless smart locks, digital keys and mobile apps can improve check-in experiences creating a positive first impression in hotel guests, influencing their loyalty and future accommodation choices. Two other very important traveler experience factors, host-guest communication and service customization, rely mainly on technological tools today. Just think of chatbots, instant messaging, IoT and smart rooms to get an idea of the diffusion of technology in the hospitality industry. So if you want to attract travelers to your hotel invest in technology!
Focus on service customization: become the genius of the lamp
Thanks to modern digital marketing and crm tools hoteliers can perform extremely accurate profiling of their guests and collect incredible amounts of market data transforming themselves in geniuses of the lamp able to fulfill all their guests’ most profound wishes and desires making their stays unique and extremely pleasant and skyrocketing hotel reputation and customer loyalty. Providing tailor-made services and expriences to hotel guests has never been easy like it is today so sit in front of your personal computer and start mining data about your market’s needs and trends immediately!
In conclusion, knowing your guests, meeting or exceeding their expectations and providing them with hi-tech services and tailor-made experiences is the best way to make sure they’re going to be loyal to your brand and share good comments about you with their peers. “Season” these basic rules with attention to details like, facility cleaniness, staff helpfulness and reception friendliness and your hospitality business’ success is guaranteed!
Meanwhile, CEO of Placepass, Emily Bernard says that “[E]xperiences are the future of travel,” and that “immersive in-destination activities” are on the rise.
So, where can you count on undertaking an experience you won’t soon forget? We’ve scoured the globe for five of the best (and most unique) experiences offered by hotels.
1) Experience the Great White North at Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort
There’s a reason for every season, goes the old saying. And, we’re pretty sure that the likes of winter and Arctic chill were invented specifically so guests could undertake the truly other-worldly experience that the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort in Finland offers.
From late-August to April of each year, nature puts on a lights show like no other. If viewing the Northern Lights is an experience on your bucket list, be prepared to not only check it off your list but to do so in style.
The Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort’s glass igloos offer an incredible, unobstructed view of the Arctic sky. Be prepared for a view filled not only with stars that seem to outnumber the sheer grains of sand on Earth but the luminous, mysterious dance of the Aurora Borealis.
Each igloo is masterfully designed with private curtains, climate control, private bathrooms and hot showers. If you’re looking for a communal feel, head to the common areas for a soak in the sauna.
And what about the day? Experience classic Arctic activities like snowmobiling, ice fishing, sled dog training, and the quintessential reindeer sleigh ride.
2) Live Like a Desert King at Qasr al Sarab Desert Resort
One of the few things that interrupts Rub’ al Khali, the “largest uninterrupted sand desert in the world” is the majestic vision of the Qasr al Sarab Desert Resort.
A multi-faceted experience, the “Empty Quarter” is packed-full of what the Qasr al Sarab Desert Resort calls, “The Spirit of Arabia”.
Guests at Qasr al Sarab can expect to enjoy a full day, beginning with a tour of the desert at sunrise, a unique and nearly mystical experience. Then, guests can experience scores of activities including dune dashing, camel rides, horseback riding, archery, falconry and even cooking classes.
After the day is done, guests can head to the traditional and exclusive Hammam spa, touted to have healing desert elixirs, with authentic hammam rituals, before taking a dip in the common area free-form pool, completely shrouded by the stars.
3) Cliff Camping at Estes Park
Not for the faint of heart but not to be shied away from either: The chance to sleep at the face of a mountain may not immediately appeal to everyone but it’s an experience you should absolutely undertake…if you dare!
Colorado’s breathtaking Estes Park is where camping and outdoor enthusiasts head up a mountain and then rappel down its rockface to set up shop on a nylon cot just big enough to accommodate two sleeping bags.
While cliff campaign experiences are usually set up by serious climbers like Harry Kent of Kent Mountain Adventure Center, travelers don’t have to be major climbers to undertake this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
In fact, Kent’s operation focuses on providing these experiences in safe, controlled settings, aimed specifically at newbie and inexperienced climbers. If there’s one thing that will put the spirit of the mountain in you, it’s the feeling of being utterly alone on the side of a cliff for the night.
These dreamy views are something every traveler will appreciate more because they had to work for them.
4) Get Up Close and Personal with Big Game at The Ark
After Queen Elizabeth’s accession to the throne was marked by her prior experience at Tree Tops in Kenya, Big Game viewing experiences became more popular than ever.
Today, it’s not only royalty that can engage in a coveted spotting of the wild’s “king of the jungle”.
Located in Aberdare National Park is a sanctuary that overlooks a floodlit waterhole and salt lick, which makes for a communal experience for creatures like hippos, giraffes, zebra and even elephants, as well as the curious humans who can view them from up high.
Creatively named “The Ark”, this makeshift-hotel-and-sanctuary is actually an experience in itself. There are four viewing decks with balconies and lounges for observing animals, as well as a hidden, ground-level bunker perfect for wildlife photography enthusiasts looking to capture animals through the lens.
Once you’ve acclimated yourself to your fellow neighbors, take a safari drive into the bush, a guided nature walk, go bird watching or visit the Moorlands, where the magnificent waterfalls of River Magura, River Karuru and River Chania await. For something more low-key, finish your trip with some trout fishing.
5) Relax and Breathe Deep…Underwater at Song Saa Private Island
With experiences like this, it’s truly difficult to pick favorites, but we saved the “best” for last.
Remote and riveting, Song Saa “Private Island” makes you think of some secret, clandestine spot of luxury.
The reality is not far off. Song Saa, which is an affectionate Khmer term for “sweethearts”, is a set of twin islands surrounded by dazzling turquoise waters off the Gulf of Thailand. It’s also the spot where Australians Rory and Melita Hunter set up their dream of a private island luxury resort that provides local conservation efforts as well as unique experiences for travelers.
While “private island” seems to imply exclusivity and luxury, Song Saa’s experience is more about the harmonious. The islands of Koh Ouen and Koh Bong are connected by a footbridge, and positioned just off the shoreline is its world-class restaurant and lounge.
The ethic at Song Saa is simple: Nature and natural beauty are one in the same. Instead of a dedicated spa center, there are various “regenerative sites” through which guests rotate for a truly bespoke experience. All around, the presence of the ocean, the rainforest and the tropical wildlife give guests the chance to rejuvenate.
Song Saa features a team of locally and internationally-trained therapists who range from Khmer practitioners to yoga masters and ayurvedic therapists. Guests can also enjoy an engaging set of activities like paddle boarding, local gardening workshops, rainforest hiking, kayaking, snorkeling, and cooking classes, to name a few.
A particularly notable and memorable Song-Saa-exclusive experience, however, is the underwater meditation. Guests begin by scuba diving at dusk. As the moon is rising, the island’s only light source makes for an eerie and spiritual mood. A relaxation and meditation expert leads the experience underwater, using special breathing equipment and waterproof personal players.
Hotels are not the only ones changing things up. Tour operators and travel companies are popping up offering packages that are tailored to travelers’ “Travel Styles”.
Are you a “Discoverer”? Or, perhaps, an “Independent Insider”? There’s a trip for that.
The experiential and the immersive itinerary is not a trend but a new reality. Hotels are getting on board and riding the wave by offering the chance for guests to make memories. And travelers are only too happy to do so.
Finding the perfect travel accommodation is always a big dilemma. There are several factors to consider and above all it’s difficult to choose between b&bs and hotels. What are the pros and cons of each and how to choose what suits best your travel style? Below, there’s a list of tips that can be useful in your future choices.
Choose a Hotel to avoid unpleasant check-in experiences
Step forward those who have never had problems with b&b check-ins… In my experience as a traveler, I have tried both hotels and b&bs. In (very common) case of unexpected delays, in hotels I never encountered problems in getting my room key even at late night hours. On the contrary in b&bs it happened to me that I had to wait long times for the property owner to turn up with the keys. If you are afraid of spending a night in the cold and you prefer avoiding interaction with your host (often in foreign languages) very probably hotels are the best choice for you.
Surprises vs standards
I remember that I once rented a B&B in the Balearic islands with my girlfriend. The apartment was very nice and overlooked the sea, the host was not there and had entrusted the keys to a friend who showed up on time at check-in. While showing us the apartment, she told us that we could should not enter the room in the middle of the house. As soon as she left the house, amid the protests of my girlfriend, I rushed into the forbidden room and inside, above a child’s bed, there was a thread with a very smelly plant (some people like smoking it) hung up to dry. I breathed a sigh of relief for not having found anything spooky although finding drugs in a child’s room seemed odd enough. Something like this would have never happened in a hotel so if you don’t like smelly plants, or any kind of unpleasant surprise, then maybe choosing a hotel for your vacation is what’s best for you.
Local vs aseptic experience
The smell of homebaked cookies in the morning, freshly squeezed orange juice and homemade jams from the host’s mother are goodies that, if you are lucky, could be offered to you in a b&b allowing you to immerge yourself in authentic local culinary experiences making your stay certainly less aseptic than the ones usually offered by hotel chains. Very often, hotel breakfasts, unless you have opted for 5-star luxury, are not the best as instead of an old big mama smiling while she cooks, in their kitchens there are underpaid employees who, after waking up at 5 in the morning and having rambled the whole kitchen, will prepare for you two cobbled scrambled eggs and a grilled sausage floating in refracted fat while cursing the service chief. In any case, if you enjoy more private and standardized travel experiences then you should opt for a hotel while if you are looking for an authentic local experience then a b&b is what’s best for you.
Saving vs quality assured
Some sector studies show that b&bs, if compared to hotels, are cheaper for the same services offered and provide more living space at the same expense. However, convenience and extra space are not always synonymous of a better holiday because, if it is true that B&Bs are cheaper, it is also true that they are often decentralized or located far from main tourist attractions. So if most b&bs offer fully equipped kitchens allowing you to save on the food bill, this saving could be canceled by transport costs if they’re located far from the center. Moreover in b&bs, wi-fi connectivity is not always available and anti-theft security is generally higher in hotels if compared to vacation rentals and b&bs.
Efficiency and speed vs inexperience and slowness
Very often, booking a b&b can be very complicated, slow and laborious. Host inexperience could lead to awful booking experiences (not all b&bs are connected to big booking management portals) and it could happen that, for family problems, ineptitude or any other reason, a host decides to cancel your stay, ruining your holiday plans. Problems like the ones mentioned above are normally absent in hotels as they rarely leave their guests without a room even if sometimes they don’t deliver all their promises to their guests. The last note that could make you opt for hotels is that they often offer interesting loyalty programs. Frequent travelers can take advantage of point accumulation granting them free stays or discounts on many products and services. This aspect is almost completely absent in b&bs.
So, generally speaking, hotels are usually more expensive but also more efficient, more central, provide more quality and have interesting loyalty programs while b&bs are usually less expensive, generally more spacious, often deliver a more authentic travel experience but are also often decentralized and could hide inconvenience and unpleasant surprises.
As you can see there are pros and cons in every choice and the best advice I can share with you to help you make a good choice for your next vacation’s accommodation can be summed up in these few simple steps:
think which services are necessary and which ones are optional for your vacation needs
decide if you prefer a local or a standardized vacation experience
read other traveler’s reviews for each accommodation facility you are considering
book your stay on well known web booking portals
if you have any doubts about what you’re going to find in your hotel/b&b, once you arrive there, contact the facility manager/owner and ask lots of questions before your arrival
If you follow my advice I’m sure that your vacation experience will be as good as possible and you’ll avoid any issues.
Do more than just “visit”. Instead, immerse yourself into a new culture.
Does this sound familiar?
It’s a promise that many experiential travel companies, blogs, groups and guides promise. Because there’s a real demand for experiential travel — and it’s not just limited to third-party tour operators.
In fact, today’s hotels, B&Bs and even hostels compete on the experience they purport to offer guests far more than price. People don’t count themselves as “tourists” anymore but identify as “travelers”, “explorers” and, in some cases, “wanderers” and “digital nomads”.
In other words, there’s a shift from mere accommodation in the hospitality and travel niche towards experience as a major hallmark of a “successful” or “fulfilling” or even “memorable” trip.
And this shift has triggered a new competitive landscape for travel companies, hotels, B&Bs, hostels and even specialty cultural accommodations and lodging. So, is this just a new-fangled label or is there something deeper behind the hunger for experiential travel?
Why Offering an “Experience” Matters More than Price
If you’re reading this now and you were alive in the 90s (or even the early 2000s), you’ll remember that your travel decisions (or your family’s travel decisions) were based on the purse-strings.
Travel budgeting was a real thing — and it’s not that this concern has been thrown out the window. In fact, if the rise in sites that show consumers how to “hack” travel points on credit cards to budget travel around the world are any indication, pricing on accommodations still matters.
It’s just not the only thing that matters. Nor is it the most significant. In fact, even “budget” travelers are looking for something greater when they travel: the promise of an experience. There are very specific factors that have led to competition occurring on an entirely new playing field. Let’s take a look.
Enter the “Millennials”
There’s a new demographic in town and it’s beginning to enter into its peak earning years. That would be the generational group known as the “millennials”. And, in case you’ve missed the memo, they’re in the market with some serious buying power.
While it’s certainly true that “boomers are flocking to adventure tours” and that boomers’ tastes have taken a turn towards “non-traditional…bucket-list destinations…” with a focus on “exploring, learning about the history of a city, learning about the art”, millennials are parlaying their considerable influence into a taste for the exclusive, alongside the experiential.
While boomers are content to backpack and make the most of the wealth they’ve built or the time they have left, millennials are, increasingly becoming the generation of affluence.
Given that almost a quarter of U.S. adults making a household income of more then $500,000 are millennials, it might come as no surprise that, according to the United Nations, “200,000 million millennial tourists generate more than $180 billion in annual tourism revenue, an increase of nearly 30% since 2007” (Forbes).
So what are millennials looking for? That would be a preference for “traveling with their tribes” and so requiring larger or luxury accommodations, customization of itineraries, getting immersed in local culture and having access to a local contact or concierge to help plan activities because, “the travel is as much about the experience as it is the residence or accommodations.”
The rise of OTAs
In its infancy, OTAs or “online travel agents” — which were sites like Travelocity, Hotwire, Trivago and Priceline — allowed consumers to book tickets for several flights, comparing hotels, flights and rentals based on a variety of factors like price, location, connection duration, airline carrier or rental company.
Today, these predecessors have created a precedent and a shift in consumer behavior: Hardly anyone books a flight, accommodations or even a tour without first doing their “travel research”.
In fact, according to Phocuswright, “Viator and Expedia Local Expert” are the two most commonly used online travel agents” and “55% of leisure travelers…put a lot of thought into planning these trips”. (Google/Phocuswright, 2016)
OTAs suddenly made “price” levers a standard and accessible feature. As the novelty wore off and the travel market began operating as a staple in this manner, the competition shifted focus to something beyond just “price” — experience.
It was now no longer enough for hotels or even B&Bs to offer rooms based on price. To go above and beyond and retain a competitive edge, they now began to offer experiences. And, as will be seen, this “experiential” dimension is one that OTAs themselves started to offer as a major initiative (and opportunity).
A tale of social media and influencer marketing
Speaking of travel research, here are a few revelatory statistics that underscore consumer behavior at large:
70% of travelers with smartphones have done travel research on their smartphone. (Google, 2016)
1 in 2 traveler journeys start on mobile (Booking.com, 2016)
50% of millennial travelers have discovered a new travel company while researching on mobile. (Google, 2016)
30% of mobile searches are related to a location. (Google, 2016)
The shift in consumer behavior to a “mobile-first” approach has a lot to thank the social media movement for. Digital proliferation, in other words, hasn’t occurred in silos. At this point, mobile-first behavior for search and purchase also means that individuals are spending more time than ever on social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook.
These are also the platforms where major travel brands like Contiki as well as more boutique accommodations, luxury tours and more “niche” travel brands are serving up inspirational travel content for consumer consumption.
It’s not uncommon for users to see a location, accommodation or experience on Instagram, search through mobile and book online, expecting to book all parts of their trip at once and choosing a spot based on the experience it promises.
Experiencing Expedia & AirBnB
Experience tied into travel is what big name travel spaces online like Expedia and even AirBnB are now offering. Much of this has to do with the ways we search, our digital behaviour and the way marketing has changed in the last 10 years.
But it also has to do with a real demand that consumers have for a more all-encompassing, memorable and “authentic” experience.
Let’s take a look.
On the AirBnB website, the messaging makes the company’s priorities (and offerings) plenty clear:
“Book unique homes and experiences all over the world,” says AirBnB’s eye-catching main headline.
Next, we see that there’s a pre-populated and “suggested” search query already in the search bar: “Try ‘Hiking in San Francisco’,” it says. This, in other words, is a popular experience around which accommodations can be booked.
The suggested search also gives a more directed suggestion — “Homes for families in Shanghai” — but, again, the very specific qualifier here is “homes”, which suggests an experience of travel rather than simply a size of accommodation. It seems to tell the user they can expect “all the qualities of home” while traveling.
In 2016, AirBnB announced the addition of a new travel product to its traditional offerings, which might help to explain its shift in branding: “Trips”, which later evolved to “Experiences” in 2017 was, according to a Morgan Stanley survey, a response to levels of adoption tapering off for the app.
However, AirBnB’s $5 million investment into “Experiences” is, according to founder Brian Chesky, “a key initiative” focused on “evolving his company from a marketplace for renting other people’s homes into a multi-dimensional travel company” (Fast Company).
Experiences, essentially, is all about having AirBnB hosts providing activities that are local, alongside opening up their homes. These can be multi-day excursions like concerts or tours booked based on interests like food, fashion and music.
Expedia does something very similar. While it’s not an app for booking home rentals, it has spent a pretty marketing penny branding itself as a one-stop (online) shop for booking hotel accommodations, tours, car rentals, and local activities.
Just take a look at this “London Eye Experience Tickets” built right into the booking section for the site, alongside reviews on the experience “related attractions” suggestions.
Behind the obvious opportunity for these companies to take advantage of the shift in travel trends, there is something else going on here. A change in consumer behaviour, right now, is being more influenced than ever before by how we interact with the web at large, as consumers.
Besides social media hooking into every aspect of our lives, there are marketing-driven strategies that travel companies are using. Now, experiential travel is an invitation for consumers to “self-select” the kind of experience they want, based on their preferences or their “travel type”, as Contiki’s recent website revamp shows.
And then, there’s the question of search. 50% of search queries are four words or longer. (Ko Marketing, 2016)
Because keywords have become so competitive, there is a greater need for specificity. This means that there’s a rise in something known as “long tail keywords”, which are essentially phrases that are either questions or include four or more words.
Remember the AirBnB search suggestion? That’s a long tail keyword and it’s how people are searching more and more.
Why (and How) Is “Experience” More Alluring for Travel?
Reflecting on travel is always a very personal thing and, more and more, travelers express a desire to have an experience change them when they return.
In other words, they’re not looking to just skim the surface. They’re looking to get involved locally, meet people, blend in, partake and make memories. There is even a level of cultural preservation, awareness and sustainable travel inherent in this ethic of traveling.
First off, social media platforms and the rise of influencer marketing give would-be travelers a sense of being there without actually going. But this is precisely what creates a sense of inspiration and desire to adventure similarly and experience for oneself.
“#travelinspo” is just one of those popular and “trending” hashtags on social media that users can search to find experiences that suit their desires for travel.
Expedia and AirBnB’s “Experiences” prove that there is a real focus by travel companies, apps and even OTAs to provide a real “end-to-end” service. Blame it on Amazon and the rise of e-commerce, online shopping, that promises consumers an “end-to-end shopping experience”.
Travel is headed the same way.
The psychology behind experiential travel
There is something very simple operating in favor of experiential travel: Emotion.
Expectations for travel have shifted, along with the way they search, buy, research and make decisions. All these changes have come together to craft an atmosphere where emotional buying is easier than ever.
While a traveler can be more aware and informed than ever before, this awareness is simply a means of persuasion that occurs through various channels. Travel companies now have the opportunity to give consumers a more memorable trip than ever before by integrating all points of their travel into an experience.
In some ways, this is what travel is supposed to be all about: instilling a sense of, “I want to go there too…” in every would-be traveler.
So, what are some popular types of experiences? While they certainly are as diverse and wide as a consumer’s interests and a location’s offerings, common experience holidays can include:
Food tours under one cuisine like, “A Taste of Asia in San Francisco”
4-day nature/camping experiences in the Grand Canyon