The sharing economy, which include companies like Airbnb, has been a major disruptor in the hotel industry. Millions of rentals (Airbnb alone has grown to include 5 million listings) have intensified the competition for guests. As hotels look to compete in this environment, they will need to implement strategies including using technology, personalization, experiences and amenities to provide a superior guest experience that can’t be found anywhere else.
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.
Technology solutions can help hotels match and exceed the experience provided by alternatives like Airbnb that make it easy for travelers to search for the right property and make a reservation. Using technology, hotels can eliminate the cumbersome and confusing booking processes that lead to abandoned bookings and decreased revenues.
Using mobile technology to enhance the guest experience is another area where hotels need to catch up to meet consumer expectations for convenience. Hoteliers can use a tablet app to help guests easily book other hotel services such as spa services from anywhere on-property.
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, and 80% of those travelers read at least six to 12 comments before booking
Technology can simplify the tracking of hotels’ digital reputation and centrally manage reviews across sites such as TripAdvisor, Facebook and Yelp. These monitoring and tracking capabilities can help hotels take control of their reputation management, identify strengths and weaknesses and gain insights to elevate and improve guest experience, resulting in increased and improved reviews that will ultimately boost the bottom line.
Personalizing guest experience to build loyalty and trust is another key strategy that can help hotels differentiate themselves from the competition.
Hoteliers can leverage CRM technology to generate the predictive analytics and data-backed insights for a 360º view of the customer that helps prioritize customer experience and provide 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.
The value of offering more personalized experiences pays off for hoteliers in the long-term connections established with each guest and the development of brand loyalty – both of which have the impact of increasing revenue.
Showcasing amenities has always been part of the hotel industry’s marketing toolkit, but has become even more important as key differentiator from rental properties. Going beyond simply providing a place to sleep, hoteliers can win the business and loyalty of travelers by offering a range of amenities that appeal to guests.
While Airbnb touts offering all the comforts of home, hotel brands should be highlighting and emphasizing the wide range of amenities they offer. Hotels offer many amenities that are rarely found in an Airbnb, including daily housekeeping, room service, complimentary breakfast, spas and fitness centers, and on-site restaurants and bars to name a few. 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.
Since its inception Airbnb has been delivering community-oriented, 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.
Experiential is not just about immersing guests in local culture. Some hotel brands are upping their game with one-of-a kind memorable experiences. Marriott, for example, offers in-room virtual reality travel experiences for guests. The hotelier developed content for this VR experience in the form of travel stories that transport guests around the world in 360 3D via a virtual reality headset.
With the ability to easily find and compare accommodations on the internet, travelers are more discerning than ever. 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.
About the Author
Roger Sholanki is the founder and CEO of Book4Time, a cloud-based booking business management platform used by spa and wellness businesses in more than 70 countries. A seasoned entrepreneur who is passionate about building disruptive companies and products, Roger has led Book4Time to commercialize dozens of innovative products that have helped millions of consumers and businesses in the spa and wellness industry since the company’s founding in 2004.