The new year is always a time for reflection as well as a time to consider how best to plan for the year ahead. For hoteliers, that usually means how best to plan ahead for bookings, revenue and profitability. To achieve this successfully, a well-structured team, efficient operations, and cutting-edge technology are essential. It also means keeping a watchful eye on wider trends and market conditions that will certainly bear influence and play an important part in defining those all-important strategies.
So, what are the key trends in hospitality and, more specifically digital ordering and guest experience technology, that look set to support operators in the year ahead?
Personalization and Customization
Personalization will be what many would regard as the ‘Umbrella Trend’ that will affect different aspects of the operational and marketing mix. Simply put, personalization means unique and customized experiences tailored to each guest's specific preferences. This trend is set to become even more popular in the coming year as guest requests become more detailed and operators have access to more data and technology to fulfil them.
From an F&B perspective, personalization can be achieved through a focus on dietary requirements. This can include allergen and intolerance filters, requests for specific complementary items, and access to exclusive group menus developed for particular events. All such requirements can be selected on a digital menu and/or communicated directly to the chef with greater accuracy for a safer, more enjoyable experience.
Equally from a guest directory perspective, guests can further tailor their experience beyond the bar and restaurant to include more room-related requests. Whether that be particular types of pillows, a turn down service or to book a spa treatment. Such requests and insights can in turn pave the way for future upsell and revenue opportunities.
A More Flexible, Dynamic Approach to Guest Engagement
As mobile behaviors continue to influence and characterize guest behavior, perhaps one of the greatest opportunities it has presented for operators is in paving the way for a more flexible, dynamic approach to guest engagement. Specifically in the development and adoption of the virtual concierge which again I expect to see grow in popularity next year.
Guests and operators are increasingly turning to virtual concierges to manage queries and obtain particular information. The key to maintaining such adoption and engagement is ensuring the content is constantly relevant, updated, and easily manageable. More and more operators look set to appeal to the mobile-first market with inspiring images, details on the latest promotions and packages as well as any new menus or service offers to appeal to guests. For operators, particularly those managing multiple properties within a single area, the establishment of a central concierge center offers a compelling advantage. By consolidating operations into a single hub, they can effectively manage all guest requests remotely, eliminating the redundancy and inefficiencies associated with handling each request from individual properties. This centralized approach streamlines operations, enhances efficiency, and ultimately contributes to cost savings.
Virtual Concierge request or contacts can easily be added to the current ecosystem of contact buttons that hotels already have available on their app. Most operators are offering a combination of human and virtual concierge appropriate to their operational and guest needs. How that ratio shifts in the future will be interesting to watch.
Running alongside a flexible approach to content and guest engagement via the virtual concierge will be the continuing rise of a more flexible, dynamic approach to pricing. Whilst dynamic pricing is growing in popularity with operators keen to ensure they can competitively meet the demand relevant to the current market situation, it also looks set to accelerate to F&B offerings in 2024 and beyond. It is very much a data-centric approach which enables operators to swiftly respond to market conditions in real time. As data sets become even more detailed, such responses will be even quicker to meet guest and market needs to drive demand, demonstrate flexibility, and grow revenue.
Local Knowledge and Local Experiences
Sustainability has also, quite rightly, dominated headlines and debate. And it’s having an impact on guest behaviors and their expectations from hotel and travel experiences and itineraries. The growing interest in local experiences during stays is a positive trend that benefits both guests and the communities they visit. Whether it's engaging with local cultures and traditions, supporting local businesses through shopping and dining, or contributing to charitable initiatives, guests are seeking ways to immerse themselves in the authentic spirit of the place they're visiting while making a positive impact.
All positive news but what does this mean for operators and their tech stack? The answer lies in ensuring they offer guests an inspiring and informative guide to these local experiences online which is accessible and accurate 24/7. Digital guest directories excel at engaging guests with dynamic content, featuring high-quality imagery, seamless booking links, and real-time pricing updates that can be swiftly adjusted as needed.
Reassuringly, as all the information is online it can be as comprehensive and dynamic as you want it to be. For example, local running routes, cultural tours and local attractions, partnerships with theatres or museums, and details on local food producers. Guest directories now also have the capability to showcase seasonal promotions such as Christmas menus or Mother’s Day Afternoon Tea. All of which can again enhance and personalize the guest experience and likewise operator knowledge of guest preferences to add value and insight when planning future marketing and sales strategies.
Automation Driving Staff Efficiency and Service
Automation looks set to take on a bigger role at the point of arrival and check-in. More and more of the administrative aspects of the guest journey are finding their way into the palm of guest’s hands and this looks set to accelerate even further in 2024. As a result, hotel app capabilities look set for another significant step in their evolution with the addition of mobile check-in to work alongside digital ordering and virtual concierge, for example.
Likewise, mobile keys are poised for a significant surge in both availability and adoption. Their ease of accessibility and user-friendly interface allow guests to easily download the keys directly to their personal mobile wallets, eliminating the need for physical keycards. This streamlined process not only reduces waiting times for guests but also provides hotel staff with more time to engage in personalized guest interactions, fostering deeper connections and enhancing overall guest satisfaction.
The advances of mobile functionality and guest personalization look set to be strong allies in dictating the future landscape of hospitality technology, operations and the guest experience. Excitingly that partnership also brings with it a great deal of opportunity for operators and I for one am looking forward to seeing how it will evolve.