Your New Favorite Travel Companion: Location Data in the Age of COVID
After months indoors, adventure is in the air for many Americans looking to resume travel. However, while consumers may be itching to take in new sites, anxiety about travel is at an all-time high. To ease COVID-related concerns and navigate the lasting change in traveler behavior, now is the time for hotel chains to experiment with different technologies, from medical-grade cleaning systems to deep-seated contact tracing. Developing mobile and web applications that allow hotel chains to own their customers’ data is also urgent, enabling them to have better control over consumer relationships -- a feat that is all-the-more meaningful during the pandemic.
Owning customer data can unlock powerful strategies, particularly around location data. While difficult to engineer, well-built apps heightened by location will allow hotel chains to create safe guest experiences at scale, without sacrificing the efficiency travelers have come to expect.
In the age of COVID, specifically, location data can also be tapped for a range of use-cases throughout a guest’s stay, spanning acquisition and density management to contactless payment. With an eye on safety, these experiences can help boost traveler confidence, rebuild loyalty, and optimize internal operations when it matters most.
In response to social distancing and with travelers more reluctant to take shared modes of transportation, road trips are boosting in popularity. According to AAA, 96.5% of trips this summer will be by car, with 638 million road trips projected between July and September 2020. As travelers hit the road, hotels can put discovery and acquisition strategies into high gear by setting up geofences. Once a traveler with the hotel chain’s app enters the geofence and is a certain distance away, the hotel can send offers via push notification to drive deeper consideration. These messages can include time sensitive coupons or promotions to increase engagement and drive bookings. Feeling extra bold? Hotel chains can also put geofences in proximity of competitors to sway travelers with timely deals.
Contactless Check-In and Density Management
For many travelers, highly-trafficked areas, such as check-in counters, remain an area of concern. Using location data, hotels can activate check-in via app once a guest is onsite and power contactless payments to enable swift, socially distant transactions. Both of these tactics eliminate high-touch points, while allowing for more seamless operations.
Even before COVID, hotels have long experimented with contactless check-in and payments in order to give guests the ability to check in or out without visiting the front desk. For weary travelers, the ability to skip long lines and check-in with a few simple taps on their phones has reduced common pain points and streamlined the overall guest experience. But in the months since the pandemic, contactless technology has gained further momentum, with major chains like Hilton doubling down on digital key technology.
For those looking to check-in the old fashion way, location data could be used for density management, alerting guests when the building is at a safe capacity to enter.
Personalized App Experiences
Once a guest is checked in and ready to jump start their trip, hotels can further personalize experiences by surfacing relevant content based on the traveler’s location. A hotel in Florida, for example, might show different app content than its sister location in New York. This can include on-site materials, such as hotel dining rooms, resort maps, and operating hours, as well recommendations on things to do in the area, location traffic and weather conditions, and more. During COVID, especially, this can be used to communicate the latest on-site safety protocols, as well as regional rules and restrictions around re-opening.
While wanderlust remains, it’s no secret that even the most seasoned travelers are anxious about safety. Coupled with deep cleaning and rigid safety protocols, having an exemplary app experience that allows for contactless transactions and highly personalized information will give brands a channel to engage with travelers and win back trust. Smart and relevant communications powered by location data will show greater empathy when travelers need it most.
Given COVID anxiety and the rapid changes the country is making each day, hotels must consider the most effective ways to build their apps and forge stronger connections to travelers. With adept location functionalities, hotel chains will be able to seamlessly adapt to this changing landscape and will play a pivotal role in regaining customer confidence and encouraging future trips.