With the worst of the pandemic hopefully behind us, hotels face completely unchartered territory. Low occupancy rates and surging cancellations put huge strain on their revenues, while reduced commercial flights paint a worrying picture for international tourism for months to come.
The good news is that people want to travel and reconnect. A survey by research firm McKinsey revealed that traveling was the second most desired activity, just behind dining out, once restrictions had lifted. But in the short term, businesses must be mindful that it will take time to go back to a normality. In the meanwhile customers are cautious, and need extra reassurance from you to feel safe and supported.
So how should hospitality brands attract and engage with guests today? Of course, your customers still want friendly service, clean, well-presented rooms, convenience, access to the latest amenities, and the ability to interact with your brand through the channel of their choosing. However, Deloitte recommends that hotels also take further steps, suggesting that they reconnect with their customers via digital media, promote loyalty programs, adjust menus and packages, and welcome guests back into a cleaner and safer environment.
The industry’s future may seem uncertain right now, but there are plenty of opportunities for hotels to adjust to the current market conditions and thrive once more. Here are some actions hoteliers can take to put themselves on the right path.
1. Make the experience personal and seamless
Today, even the most seasoned travelers have to change their habits to adapt to new protocols such as digital health certificates and safety measures. Hotels can play a key role in helping guests navigate the new customer journey from booking to stay by providing them with all the information they need, and delivering regular updates and reminders. Customers need your assistance more than ever: if you can anticipate their needs and deliver a simple, seamless experience across the entire guest journey, you’re onto a winner.
Boutique hotel chain CitizenM promises its guests frictionless service and rooms with superpowers. Guests can check in on the brand’s app, and once on the property they can use it to open doors, order room service, schedule housekeeping and control their room ambience. By prioritizing a seamless, digitally enabled customer experience, the company has inadvertently built a pandemic-proof hotel.
Others like Hilton are using location services within the hotel property to deliver a more personalized service, alerting guests to events and activities that might interest them based on where they are on the property. For example, if a guest is in the hotel bar, they may receive a push notification about a deal on drinks.
The more you can personalize the customer experience and make each step of the stay convenient and stress-free, the more likely your guests are to recommend your hotel, and re-book themselves.
2. Stay flexible
Nobody wants last-minute cancellations, but plans can (and do) change overnight. To book a worry-free trip, guests today want to know that hotels have solid policies in place that will allow them to rebook, reschedule, or receive a full refund if they have to, or decide to, modify their plans. They will also want a heads up and suitable remuneration if certain amenities are closed or restricted.
It may also pay off to become more flexible about who you target. While international tourist activity remains lower than normal, you may be able to generate new revenue streams by opening your hotel to local guests for ancillary services. It may be something as simple as allowing people to book a room for a few hours to use as an office, or offering access to some of your hotel’s other services such as the spa, fitness center or parking.
The Rosewood Hotel in London gives people the opportunity to escape lockdown routines by booking a workcation. Hotel rooms come with a workstation already set up and a butler service to handle work-related tasks such as scanning and printing. Guests can look forward to a complimentary breakfast, free tea and coffee pick-me-ups throughout the day, as well as 24-hour gym access. The hotel can even organize tutoring and babysitting for children. There’s also a guaranteed early check in and late checkout, so workers can get the most from their stay.
3. Keep communication flowing
Communication is key in any relationship. When a guest has booked with you, send information they might beinterested in, such as available packages or special events that will take place during their stay. Start by understanding the purpose of their trip – for business or pleasure? A city break or a football weekend? – to gear the hotel room and overall experience to accommodate their needs. During their stay, make it easy for guests to communicate with hotel staff as they prefer, in person or contactless (for example via an app), and help them take advantage of all the hotel’s amenities. Once the guests have returned home, ask for feedback, and stay in touch with emails that might entice them to return.
Many hotels now display crucial information that’s pertinent to the current situation: advice about local travel restrictions, available concierge services, changes to your usual service offering, details about airport transfers, expanded information on cleaning procedures, details about what is included in the stay. Every piece of information contributes to easing visitors’ travel concerns. So even if high cleaning standards are already built into your business, it can pay off to re-evaluate your cleaning routines, and communicate those plans with your guests.
4. Support contactless convenience
Contactless technologies have long become common in hospitality: from self-check in, to online booking services, to AI-powered concierges that help guests find a slot at the spa, guests have become used to being completely autonomous during much of their journey.
As people increasingly expect fast and automated ways to support their demands, hotels are adapting, expanding considerably the extent and scope of contactless technologies. Chinese hotel chain Leyeju Smart Hotel is a leader in this field. The company only employs one to two staff members per hotel, and offers a completely contactless experience. Customers check in using facial recognition, and are led to their rooms by robots. In the room, curtains, temperature, lights and entertainment are adjusted automatically. The hotel then uses information from the rooms and app to understand guest preferences, and improve its services.
While this might be an extreme case – after all, hospitality remains centred around personal interaction and connections – we can expect contactless technologies to expand their presence in hotels and resorts.
5. Equip staff with the right tools
If you’re going to equip your customers with the latest technologies, make sure your staff have access to them too. Give your employees the tools to know your guests and delight them – technology that enables them to see everything they need to about each guest, so they can personalize their stay and make them feel welcome.
In a recent YouGov poll about hotel stays, almost two-thirds of guests said they were frustrated by unfriendly staff. More than a third of guests indicated as a source of frustration the front desk taking too long to complete requests, while almost the same proportion were irritated by delays in service.
Overcoming these hurdles requires technology that brings together all aspects of your hotel operation, and that allows you to run your room bookings, restaurants, activities, and all other services from one place. That’s why businesses like wellness resort Blue Lagoon Iceland are turning to LS Central for hotels, a unified software platform that brings together all the industry functionality they need across the accommodation, restaurants, retail stores, spa services, other facilities, and entry tickets – without ever having to switch systems. By using a unified software platform, hotels and resorts have all their data in one place, so they can see the bigger picture, run their operations more efficiently, and understand and delight their guests.
Would you like to know more about how you can build a resilient hotel business that will withstand the current market challenges and meet your guests’ ongoing needs? Contact us.