By Brendon Granger, Technology 4 Hotels
Understanding the changing preferences, desires and expectations of travellers is crucial for hotels to influence booking behaviour. By staying on top of what guests care about, hotels can evolve how they market themselves and tailor their services to match the shifting demands of consumers.
With that in mind, here are six of the biggest trends to watch out for in the hotel industry right now.
1) Mobile Check-in & Self-Service
The airline industry has been offering travellers the freedom of self-service and mobile check-in for years. And now, a number of hotels are catching up.
As well as offering mobile check-in to loyalty members, brands such as Starwood and Hilton are providing keyless entry. When guests arrive, they can breezily stroll past reception and unlock their room using their smartphone.
Hilton’s digital check-in service also offers the ability to pick out a specific room from an interactive digital floor plan. In addition, a recent integration with Google Maps lets guests check whether their room overlooks the city skyline, the local beach, or a nearby park.
This kind of self-service technology puts control in the hands of the customer, helping them to actively create their own personalised experience.
2) Motivating guests to book on your website
As the share of OTA (Online Travel Agents) bookings continues to grow, hotels are looking for new ways to attract travellers to book through their own online channels.
Both Hilton and Marriott have launched high-profile marketing campaigns aimed at getting loyalty members to book direct – the main selling point being discounted rates. And just recently, Hyatt launched its own book direct incentive for loyalty members, offering a discount of up to 10%.
But it’s not just lower room rates that can attract customers. Offering added extras that can’t necessarily be found elsewhere also has real value. But what incentives are guests most interested in?
In a survey by Software Advice (a source for hotel management product guides), 48% of respondents said a free room upgrade would be their main reason to book direct with the hotel, while 23% said they’d be most motivated by service incentives, such as a free meal or in-room massage.
As travellers increasingly seek unique and memorable moments during their trips, hotels are beginning to realise that including special perks can be a powerful tool to entice customers to book direct.
3) Appealing to Millennials
Millennials want a unique experience when they travel. Often, that includes picking out a hotel with a vibe and personality all of its own. To meet this desire, a lot of hotels are incorporating local design elements into their social spaces, or providing local offerings as part of their Food &Beverage mix.
It’s also common knowledge that Millennials regard technology as being crucial to the hotel experience. Digital connectivity, keyless room entry, and the ability to communicate with the hotel via messaging are all becoming expectations of a tech-savvy audience. But the benchmark is being raised even higher by youth-driven brands.
In the case of Aloft, their concept labs have recently created something called a “smart mirror” – a normally functioning mirror that doubles as a multimedia screen featuring weather, sports and news updates. Guests can even hook up their smartphones to the mirror, giving them the ability to check email and text messages on the big screen.
4) Integrating wellness into the guest experience
While a fortnight of overindulgence has its place, a lot of travellers see their holiday as a chance to take care of themselves in a way their hectic lifestyles often don’t allow.
Aware of these changing preferences, numerous hotels are now promoting wellness packages that make it easier for guests to exercise, eat more healthily, and relax in a way that extends beyond lounging by the pool.
In the case of InterContinental Hotels Group, their EVEN Hotels brand is specifically designed to meet the needs of this wellness-focused guest. Hotel features include spacious gyms close to the lobby, healthy meal options, and clutter-free rooms designed to help guests relax in comfort.
As people increasingly place importance on healthy living and balanced lifestyles, it’s likely that the trend for wellness experiences in the hotel industry will continue to grow.
5) Expanding ancillary revenue solutions
The growth of the sharing economy and the dominance of OTAS in direct bookings has undoubtedly put a strain on the hotel industry. With increased competition, it’s never been more important to find ways of maximizing every booking.
In the past, offering packaged deals with discounts at the hotel spa or restaurant was maybe enough. But not now. In a hyper-competitive marketplace, tempting customers to splash out a little extra requires tailoring offers that meet their specific preferences.
This is where data becomes a hoteliers’ best friend.
By analysing social media analytics, guest reviews, and past booking data, hotels can gain invaluable customer insights and build detailed guest profiles. Combined, this information can then be used to create segmented marketing campaigns that speak to the individual preferences of customers.
6) Transforming the traditional lobby
The hotel lobby is changing. In years gone by, it primarily served as a place for processing bookings and little else. A front desk surrounded by a few token seating areas was all a guest could expect.
But now, forward-thinking hotels are re-imagining what a lobby can be, transforming it into a social hub where guests can hang out with friends, catch up on work, or kick back with a gourmet coffee while updating their Facebook status.
The lobby of citizenM’s New York hotel showcases just how radically different the lobby is becoming. Along with super-fast Wi-Fi, their lobby features a bookstore, funky furniture, conversation areas and a cafe and cocktail bar.
Meanwhile, lobby areas at Courtyard by Marriott include media pods, a 24/7 market stocked with snacks, and their innovative “GoBoard” – a large and interactive flat-screen TV that lets guests check everything from local events and restaurants to real-time flight data.
These digitally connected social spaces reflect a new mind-set to what the lobby can and should be: a place where guests can relax, work and socialise beyond the walls of their own hotel room.
For hotels, the challenge isn’t just about staying on top of the latest trends, it’s about acting upon them.
By understanding wider industry trends and individual guest preferences, hotels can stand out from the competition, drive more direct bookings, and tailor the guest experience in line with the desires of their target market.