The Case for Expanded Guest Experience
When it comes to delivering an unparalleled, unique and noteworthy hotel guest experience, arguably, many hoteliers' imagination seems to stop at the entrance of the hotel. It's a somewhat natural instinct, as any given traveler would have booked a stay at a hotel for some particular reason, maybe directly influenced by the expected experience at the property. In that sense, many hotel and general managers exclusively focus on those guest interactions that are taking place at the hotel, and there is little concern about the travelers' day-to-day across the destination.
Unfortunately, that is no longer good enough, nor does it take into account a traveler's journey of discovery.
Just think about this simple statistic provided by research from Google (2018): "Almost half (48%) of activity/tour/experience bookings happen while travelers are at their destination." In other words, a significant share of travelers do not know as to what they will do in-destination when they check in to their hotel. There is a clear case for limited planning on the guests' part, and for hotels, that is an untapped opportunity to shape a guest's journey of destination discovery. In many ways, one could and should argue that the influence of hotel staff and their ability to guide travelers should not be limited by the physical boundaries of the property they are based at.
This proposed strategy to expand the guest experience to beyond the boundaries that the hotel building has in place is possibly one of the most underrated ways in which hotel guest engagement can receive a sizeable boost. In fact, there is an obvious need to adjust the guest engagement and guest experience vision to now represent a wider "guest in-destination experience" anchored, driven and led by the travelers' selected hotel properties.
This need in expanding the reach of the hotel ultimately comes from the necessity for an increase in hotel guest engagement. This is a topic we have covered on many occasions, as it's also the core of our belief system when it comes to the main benefits we deliver to hotels. The bottom line of this belief system is that an increase in hotel guest engagement will have a paramount impact on both the guest experience and the financial bottom line of the hotel. Indeed, and as you can read HERE, the right hotel guest engagement strategy can impact a hotel's income generated from each guest by as much as 45%!
In this respect, hotel guest engagement is arguably the most important factor when it comes to considering any strategies with regards to guest experience as well as revenue recovery. What's more, and whether we like it or not, the experience of the hospitality sector over the last few months, is the strongest signal yet, that there is a critical need for an expanded guest experience.
So how should hotels approach this notion?
In order to present any viable strategies and understand the quantifiable value of an expanded guest experience, let's look at 3 key areas first.
Overnight Traveler Spend
According to Mastercard's Global Destination Cities Index (2019), annual traveler spend in the world's top 20 destinations alone, easily surpasses the $250b mark.
In Singapore (STB, 2020) for example, the above equates to an average daily spend of $272 per traveler. Let's refer to this as the "traveler wallet", and in this particular case, that wallet is highly fragmented and the spending is allocated to F&B (11%), Shopping (24%), Entertainment (26%) and Other (38%).
As of today, hotels are mostly focused on claiming part of the "Other" segment and seem to have little influence or willingness to claim a larger share of that traveler wallet.
According to Phocuswright (2019), "more than three in four activities booked in-destination happened on the day of or day before the activity." In other words, and as already expressed above, the planning segment of a traveler's journey mostly incorporates the likes of selecting the area and the accommodation, but activities and in-destination experiences are largely left to spontaneity.
So think about this: your guests are highly likely to be in the dark about navigating all aspects of their stay at the destination. This means that there is an incredible opportunity to help your guests better navigate all aspects of their stay (including what happens away from the property), make their experience better, and gain a larger share of the traveler wallet in the process.
The User Journey
Between 2016-2018, mobile bookings referencing impulse-driven last-minute searches and bookings in relation to activities have grown by over 150% (Google, 2018). In other words, when your guests are at the hotel, they display the most ideal mindset when it comes to making an impact on their journey over the next few days. The delivery mechanism? Mobile all the way!
To sum up the 3 points raised above, travelers carry a large traveler wallet when in-destination, the vast majority have no idea what they would want to do over the next few days, and they find inspiration via mobile, rather than desktop or tablet. Being aware of these, forms the perfect basis for hoteliers to begin tapping into this wallet, with the benefit of doing so ranging from reputation uplift to financial success.
How can hotels devise a strategy that would help them expand the guest experience then?
The initial layer should be focused on technology deployments that can take advantage of the previously described behavior of travelers. In that sense, any technology-related decisions need to facilitate hotel staff's ability to stretch their service excellence to beyond the property's physical limitations. Again, a majority of travelers' destination discovery-related decisions are driven by impulse, and whichever technology hotels choose should be capable of feeding that impulse.
In order to be this effective, the technology should have hotel staff "travel" across the destination with the travelers. While an application for example, could fulfil the need to be mobile, travelers' clearly preferred mode of destination discovery, this type of technology falls short on most other areas, including limitations around promotional push messaging, as you can read HERE.
In response to these needs and the technology landscape, the chosen solution should critically always empower hotel staff to be able do the following at the very least:
Reach guests via call or chat anytime, especially when guests are away from the hotel
Promote the hotel's or its partners' services via simple push messages that get read
Enable staff to update content in real-time, with absolutely no delays
These would form the basis for a functional expanded guest experience strategy, but technology alone would not be sufficient in delivering a meaningful impact.
Adjusting the mindset
Traditionally, hotels have shied away from an extended influence on a traveler's journey, or have they?
It seems like the momentum of a great hotel experience got lost in a drive for increased efficiency and was ultimately influenced by the general technology landscape. In many ways, the concierge very much literally held the golden key to the destination in the past, but a reduced emphasis on the concierge experience, partially provoked by "more efficient" technology, made the concierge position somewhat obsolete.
In this respect, many hoteliers seem to resort to the notion that travelers will guide themselves across the destination, given the amount of apps and content they can access. As a result, the emphasis seems to be placed on the on-site experience alone, and that's where hotels end up falling short and might end up losing more ground to accommodation providers which go beyond only being a place to sleep.
Consequently, if an expanded guest experience is on the agenda, hotels must learn to stretch their influence to beyond the physical property, something that concierges were certainly capable of during the 1990s when technology wasn't such a big disrupter. The mindset has to now incorporate a comprehensive in-destination experience that could and should be influenced by those hotels travelers chose to stay at - that is true expanded guest experience.
Referencing one of our earlier hotel guest engagement-related pieces of content, human interaction and the previously mentioned power of staff are critical in driving more revenue from each guest. Just take a look at the travel booking industry. According to Trekksoft (2019), human interaction leads to a higher spend per head during the holiday booking process.
When it comes to the general booking journey, "only around 18% of travelers experienced human interaction in the booking process, but that small group ended up contributing to almost half of the industry's overall revenue numbers for 2018. What's more astonishing is that between 2017 and 2018, human interaction in this procedure decreased by almost 6%, but the revenue contribution was virtually the same in both years. This simply means that when you focus on the quality of engagement, rather than the quantity, you can outclass companies or, in our universe, hotels by making your human interaction more impactful." This is very much in line with the above and the need for the likes of concierges to start providing that human influence again.
In summary, an expanded hotel guest experience is what holds the key to hotels' brighter paths. In order to provide such an expansion to the traditional guest experience, hotels must look at technology in different ways. They must eliminate any barriers when it comes to capturing a guest's imagination with technology and very much exclusively focus on mobile technologies. Hoteliers must adjust their mindsets to being more than just a provider of beds and a roof over one's head; they must begin to look at the wider in-destination experience of travelers, an area they are absolute experts in, and a segment where they shouldn't be disrupted by "outsiders".
At Portier Technologies, we have always believed in creating technology that empowers staff to go the extra-mile that will ultimately make the difference between a decent and a great stay at a hotel. As such, we have always focused on harmonizing our technology with hotel staff members, in order for them to deliver service levels not experienced before. Consequently, our technology is one of the industry's cornerstones in delivering an expanded guest experience from a hotel's perspective.
Reach out to us now, if you want to discuss this topic in more detail, so we can provide you with help on establishing a strategy around expanded guest experience.