There’s no question that developments since the start of the year are clearly having a profound impact on hotels and resorts. As COVID-19 concerns are starting to abate, the CDC and many states have eased restrictions, and guests are starting to return in record numbers. The hotel and resorts industry has once again been forced to pivot to accommodate the return of guests and are increasingly looking for ways to improve guest satisfaction while also finding ways to drive incremental revenue.
First off, the numbers look encouraging. According to many reports the global hotel industry has recorded as much as a 60 percent net increase in bookings since the beginning of the year. From a dismal occupancy rate of 13 percent in April 2020, many hotels are now operating at 60+ percent occupancy with some reaching as high as 80 percent in key vacation markets. Most of this growth is coming from leisure and domestic leisure travelers with the business guest expected to rebound at a much slower rate this year and likely for years to come. Additionally, new challenges have emerged, including a staff shortage, guest expectations based on high room rates, and the increasing demand for personalization. For the property, maximizing revenue is more important than ever as they rebound from a difficult two years.
For hoteliers, this increases pressure to address these opportunities and challenges to secure their business this year and for years to come. Following are a few tips to consider given the current situation facing the industry.
“Flirt” with Guests Prior to Arrival
Guests are never more excited about their travel plans than when they sit down at their computer to book their travel. And recent data shows that direct bookings have increased to 67 percent (and growing) compared to pre-COVID-19 levels. For hotels, you have a captive audience, open to making the most of their upcoming trip and with a desire to personalize it to their satisfaction. This is where the hotel can finally allow for personalization and ensure a high level of guest satisfaction, while also creating revenue-generating opportunities beyond room rate. And today, more than ever, that begins at the time of booking, not only when guests arrive on property. So, flirting with them and providing opportunities to introduce them to amenities and build their anticipation when booking should be a priority.
This is where technology is playing an even greater role. And it’s much more than mobile check-in and contactless payment, as these are expected. Allowing guests to personalize their experience and book the amenities they want upon arrival should now be done at pre-arrival and through customized software that has now made this possible. Whether it’s booking a cabana, spa treatment, renting a car, or participating in water sports, guests can now easily and efficiently reserve the amenities of their choice directly at the time of booking. Customized software which is easily integrated with their PMS, POS, and credit card processing systems is gaining acceptance and has been a major pivot for many hotels and resorts.
This allows for delivering the personalized guest experience that the industry has been speaking about for years. Importantly, hospitality technology focused software has begun offering customized technologies to fit the individual needs of hotels and resorts, as it provides guests with an easy way to arrange amenities offered specifically by that hotel or resort. The benefits are clear – personalization, ability to track guest interactions and preferences, resulting in enhanced customer satisfaction and loyalty. For the hoteliers, this drives incremental revenue while seamlessly addressing the current staffing shortage. If you’re not offering this service now – and promoting it – you need to.
The On-Site Experience Has to Be Exceptional
This has always been critically important but ever more so as room rates have increased as have guest expectations. They are paying more so it’s natural they expect more. Remember flirting only works if you follow through with an experience of a lifetime and there are more ways than ever to ensure a positive guest experience and make a long-lasting impression.
To start, provide staff with the tools to improve the guest experience. Things like digital, contactless technology, and chat-based communications with guests have all been accelerated and should continue to progress and does help improve the guest experience. But today, more is needed, and the most successful hotels and results are creating their own experiences and seeing significant benefits. Each hotelier needs to understand their customer based on their interactions and develop programs that cater to these individuals and families.
One emerging technological trend that is being seen at the more casual hotels but can be expected to be embraced by high-end resorts and hotels is the use of robots. We have witnessed this firsthand where robots are delivering food or even flipping burgers as a means of increasing efficiency and addressing staff shortages. Realistically many of these robots will likely be used in back-end operations before increasing usage at the front of the house. There are still other innovations that should be considered on this front.
Creating New Revenue Streams Emerging
Through usage of these software technologies, it certainly provides revenue-generating opportunities in real-time as reported by the hotels and resorts that have partnered with such companies. In addition, individual hotels are rethinking their existing space and creating on-site customer experiences that generate revenue. Many have retrofitted large format conference space to offer paid- for amenities. Some examples include establishing an arcade for kids and families, a virtual driving range for golfing enthusiasts, and fitness classes. This is just the tip of the iceberg as there are a myriad of these experiences that can be customized for guests. Knowing your guests – and their preferences and needs -- will allow you to create the right type of revenue-generating experience.
Other examples include offering bike and scooter rentals, delivering beverage and food services directly to the golf course. The opportunities are endless and this is a key pivot many hotels and resorts have embraced in the last few months alone.
In summary, the tide has shifted and leisure travelers are returning in record numbers. Hotels and resorts need to be prepared to not only welcome them back but to provide them with a personalized and enduring experience. Investing in technology now after two years of dismal results may seem counterintuitive, but the financial benefits and improved guest experience will be significant.
Shawn Tarter, Founder/CEO, RealTime Reservation and Steve Turk, Founder Turk Hospitality Ventures