Personalized, Interactive Marketing is the Future

By Kristie Willmott Group Director of E-Business & Customer Development, Jumeirah | January 27, 2012

Let's start with a scenario: Ms. World Traveler receives an invitation - on her Blackberry, cell phone, maybe by email - that could have come from a close friend. The invitation encourages her to try a resort that seems to have read her mind - that knows exactly what she likes most, that has everything she's been looking for in a luxurious weekend escape.

Or, perhaps while browsing through her favorite luxury boutique she passes by a large screen that says "Hello!" A handsome man onscreen invites her to find out more about the hotel behind him by touching images around him. She explores the spa, the restaurants, the swimming pool, the sumptuous suite accommodations.

Convinced, she makes a reservation online. Upon arrival there is no check-in: she is greeted by name and presented with a card. The elevator knows which floor to take her, her door unlocks as she approaches and the room is everything she imagined it would be, including her personal favorites in the mini-bar and bath. The flat screen television welcomes her with suggestions for dining and some special offers to her liking at the boutique downstairs. Later, as she enters the dining room, she is greeted by name and a server makes suggestions of dishes and wines she can't resist. And so it goes, throughout the stay: Ms. World Traveler is close to believing that this fabulous resort was built just for her.

Historically, the finest hotels were those that treated guests like royalty; their every individual need and wish were anticipated and met. It is also true that, historically, many of those guests WERE royalty, or fabulously wealthy and well-known. Their particular tastes and expectations were communicated by retinues of servants or spread from GM to GM by word of mouth and reputation.

Today's world of travel is profoundly changed. Thanks largely to technology, we live in an "It's all about me" world for everyone - from kids with their first cell phone to group tour travelers to celebrities and heads of state. This "make it for me" world was developed by Gen X, who demand it; discovered by the Baby Boomers, who take to it; and is taken for granted by the Millenniums, our future customers. Simply put, consumers expect to get what they want when they want and how they want it. As Dr. Lalia Rach has written, "Knowing me - that's luxury."

So why then, do we as hoteliers too often serve up information, offers and incentives to broad market segments with so little consideration of the individual and his or her particular preferences, cultural nuances, age, even how he or she relates to the technology that provide the information? (As early as 2001, a study by Booz-Allen and Hamilton identified as many as seven different online behaviors, including what time of day a consumer goes on line, that play a pivotal role in the success of online advertisements and web site interactions, yet many of us continue to treat the web as another static media - one size fits all).

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Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.