How Mobile Technology is Changing Hotel-Guest Communication and the Guest Experience

By Carlo Cisco Chief Executive Officer, Select Innovations, Inc. | January 27, 2019

The travel industry is not averse to change. The first major technology-driven wave in the age of the internet came about with the popularization of Online Travel Agencies (OTAs). Companies such as Priceline, Booking.com, and Expedia, whose ability to allow users to search, research, filter, and seamlessly book numerous options, quickly increased in popularity, becoming the dominant method for booking travel today.

Convenience, a strong user experience, and many options made these travel portals extremely useful, driving loyalty and changing consumer behavior for good. Based on recent booking data analysis from Hitwise initially published in Skift, OTAs now represent 69.44% of total vs. 30.56% booked directly with hotels. That share will only continue to increase. 

This has helped to create close to universal pricing-parity across the industry as OTAs are able to require the same prices or better than what the customers would receive booking directly with the property or brand. Despite new incentives to try to increase direct bookings, customers still prefer to use OTAs more than ever. 

Now those same customers are looking for technology to improve their experience beyond research and booking. They're also looking for it to extend past the internet as we used to know it, and right to their smartphones.

This incredibly picky, savvy, and connected generation of customers expects technology to help enhance the on-site and in-hotel experience in order to make services that may have previously been inconvenient, on-demand. This is particularly the case at certain hours, like when there is less staff late at night, or while they are away from the property. 

According to recent surveys conducted by Oracle Hospitality and Phocuswright and with findings published in Hotel Technology News, approximately 64% of US hotel guests think it is "very or extremely" important for hotels to invest in technology that enhances the guest experience. Additionally, the same report showed that 94% of business travelers and 80% of leisure travelers want to use their smartphones to request service and message staff. All of this highlights the importance and value to customers for real-time communication. 

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Coming up in June 2019...

Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.