How Micro-Experiences Can Maximize Guest Experiences in Hotels

By Margaret Rogers Vice President, Pariveda Solutions | June 23, 2019

A hotel's ability to meet travelers where they are - rather than where they want them to be - is the kind of trait that earns enduring loyalty and repeat guests. And today, meeting customers where they are is dependent on hotels' ability to adopt emerging technology solutions and to enhance their planned experiences.

The Micro-Experience: A Partner to the Traveler's Experience  

Traditionally, showing off your guest experience meant promoting your physical amenities. Hotels often look to sell guests with their on-location spas, foldout couches for large families, complimentary valet services, and so on. This kind of marketing is doubly flawed for today's travelers, though.

First, guests don't use amenities in the way hotels think they do. Research from the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration  found that guests tend to either overestimate or underestimate how much they actually use hotel amenities, which makes it difficult to gauge what's actually important to their hotel stays. That often leaves hotels in the position of having to do wide-net marketing that promotes only generic benefits that travelers might or might not care about. Besides this, it doesn't even touch on what guests have already signaled is most important to them: the destination.

Another report from Google found that 85%  of leisure travelers don't even plan activities before arriving at their destinations and that nearly 9 in 10 travelers expect their travel providers to share relevant information while they're on their trips. From an initial content perspective, this is a prime area for hotels to step up: What if, instead of turning to a booking service for recommendations on things to do, guests could turn to their hotel? And what if the hotel actively made it easier for guests to have those experiences?

This is perhaps the most effective way to improve guest experience in a hotel: creating "micro-experiences" that add to popular tourist activities in the surrounding area. Just as effective online retailers make the buying process seamless, hotels can build positive trip experiences by making them better or more convenient for the traveler. A hotel near a popular fishing spot in Alaska, for instance, could partner with a local packaging plant to help guests seal up their catches for the trip home. A hotel near Disneyland could offer a service that packs an array of snacks for families to take to the park. And a hotel near a nature reserve could provide hiking maps and trekking gear with every room as a convenience add-on or package.

These relevant perks don't just enhance a guest's overall travel experience - they also make the hotel a key part of the trip instead of simply a place to sleep, transcending a transactional relationship. However, these micro-experiences are only as good as their accessibility. That means hotels should turn to technology for help.

How Digital Natives Have Changed the Travel Game

It's no secret that tech-native travelers have flipped the hotel industry upside down in recent years. Even putting aside the rise of digital-first rental platforms such as Airbnb, an increasing number of hotel guests use technology to organize and map out their travel itineraries.

study from TripAdvisor  found that 42% of people worldwide book their trips through smartphones, for example. This isn't a trend that will slow down or reverse: Technology will only become an increasingly integral part of travel as digital natives claim their stakes in the travel market.

The Millennial generation, which has already gained more spending power than all other generations, is especially keen on using technology to meticulously research and book trips, according to Expedia. It's also no surprise that this generation is likelier to spend money on experiences  rather than, say, physical goods. To them, happiness is about seizing the rich opportunities that life provides.

When it comes to adopting technology, hotels should still aim to create micro-experiences within this realm. Rather than simply jumping at the first new hotel technology trend that you can find, though, consider the technologies that would enhance guests' overall experiences at their destinations.

How Technology Creates a Holistic Guest Experience

Above all, look for ways to put the guest in control of his or her own travel plans. You can start by developing online applications or even installing self-service kiosks that make booking, check-in, and destination research seamless processes. By allowing the guest to take the first step in his or her relationship with the hotel, you're already developing the trust needed to create more effective micro-experiences later on.

Virtual reality and augmented reality are yet another area worth exploring for hotel marketers. Before guests even select a hotel, you can set yourself apart from the competition by offering a comprehensive 360-degree tour of your rooms. This allows potential visitors to get a taste of the kind of guest experience you offer and to gauge whether the room will meet their individual needs.

After they have booked with you and have arrived at your hotel, you can use virtual reality to create another micro-experience. Many travelers enjoy visiting local museums or exploring historic districts in their destination cities. These plans can easily be dashed, however - perhaps someone gets a sudden illness, the weather turns out to be bad, or a group staying together runs into scheduling conflicts. To make sure a guest's experience isn't ruined, hotels could offer complimentary VR goggles to take a virtual tour of a certain district, historical museum, or another tourist location (many of the world's most famous museums already offer  this perk).

Obviously, VR is a very visible, guest-facing technology - but there are improvements to make on the back end as well. Artificial intelligence, in its many forms, provides numerous ways to improve guest experience in a hotel. TripAdvisor already uses AI-powered algorithms  to offer better recommendations to travelers on where to book and which activities they'd enjoy best at their travel locations.

There's no reason that hotels shouldn't look into adopting similar AI applications that are tailored to the surrounding community. By gathering simple booking information - think the number of guests or the length of a stay - you could have AI produce a custom-built sample itinerary for a guest's trip, complete with helpful tips from locals.

Travelers respond eagerly to this kind of hyper-personalization, and they're more than willing to share information with hotels that will use the information to enhance guest experiences. Once you show guests that their hotel can function as their digital travel guide, you've taken a strong first step toward a sustainable, loyal relationship.

That dynamic will manifest through social media. Expedia's research  on Millennials as travelers also found that posting about vacations on social media has become a massive part of the modern travel experience. The more a hotel can improve the guest experience, the more likely it is to become part of that guest's social media activity - whether through posts, reviews, or stories.

That probably won't be a one-time boost, either. Social media is where travelers are engaging with brands, and engagement is the single biggest indicator of long-term customer spending. In fact, research from Gallup indicates that engaged hotel guests spend 46% more per year than their disengaged counterparts.

All of these technology trends in the hotel industry point back the value of experiences when traveling. Whether your hotel can become a valuable part of the guest's overall travel experience will make all the difference.

Creating Highly Meaningful Micro-Experiences

When adopting technology to create the best micro-experiences for your hotel, approach solutions on a case-by-case basis. After all, what guests value in a micro-experience from the hotel near a fishing river in Alaska probably won't be what guests value from the hotel near Disneyland. There are, however, some principles that will help hospitality leaders discover the best ways to add value to every traveler's experience. Here are four guiding principles that should help you figure out how to enhance guest experiences in your hotel:

1. Make sure to stay relevant

This should go without saying, but to create effective micro-experiences for your hotel guests, you have to offer things that complement the community around you.

Identify the local sights most popular with tourists and try chatting with guests to hear what sorts of things they're interested in exploring around town. Their answers might not be what you expected, and this will help you identify the micro-experiences that will provide the highest value.

To go even more in-depth, you can monitor user-generated content  on social media. Keep tabs on social media hashtags or geo-locations around your area to check out what travelers are spurred to post about (Instagram is particularly useful for this).

2. Guide your guests

Once you've identified the activities that travelers are interested in experiencing, find out how you can help them connect the dots.

Do your research so you can share the information that will surprise and delight your guests. This hotel-generated content can be used as a hook to get them interested in the micro-experiences you end up offering. You'll also be positioned as a credible insider that cares deeply about their individual preferences.

3. Be open to experimentation

Developing micro-experiences alone isn't a one-and-done marketing strategy, though. To continue offering value, you should always be testing new offerings and gathering as much data as possible about the guest's experience.

Even if you think things are going well, always gather more data to see whether they can be even better. Ask yourself questions: "If customers are already enjoying this, what would make them enjoy it so much more that they post about it on social media?"

4. Ensure that you're useful

The No. 1 thing that guests care about in a hotel will always be top-notch service. Make sure the micro-experiences you provide are service-oriented first, and always seek ways to make them effortless for the guest and valuable for everyone.

Micro-experiences, regardless of whether they're fueled by technology, have the potential to change the hotel-guest dynamic completely. By focusing on how your hotel can maximize its value as one small part of an overall trip experience, you'll engage more customers and generate more sustainable, compelling marketing strategies in the future.

Ms. Rogers Margaret Rogers is a vice president at Pariveda Solutions, a consulting firm driven to create innovative, growth-oriented, and people-first solutions. With more than 20 years of experience, Ms. Rogers enjoys empowering organizations with impactful and sustainable transformation to realize their full potential. Prior to joining Pariveda Solutions, Ms. Rogers worked as a senior director of engagement and digital strategy for multimillion-dollar clients within the D.C. area. Her projects had a wide range of technologies, which included content management solutions, content strategy, analytics strategy, digital asset management, intranet, and e-commerce. She also began seeding the digital strategy practice that included creating execution roadmaps for infrastructures, products, and digital marketing. Ms. Rogers can be contacted at 844-325-2729 or washingtondc@parivedasolutions.com Please visit https://www.parivedasolutions.com/perspectives for more information. Extended Biography

HotelExecutive retains the copyright to the articles published in the Hotel Business Review. Articles cannot be republished without prior written consent by HotelExecutive.

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In the event that you have chosen to have your membership automatically rebilled, unless and until you notify HotelExecutive that you wish to cancel or terminate your membership to HotelExecutive, you hereby agree and authorize HotelExecutive's Internet Payment Service Provider to automatically renew your membership to HotelExecutive on a continuing basis and to charge your credit card (or other payment means you have selected) to pay for the ongoing cost of your membership. You hereby further authorize HotelExecutive's Internet Payment Service Provider to charge your credit card (or other approved payment means you have selected) for any and all purchases of products, services and entertainment provided to in, at, through or in association with HotelExecutive.

13. PRIVACY POLICY

The following is the Privacy Policy for HotelExecutive

We can be reached via telephone, email, or online at our contact page. When you visit our site we do not log any information regarding your domain or email address. Information Sharing: We do not share user information with any third parties other than via press release distribution as described below.

Hotel Newswire is a newswire service that distributes press releases on behalf of our users. If you decide to submit a press release for distribution through our system we will transmit your entire press release including any personal information therein contained to our media contacts and online distribution points including search engines. This is the only redistribution of your information that we engage in. Your submission of press releases through our system indicates consent with this policy. The information we collect during your registration process is used to notify users about updates to our service and inform users of any special events hosted by Hotel Newswire. This information is not shared with other organizations for commercial or non-commercial purposes.

Cookies: Our system requires the use of cookies to enable the user to log back into our website to access information from the newswire, without having to log in each time using the required username and password.

If you do not want to receive email from us in the future, please let us know by following instructions included in our communication with you. Users who supply us with telephone numbers online may receive telephone contact from us regarding their account, or informing them of new products and services available on the HotelExecutive website. If you do not wish to receive such telephone calls, please edit your account and remove your phone number from your account profile. This can be done from your user account menu.

Ad Servers: We do not partner with or have any relationship with any ad server companies. From time to time, we may use customer information for new uses not previously disclosed in our privacy notice. If our information practices change at any time, we will post the policy changes to our website to notify you of these changes and provide you with the ability to opt out of these new uses. If you are concerned about how your information is used, you should check back at our website periodically.

Upon request we provide site visitors with access to all information (including proprietary information) that we maintain about them. Users can access this information by logging in to their account.

Security: We always use industry-standard encryption technologies while transferring and receiving user data exchanged with our site. We have appropriate security measures in place in our physical facilities to protect against the loss, misuse, or alteration of information that we have collected from you on our site. We do not store credit card information in our systems.

If you feel that this site is not following its stated information policy, you may contact us.

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Coming up in August 2019...

Food & Beverage: Millennial Chefs Lead the Way

Led by Millennial chefs, hotels continue to foster sustainability, sourcing and wellness within their dining rooms and banquet spaces, and by all measures, this is responsible for an increase in their revenues. In many hotels, the food & beverage division contributes 50 per cent or more to hotel sales and they are currently experiencing double-digit growth. As a result, hotel owners are allocating an increasing amount of square footage for F&B operations. The biggest area of investment is in catering, which is thriving due to weddings, social events and business conferences. Hotels are also investing in on-site market or convenience stores that offer fresh/refrigerated foods, and buffet concepts also continue to expand. Other popular food trends include a rise of fermented offerings such as kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut, tempeh, kefir and pickles - all to produce the least processed food possible, and to boost probiotics to improve the immune system. Tea is also enjoying something of a renaissance. More people are thinking of tea with the same reverence as coffee due to its many varieties, applications and benefits. Craft tea blending, nitro tea on tap and even tea cocktails are beginning to appear on some hotel menus. Another trend concerns creating a unique, individualized and memorable experience for guests. This could be a small consumable item that is specific to a property or event, such as house-made snack mixes, gourmet popcorn, macaroons, or jars of house-made jams, chutneys, and mustards -all produced and customized in house. One staple that is in decline is the in-room minibar which seems to have fallen out of favor. The August issue of the Hotel Business Review will document the trends and challenges in the food and beverage sector, and report on what some leading hotels are doing to enhance this area of their business.