Guest columnist Kristian Valk, the CEO and founder of Hotelchamp says the way a hotel presents its facilities online can help to drive direct bookings, and boost loyalty - and it doesn't have to be complicated
With a new generation of travellers seemingly looking for more unique experiences when they stay in hotels, many hoteliers are now prioritising a ‘boutique’-type feel to keep their guests happy.
Increasingly, hotels that are looking for a way to differentiate and boost the perception that they are a luxury destination create new brands for their restaurants and bars. For example, Four Seasons has revamped a number of its restaurants within its properties over the past few years, turning them over to experience restaurateurs and treating them as a separate business. This helps to create a more exclusive, unique feel to the hotel, as well as delivering a new revenue stream from customers who are not necessarily guests. No longer is the hotel chain as standardised experience that would be the same in London, New York and Sydney.
While not all hotels have the financial clout to achieve this, this doesn’t mean that they can’t find other ways to differentiate, and offer value to achieve the unique experience that many travellers crave.
The way hotels present their communal facilities to potential guests during the decision-making process should be a top priority
Hotel facilities are an important USP - in most cases, they will have more of a bearing on whether a customer makes a booking than the bedrooms. Therefore, the way hotels present their communal facilities to potential guests during the decision-making process should be a top priority. It’s not simply a case of having clean and well-maintained common areas - it’s also about matching the right facilities to the right guest.
Tips for tailoring
While hotels should be looking to personalise the customer experience as much as possible, communal facilities present an interesting challenge. The problem is how exactly they can present these areas, which are by definition to be used by multiple guests, in a way that is tailored to each individual customer’s needs.
While most customers will use third-party websites to make their bookings, many will also visit the website of the individual hotel to view the facilities on offer. This presents a golden opportunity to the hotelier. By ensuring the presentation of the facilities on the website is first class, using high-quality images and offering full details in multiple languages, hotels can really grab the attention of the potential guest.
This is not only a hotel’s best chance of showing off its communal facilities - a key USP, remember - but persuading a potential guest to make the booking direct, rather than through a third party.
It’s also the perfect opportunity for finding out more about the guest to deliver a more personalised experience. All sorts of information can be captured about a visitor to the hotel’s website - where in the world they come from, for example, as well as the kind of facilities he or she is interested in, which is revealed by the specific pages on the website that they have visited.
Hotels should be looking to use the information gathered while searching quickly, and in a highly personal way
Hotels should be looking to use the information gathered while searching quickly, and in a highly personal way. Not only can this increase the chances of a direct booking, but can help to build a profitable long-term relationship. Information about the visitor’s location could be used to offer them the chance to switch to a more appropriate language, for example. If the visitor takes time to look at the restaurant’s menu, offer them a discount on dining if they book their stay direct.
By showing the right information about the right facilities at the right time to the right visitors, hotels can boost the number of people who book direct, and is an opportunity to capture more data to further personalise the experience. A family making a booking, for example, could be interested in details of childcare facilities, while an individual making a single night booking during the week may be on a business trip, so might appreciate the offer of transfers to and from the airport. This kind of personalisation will not only reassure guests that they are making the right choice, but may keep them coming back in the future.
Guest columnist, Kristian Valk, the CEO and founder of Hotelchamp
June 2018, London