It’s somewhat of a chicken or the egg scenario when it comes to talking about traveller behaviour and hotel technology. Which one has had a bigger influence on the other?
Without hope of a definitive answer it’s much easier to say they have affected each other significantly, but at different times and in different ways.
Over time there has been a shift from technology leading consumers to consumers leading technology.
Here’s the big picture view as we see it…
Technology gave rise to new imaginations and expectations within travellers
Certainly, it was technology that kicked off the conversation between the two. The advancements of faster speed internet, mobile technology, apps, and numerous intuitive online technologies like virtual assistants has given consumers an unbridled sense of freedom and convenience. Once upon a time your guests would book over the phone, by walking into a hotel, or through a travel agent. Now online travel agents (OTAs), hotel websites, and social media dominate.
Technology has allowed hotel guests to instantly access any information they’re looking for on the Internet via a PC, laptop, tablet, or smartphone – with mobile bookings in particular experiencing constant growth. It’s also given them the expectation that their behaviour, history, and preferences will not only be remembered but used for an even greater level of assistance and personalisation.
For example, guests can book their own flights and hotels online, choose to stay in a stranger’s house, and search online restaurant reviews on their mobile – all while connected to your hotel wifi.
All of this can be performed autonomously and in their own time. It spells danger for traditional agents and guides but it’s ideal for consumers.
What are travellers expecting right now?
In general terms travellers now take for granted the service they receive will be authentic, personal, and instant; and they only want this to keep improving. Anything that falls beneath these standards is likely to garner a negative review or poor public feedback.
If a guest took out their phone and searched for a nearby hotel, they’d expect the offered information to be tailored based on their location, time of day, and even past interests and bookings. This would remain so throughout the booking journey and their stay, whereby they’d require the hotel to maintain a constant level of communication and keep a record of travel preferences.
A survey by Amadeus reported 92% of respondents supported the idea that “…hotel guests will expect their stay to be personalised around a set of choices they make at the time of booking or prior to arrival”.
This means the guest of the future will be able to pick and choose all aspects of their experience including technology, hotel services, the room, the journey, pricing and communications.
Other data sources show 57% of US travellers think brands should tailor their information based on personal preferences or past behaviours. If they did, 36% would be likely to pay more for their services, including hotel rooms.
How can hoteliers respond to changing traveller behaviour?
Hotels must be led by guest behaviour and not necessarily technology progression.
Success will come by only adopting the right hotel technology that helps guests make smoother bookings and optimise the convenience and quality of their stay.
Smart hoteliers will do the following:
- Move to faster-speed internet and provide increased bandwidth for guests
- Use technologies like mobile apps to create better ways to promote loyalty
- Implement technology like voice recognition or gesture-activated interfaces to speed up guest activities
- Adopt new guest-facing technology early to gain a point of difference over competitors
- Embrace automated marketing opportunities, and experiment with new features like including machine learning to unlock new customer insights
- Use hotel technology like channel management and online booking engines to streamline backend processes, allowing more time to be dedicated to guests
- Consider virtual technology to improve in-room guest service
Very soon the majority of new hotel technology will arise from guests’ desire, rather than pure innovation – so it’s extremely important hotels listen to what travellers want from a trip and a hotel stay as it’s happening now.
All signs point to the ever-growing need for individually customised guest experience.