The evolution of technology has not only improved what hotels can offer guests, but also raised the bar of what guests expect in return. Personalization has been a buzzword for quite a few years now, but as more and more opportunities arise, some hotels are struggling with how to approach personalization without crossing a line.
Airbnb is often brought up during the personalization conversation – and for good reasons. This popular travel disrupter seems to have mastered the art of personalization. The entire research and booking process through the Airbnb app feels very personal and each interaction is special. The app showcases a user’s name often and uses less generic content versus more traditional travel apps. For example, there’s an entire section labeled “just for you” versus a more traditional label that might read “recommendations.” Additionally, the app makes one on one communication with hosts effortless and encourages pre-arrival messages and post-stay reviews. These small details not only solidify trust and safety but also inspire unique experiences. Often, hosts provide incredibly personal experiences for guests, like hand written notes, special gifts and souvenirs, or recommendations on their personal favorite things to do in town.
Airbnb, in particular, has done a fantastic job of pushing not only a personalized experience but also a localized experience. In the spring of 2016, Airbnb rolled out several new features, including a new matching algorithm for hosts and guests and a new Neighborhood product with guidebooks chock full of travel advice and local recommendations from residents. Airbnb has tapped into the true meaning of travel – experiences – and is dedicated to providing the best, most genuine experience possible.
The question arises – what can hotels do to compete? To begin with, personalize each guest interaction as much as possible. Collect and sort data to begin building guest profiles within your email database and PMS. Invest in systems that are sophisticated enough to segment guests and send personalized messaging. Also, keep in mind that personalization extends far beyond email and message interactions. Train your social media team and on-property staff to always address guests by name and to have any relevant information readily available to make each interaction memorable. Additionally, surprise and delight guests with unexpected touches, like recognition and even a small gift for special occasions and holidays, or handwritten thank you notes upon arrival or check-out. Investing the time and energy into each interaction will vastly improve the overall guest experience and strengthen the relationship between the guest and your brand.
From a localization perspective, hotels can immerse themselves within the local surroundings and prepare both the website and on-property staff to deliver fantastic local recommendations. Many hotel websites now include an “area information” portion with rich information on nearby restaurants, attractions, and entertainment. Some hotel brands are even taking this a step further by curating quirky content that speaks to the tone and charm of the local area. Marriott is doing this through Marriott TRAVELER, which features real life stories told through locals, and through the new Marriott Content Studio, which put the brand on the map for creative content marketing. Additionally, many hotel websites also allow guests to purchase tickets or make reservations through the website. On-property, hotels are coaching the front desk staff to not only make great recommendations, but also to go the extra mile and offer to make the plans for the guest. Rather than just recommending guests try out a great local café around the corner, staff members are picking up the phone and booking the table for the guests. This again taps into the new surprise and delight mentality that so many properties are adopting.
Many properties are taking localization to an entire new level by incorporating unique local elements into the hotel experience. Utilizing fresh, native ingredients and featuring local craft brews at the on-property restaurants is another trend that many hotels are experimenting with. Additionally, hotels that offer on-site dining hotspots are marketing the restaurants to guests outside of the hotel, giving the spaces more of a hip, urban feel versus that of a stuffy hotel bar. The local experience extends beyond just knowing what is located near the hotel. Incorporating relevant information on the hotel website and into the hotel experience is a trend that is not going anywhere anytime soon.
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