Ali Powell, CEO and founder of Commercial Acceleration, highlights why it’s important for hoteliers to revise their strategies to build customer relevance.
Together with the staffing crisis that the industry is grappling with, one theme has dominated discussions over the last few months – what are hotels doing to service the post-Covid traveller?
Hotels and accommodation providers are faced with the challenge of appealing to and attracting customers whose demands and behaviours have shifted significantly over the last few years. Lockdown restrictions and global health concerns forced us to look at different ways of doing things – Zoom calls replaced business travel, working from home replaced the daily commute, and staying in became the new going out.
As a result, properties face the challenge of adapting their strategies to match these changing behaviours. Remaining relevant to guests is key, and those that don’t are at risk of losing market share. As Dimitris Manikis, president and managing director EMEA of Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, said recently: “You have to evolve with a business… consumers two-and-a-half years ago are different from today.”
Building relevance in this post–Covid world is about building connection with guests achieved by listening and adapting your product offering to meet their demands. Global hotel chains are leading the way in building relevance, many putting it at the forefront of their consumer strategy.
Examples include Hilton USA, who recently announced a partnership with Peloton, meaning guests (which are now used to home-based spin workouts), don’t have to sacrifice their workouts when travelling. Accor, recognising the rise of the remote worker, have launched WOJO, providing flexible offices and workspaces worldwide in Accor hotels. And Rosewood Hotels have launched Asaya ‘Wellcations’, an initiative committed to restorative getaways in response to the increasing focus on health and wellbeing post Covid.
Who is your customer?
Before we unpack travellers’ new behaviours, we need to take one step back and ask the most basic of questions – who is your guest?
With the decline of corporate travel, an increase in demand for staycations, some markets still closed to travel, and a volatile economic climate, your customer segments will likely have shifted, and in some cases disappeared, over the last 24 months. Understanding who you are attracting and where the opportunities are is essential before embarking on a brand relevance exercise.
Questions to ask include:
• Segments may have been lost – how are you replacing them?
• How are you catering for new and emerging segments?
• How have you adapted your sales and marketing strategy to attract these new segments?
• Where are your target markets researching and booking their travel? Are you present on these channels?
• How have you adapted your product offering and proposition to meet the demands of the new customer?
• When was the last time you ran focus groups to understand what your customers really want?
The new guest
Given the changes in how and when travellers book, and what they are looking for from their stay, proactive hoteliers need to embrace these trends to shape future strategies if they are to remain relevant. Some key trends that are influencing guest’s booking decisions include:
The cookie-cutter approach no longer works. Consumers are now used to the high degree of personalisation that companies such as Netflix and Amazon offer. Consumers expect their behaviours and preferences to be recognised and serviced at every stage of the guest journey. Using customer data to provide a personalised stay is now fundamental to the guest experience pre, during and post-stay.
• Increased digitisation
The trend towards digital and contactless services has gained new momentum since 2020. The desire for contact-free services combined with technological developments has accelerated the importance of offering a digitised stay. From contact-free check-in and in-room, voice-activated controls, to the ability to order room service from your phone, guests now look to streamline their stay from personal devices.
• An increased focus on wellbeing
Post-Covid, there is a newfound appetite for wellness and wellbeing holidays. Guests don’t want their business travel to interrupt their wellbeing routine. Leisure travellers are increasingly choosing travel that supports their health goals. Healthy meal options, having their dietary preferences catered to, fitness classes, and wellbeing initiatives such as meditation or mindfulness courses are all becoming more important for today’s guests.
• Making eco-friendly travel choices
As travellers become increasingly aware of the impact of travel on the environment, there is a growing demand for guests seeking sustainable travel options – and to pay more for them. Whether this is a larger scale project such as the inclusion of solar panels, or a pledge towards a reduction in single-use plastic, hoteliers should ensure that they’re providing information about their sustainability efforts on their websites and in their marketing materials. It’s now a key influencer in a guest’s decision-making process.
• Multi-channel strategies
While OTA’s have been a mainstay of many distribution strategies, properties are now required to be visible and active across multiple channels if they are to optimise their reach and conversion. The marketing and distribution network is becoming increasingly complex and hoteliers need to be where their guests are – whether that be Facebook and Twitter, or platforms such as TikTok and Instagram Stories. Marketing and distribution strategies need to reflect this.
With Covid driving demand for initiatives such as co-working spaces, remote workers look to hotels to provide opportunities to work remotely while still benefitting from community and networking opportunities. Day-use services and memberships provide additional ancillary revenue streams especially important given the decline in business travel.