What does it take to keep rooms fully booked with happy guests?
There are a lot of different ways to answer this question, but the answer is mostly to offer a terrific guest experience from start to finish. Read on for some of the ideas we picked up at the recent HITEC hotel event, as we focus this month on helping tourism partners succeed.
The annual HITEC hospitality technology conference is geared to hotel tech and financial executives, but it includes presentations that apply to our training work in social media for tourism and hospitality, so we were happy to get a press pass this year.
Here are a few of the quotes and takeaways that caught our ear….
Your Website Must Help Build the Trust Needed
For People to Book
Many of you may know the story of Marcus Sheridan / @TheSalesLion, a Virginia swimming pool installer who took up blogging to help his business. He researched the questions that his customers had about pools (fiberglass vs. concrete?) and answered them in blog posts on his website.
Nowadays what he did goes by the fancy name of “content marketing.”
Here are some quotes from his energetic HITEC session:
** “Content marketing [what people find on your website/blog] is all about what happens and what decisions are made BEFORE a guest contacts anyone at your hotel or decides to book online. We grossly underestimate how much people self-educate.”
(This ties back to what our friend Tom Martin at Converse Digital calls today’s “self-educating buyers” who are Googling around doing research. You either have good online information for them to find, or you don’t. Guess who wins….)
** “Everyone in this room is in the trust business. You need to address any fears or concerns up front, and own the conversation. You are not going to force today’s customer through your sales process. Ask yourself, ‘What are the 5 greatest desires of our website homepage visitor?’ then make sure your site helps with each one.”
** “Lots of travelers are really worried about bedbugs, right? I never see a hotel address this upfront on their website. They could talk about their stringent sanitation and inspection process, so guests don’t have to wonder, and spend time pulling back sheets as soon as they get into the room.”
** “Marketing IS sales for hotels. It’s that important. You’re going to be left behind if you ignore it. Become the Wikipedia of your space. The smaller hotels often do this the best because they have less red tape.”
(That’s why the Roger Smith Hotel in New York City is one of our favorite examples of social media for hospitality; they started blogging and being active on social media years ago, and now they’ve made a real name for themselves in a cutthroat market.)
Questions From the Trend Hunter
Jeremy Gutsche from Trend Hunter covered a lot of innovation territory very quickly in his keynote (you can grab downloads including one on niche hotel trends on this Trend Hunter HITEC extras page) but here are some questions that he suggests everyone ask themselves to avoid getting complacent about their hotel or business….and therefore more likely to be run over by competitors.
- What are we really trying to achieve?
- What has changed since we opened/launched?
- What do Millennials think of us?
- How can we be irresistible to a specific group?
- What do our guests/visitors/customers really care about?
- What do people hate about our industry, and how can we fix it?
Again, being small and agile is an advantage. Think of the “smart, big” companies that failed because they could not see past what was comfortable to them: BlackBerry, Kodak, Blockbuster, Encyclopedia Britannica, etc.
Issues For Independent Hotels
From a panel session on how independent hotels can succeed:
** “Hotel reviews are now the key factor in buying preference. 95% of guests read them before booking. This means that confidence in the purchasing decision is no longer dependent on brand consistency [meaning that you know what you’ll probably get when you stay at X chain hotel.]”
(This is one of many reasons for the success of AirBnB, HomeAway, etc. A hotel is no longer automatically the “safe, better” choice over a rental, because rental reviews take away the mystery of what you’ll get, increasing booking confidence.)
** “Guests today expect hotels to match or exceed the technology available in their home…..Technology needs to support all stages of the guest experience – booking, pre-arrival, during, and post-stay.”
** “Don’t wait until the guest has left the hotel to communicate with them about the quality of their stay.”
Baby Boomer vs Millennial Guests
There are generational differences, to be sure, but people don’t necessarily fit into age boxes very neatly. EVERYONE is carrying mobile devices and demanding web access….and don’t forget the considerable numbers of Generation X travelers.
** “Carpet bombing advertising needs to go out the window.”
** “Boomers are willing to pay extra for certain services. Millennials expect them at no cost, and expect those services to be tailored for them. Both are brand-loyal, but not Millennials in the case of hotels.”
** “During trips, both generations have high digital expectations, but Boomers tend to email things like photos – they have privacy issues with Facebook.”
** “All generations seek content that is outside of a brand’s control – make sure you integrate independent reviews and social media into your booking and marketing process.”
Do you have any thoughts or ideas about hotel marketing and helping lodging tourism partners succeed? Leave a comment down below and let us hear about them!
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What’s Hot on Our Social Channels?
** Most popular recent post on our LinkedIn Company Page — The post when we shared one of the photos you see above, of a slide from the HITEC panel on independent hotels.
** Most popular recent post on our Facebook Page — The post announcing that we were co-hosting #tourismchat on Twitter with DMAI (Destination Marketing Association International) Here’s the chat transcript of “Blazing a New Media Trail” if you missed it.
** Most popular tweet in June from @TourismCurrents — “Foodie locals esp on Instagram. ‘Invest in people already doing great things in culinary‘ @GathanDBorden at #ttia15″ [Travel & Tourism College] Tweet included this photo of Gathan’s screenshot slide of local foodies on Instagram in Louisville, Kentucky: