In many ways, 2016 won’t be very different from prior years, there’s just more to do. When reviewing the landscape it appears as though there are three themes that keep coming up.
- Focus on Creating Great Guest Experiences
- Increased Channels
- Being Unique
Focus On Great Guest Experiences
In late 2015, when we asked for submissions for our North American Independent Hotel Awards we saw a theme among the finalists that isn’t surprising in the hospitality industry: a diligent focus on guest experience. The winners of the 2015 NAIHA’s, both took time to put themselves into their guests shoes on a regular basis, and it made sure the guest experience was always top notch.
Find an honest and blunt family member or friend (one that fits your target guest profile) to walk through the complete hotel experience as a potential guest, from searching for your hotel, to booking online or via phone, to how they are greeted when they arrive to the post stay survey email you might send them and EVERYTHING in between. Get their opinion on every little thing. You don’t have to do everything they say, but listen with an open mind as they outline how each experience made them feel. Then you can make a list of the stuff you REALLY want to change and focus on that for 2016.
Even with the consolidation of Online Travel Agents (OTAs) like Priceline, Expedia, and Orbitz, there are more channels that hoteliers have to consider, including Social Channels like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter. These can take time, so make sure that your efforts are likely to pay off before delving into a large scale social marketing strategy.
Ask your guests what social channels they use, do research on the channels themselves to determine if the type of people that use Instagram match the kind of people you want as guests. If fewer than 40% of your current guests or target guests, use these social channels, then you have time to wait. If any channel comes up more than 40%, then you should consider making sure your property has a presence on these channels (aka: a Facebook page with offers for followers; an Instagram account with pictures of your property and links back to your reservation page on your website; twitter offers with special twitter only codes.).
It’s hard to differentiate yourself if you are in a saturated market, but that’s when it becomes more and more important. Guests are looking for their perfect stay and they have so many resources available to them from online guest reviews, to room and property descriptions. It’s important for you to be able to promote what makes you better or different from the cookie cutter chain hotels, but also nearby independents.
LIST EVERYTHING! Our clients that are most successful on OTAs are properties that list every amenity and unique offering. Include as many pictures of your rooms and your property as you can, especially those that highlight what make you unique. When guests book online, properties with more pictures see more online bookings, because people like being able to see what they are going to get.
I recently did a presentation at the PAII conference on the topic of how to partner with OTAs and the importance of being unique. You can view that presentation here: http://www.slideshare.net/innRoad/