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ENGAGE Your Guests Before They’re Guests

At BITAC® Tech & Ops this morning, we focused on how to better attract guests before they make their stay decisions.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014
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Getting guests engaged in their hotel stay even before they decide where to stay is now paramount. Our society had officially gone digital and hoteliers that are not extending the stay experience to the online world are missing out not just on bookings, but on opportunities to get premium pricing.

Of course there are the deal seekers out there only booking on price, but we feel the vast majority of travelers will pay more to ensure a proper, more personalized experience where they feel the hotel knows their needs.

This morning at BITAC® Tech & Ops, taking place this week at the Peabody Memphis, our amazing guest panelists shared how they’re seeing and adapting to the changing landscape to create better ways to get guests to make confident and more pricy hotel decisions.

BITAC® is of course the industry leading one-on-one meetings and relationship building event. This week marks the 48th BITAC® meeting, which is attracted lodging executive elite representing leading and forward thinking companies. And they’re all here to come together at BITAC® to problem solve, network, sign deals and exchange ideas to move forward the quality of experiences for hotel guests, while adding profits to the bottom line. There’s even time to cut loose, be social and network in a luxurious and relaxed environment.

“We are thinking across the entire experience and not just focused on location,” said Hilton’s VP of Brand and Guest Technology Josh Weiss. That means not just creating 360 degree immersive tours and ensuring all stay benefits are clearly defined, but also rethinking pre-arrival emails and understand how to turn past stays into future experiences.

J. Scott Duty, Corporate Director Sales Information Technology with the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, said it’s also important to fully understand the customer and how they are reading provided content. And that is changing as the company’s guests are getting younger and more comfortable with technology compared to their older brethren.

“Our younger customers feel entitled to experience. And they will feel offended if they receive a blanket email, so more tailored emails are important. Customizing is making guests feel special,” said Duty.

Knowing your guests’ desires will help drive premium add on sales too if done the right way, said Shannon Bedard, VP Business Development with Digital Alchemy. “Add value or an amenity that is tailored to their needs and wants. Also take advantage of trying to upsell experiences that fits their personality profile,” said Bedard.

Bob Kippola, Senior Director of Business Development, with Milestone Internet Marketing said website content is “becoming absolutely critical.”

“You have to spend more time writing content. But it has to be written in a relevant and concise way that means something to the guest,” said Kippola.

Weiss said now’s a good time to look at the website to ensure it has information that matters to the guests. Hotels that still highlight amenities such as AM/FM radio or ironing board are wasting valuable online real estate that could be better used for things that guests don’t already know. Or better yet; really care about.

Meanwhile, Deborah Pevenstein, VP Strategic Sales, with TravelClick suggested rethinking how your hotel website is put together. “Your website is your lobby. Good navigation is important,” she said, adding that hoteliers must also fully understand how websites will look and feel on mobile devices as people are starting their hotel stay research on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. Then they’ll book on a typical PC.

“It’s important that you have directions, or key points that guests need to know. Also let guests know of area events as part of your pre-stay marketing,” said Bedard.

Finally, we utilized our advanced real-time polling system at BITAC® Tech & Ops to get the opinion on some critical issues related to how guests are changing in regards to the booking process. Here’s what our audience of industry experts feel:

How big an effect will Google getting involved in travel have in changing how consumers book travel?
Extreme impact - 31.0%
Will have some impact, but not overwhelming -57.5%
Same as other channels - 9.2%
Not at all - 2.3%

Social media is having widespread effect. How is your organization influenced by online chatter when developing new products and/or services?
We depend on it - 13.7%
Somewhat influential - 58.9%
Not at all influential - 15.1%
We set our own trends - 11.0%
You can use social media for that? - 1.4%

Which social media site is the most important to you?
Twitter - 7.7%
Facebook - 23.1%
TripAdvisor - 61.5%
Pinterest - 0.0%
FourSquare - 0.0%
Yelp - 3.8%
Instagram - 1.3%
Google - 2.6%

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