Earlier this month Click. attended the World Travel Market in London and got the lowdown on the latest trends in the industry. Here's what the experts had to say.
Guests don’t just want to ‘stay’ at a hotel: they want an experience
Guests don’t see a hotel as just somewhere to stay overnight and get breakfast these days. It has to be the centre of an experience that they can share with friends and family back home. “People want to feel part of a community and not as if they’ve been given something off the shelf,” commented Urs Eberhard, Executive Vice President Markets at Swiss Tourism. “They want something authentic and local, which becomes more important as our world gets more globalised.”These days a hotel has to be the centre of an experience
These days a hotel has to be the centre of an experience. Credit to: Lode Lagrainge, Unsplash
And experiences are good for hotels’ bottom-line because they are add-ons that can be sold. “Guests have a very high satisfaction level,” said Michael Marshall, Chief Commercial Officer at Minor Hotels. He added: “Because we offer unique experiences that allow people to enjoy themselves but they are also learning and contributing to and giving back to local communities - it’s a mutual benefit.”
Expectations don’t just start and end at the hotel any more
“The customer wants more and more and more…but for the same price,” according to Paul Wilson, Executive Vice President Commercial, at BHMA Hotels and Resorts. “We need to focus on simplicity. Everyone focuses on distribution: what brand shall we open? How can we be different? How can we be funky? But I think we should concentrate on what the client actually wants, which is good service and an experience. In the past the experience started at the hotel, now it starts on the booking site. How cool is it? How integrated is it? How excited does it get you? And the experience doesn’t end when you leave – how are they going to get you back when you’re thinking about your next holiday?”
Voice assistants and virtual reality are going to have a big impact in the personalisation of service.
Guests want greater personalisation too. “I think people are going to want to start doing their hotel bookings like airlines,” commented Ibrahim El Missiri, CEO of Somabay Resort in Egypt. “On a flight, you can control what seat you pick, what movie you watch and what meal you get, why not the same thing with your hotel stay? People will book which room they want, as well as what meals and amenities they like.”
Technology will continue to change the hospitality sector
There are numerous ways technology and Artificial Intelligence can help hoteliers agreed Juan Campins, Ecommerce and Direct Sales Corporate Director, at Bahia Principe Hotels, and it’s a trend that will grow. He said: “Voice assistants and Virtual Reality are going to have a big impact in the personalisation of service, and bots too, especially in the operational area such as check in, concierge and waiters.”
Not all customers want that technology to be so in-their-face, though. “Some people are delighted when they don’t have a mobile signal and when their phone doesn’t ring,” said Norbert Lieder of ICMI, which operates hotels in Scotland and the Caribbean. “People are increasingly looking to escape from their busy work life.”
Jon Brown of Virgin Limited Edition agreed. He said: “There is definitely an appetite for guests wanting to switch off. We’ve seen a whole host of hotels offering digital detox packages and focusing on the wellness benefits of disconnecting. A lot of our guests choose Kasbah Tamadot in Morocco, for example, because they like the fact we actively encourage them to switch off their mobile phones and to take a break from the screens in their rooms.”
Hotel consolidation still has a way to go
The trend of hotel chain consolidation seen in recent years can benefit medium and smaller hotel groups because peer-to-peer reviews on the internet mean customers don’t seek the protection of larger brands and their name recognition like they did 10 years ago.
“I don’t think hotel consolidation has peaked,” said Guy Hutchinson, COO at Rotana Hotels and Resorts. “You’re seeing increasingly some smaller to mid-sized companies aligning themselves or selling parts to connect with the mega brands…I’m not sure how sustainable it will be long-term. For companies like ours, it’s an opportunity, especially for those travellers who are seeking a slightly more personalised experience."
If you like this, you may also want to read 'Booking.com 2019 predictions unpicked'
- A hotel experience starts before a guest gets to the property these days, via website interaction when choosing and booking
- Technology becomes ever more important behind the scenes, but some guests will also want a more detached experience once they actually arrive at the property
- The current pattern of big-group hotel consolidation can be good for medium and smaller chains, because guests rely more and more on friends’ recommendations, so they don’t need to feel as protected by a well-known brand name as they once did