It’s the little things that set great travel companies apart from ordinary ones. Small personal touches let a guest know they’re not just another number in your company’s annual statement. If you can’t make a guest’s trip memorable then you’ll simply be another travel company competing on price instead of enticing customers back with the uniqueness of your offering.
Red Carnation Hotels
One group that has enshrined personalisation in its ethos is Red Carnation Hotels. This collection of 17 luxury hotels in Africa, Europe and North America has created the Tiny Noticeable Touches (TNT) staff programme.
“From the guest-preference form prior to arrival, to thoughtful gestures provided throughout a stay, our mission is to make guests feel special,” says Jonathan Raggett, Managing Director at the company.
The TNTs performed by staff have ranged from providing cufflinks for a guest who realised he suddenly needed some for an event, to a casual chat about a guest’s favourite candy, then arranging for housekeeping to leave it on her pillow at turndown. Online ratings and reviews suggest its efforts are paying dividends.
From the guest-preference form prior to arrival, to thoughtful gestures provided throughout a stay, our mission is to make guests feel special - Jonathan Raggett, Red Carnation Hotels
Pack Up and Go
American travel agency Pack Up and Go launched in 2016, with an extreme – and risky – form of personalisation: customers not knowing where they’re going until the day of departure.
Guests fill out a survey, with budget, dates, hobbies, accommodation preferences and more, and Pack Up and Go creates a surprise three-day break for them. It sends customers maps and an itinerary that starts from their front door, with hotels and transportation bookings, sightseeing ideas and restaurant suggestions. On the day of the trip, they open the envelope and set off on an adventure into the unknown.
The concept has been so successful that its founder has won an award, and the company has grown at twice the rate it anticipated.
Alila Villas Uluwatu, Bali
The pre-stay questionnaire might be a classic method of ascertaining guest preferences, but few are as well thought out as the short one by Alila Villas Uluwatu. Among the standard queries for pillow types and transfer requirements are music and reading genres. Guests walk into rooms to find their ideal tunes playing and interesting books provided and a ‘Preferred Level of Service’ option. This ranges from ‘Private’ - staff will wait to be asked to perform anything from housekeeping to poolside cocktail orders - to ‘Indulgent’, which ensures a staff member is assigned exclusively to the guest.
A quick search on social media or internet forums will quickly show how effective this effort has been, with past guests posting rave reviews about the hotel’s attention to detail. You can’t buy that kind of word-of-mouth, but as Alila Villas Uluwatu shows, you can earn it.
A specialist in South American trips, Real Holidays knows that many of its guests are first-timers to their destination. To help them feel like locals they create personal maps for each one, with the guests’ hotels marked on it, plus a selection of nearby eateries to suit the guests’ tastes and dietary requirements.
“We wanted to make sure that our customers got the benefit of our in-depth local knowledge, and we know from customer feedback that people find things like a personalised map and restaurant recommendations help them hit the ground running. Since we started providing this tailormade information, repeat bookings and recommendations have more than doubled,” says Dan Clarke, Director at the company.
We wanted to make sure that our customers got the benefit of our in-depth local knowledge - Dan Clarke, Real Holidays
And finally, Iberia Airlines typically use personalisation to save recent flight searches or customer details. But over the 2016 Christmas holiday period, Iberia used it to create an emotional connection between friends and the airline.
Iberia offered its newsletter subscribers the chance to send a free Christmas e-card to a friend, but to do so, you had to answer three questions:
- Where would you like to visit (from a selection of Iberia routes)?
- Who would you like to go with?
- When would you like to go?
The friend then received a card, but on the right-hand side of the page was a small box saying, ‘Imagine a trip to…’ and the destination was the one selected by their friend. Below that, it simply said, ‘Did you know that…’ the friend’s name was inserted…’wants to go there?’
It worked to subtly suggest that one friend might buy the other an Iberia flight for Christmas – or at least that they might want to plan a trip together to an Iberia destination.
You might also want to read:
- American travel agency Pack Up and Go launched in 2016, with an extreme form of personalisation: customers not knowing where they’re going until the day of departure.
- Real Holidays create personal maps for each guest (knowing it's often their first time visiting the destination), with the guests’ hotels marked on it, plus a selection of nearby amenities
- Alila Villas Uluwatu uses the classic method of a pre-stay questionnaire to ascertain guest preferences