The future of technology, content and the hotel guest experience
Global media distribution and consumption in luxury hotels
To address one of the strategic priorities of the guest experience — access to quality content (e.g. newspapers and magazines) — PressReader partnered with Forbes Travel Guide to survey executives of hotels from around the world to gain insights into their plans for the future. Here are some of the highlights:
According to Ben Peacock, founder of the sustainability and innovation company Republic of Everyone, millennials prioritize purpose and sustainability over financial rewards, “if companies fail to prove that they are sincere about environmental and social sustainability, they risk alienating this group both as customers and employees.” So the move by hotels to be more sustainable is no surprise.
Perhaps it’s because too many bookings are being done through third-party Online Travel Agencies (OTA) these days — bookings that take revenue away from hoteliers and block access to those guests’ contact information. But that shouldn’t stop hotel executives from embracing the opportunities that do exist (see page 96 for more on this).
According to Deloitte’s 2017 Travel and Hospitality Industry Outlook report, the economic fundamentals for consumer spending are strong for this coming year, particularly in the service sector, which bodes well for hotels.
But, although the future looks bright for the travel industry, there are forces at play that continue to impact the landscape, including a frenzied pace of change in technology, consumer behavior and content consumption.
Changes in technology
Smart mobile technology hasn’t been around all that long, but it’s already become as common as a toothbrush in our everyday lives.
For the majority of the US population, a smartphone is no longer a convenient luxury item, it’s an integral part of their daily lives — something they can’t seem to keep their hands off.
So it’s no wonder that a quality mobile experience is imperative when guests communicate with hotels, and often a factor in their booking decisions. From mobile keys and room controls, to apps, location-based deals and content, mobile plays a critical role in the creation of a personalized guest experience.
Consumer-centric technology aggregators such as Airbnb, HOMEAWAY and other OTAs learned this lesson quickly, becoming early adopters of mobile. Which is one reason they continue to take market share away from incumbent brands, redefining what consumers expect from lodging providers.
Private accommodations now account for close to one fifth of the entire Hotel, Lodging and Private Accommodation (HLPA) market, with bookings growing at a faster rate than hotels.
But private accommodation services don’t stop there. Users of Airbnb can now book activities at the destination through Airbnb’s Trips feature. Not only does this open up new revenue opportunities for the 3rd largest private accommodation company, it provides visibility into the guests’ travel journey, preferences and behaviors — data that is the holy grail of delivering a personalized customer experience. So it’s no wonder that in a recent survey by Hospitality Technology, 52% of hotel operators said that improving their digital customer engagement is a strategic priority for them in 2017.
Changes in consumer behavior
For over a century, no change in society has been as impactful as the rise of the Millennial generation. More diverse than any demographic that preceded them, GenYs exceeded the population of baby boomers in 2015 and are poised to reshape the economy as they enter their prime spending years.
These digital natives have been called many things (narcissistic, cheap, cynical and lazy) and have frustrated businesses as they try to understand how the “Me Generation” ticks. It is a serious challenge, because no two Millennials are created equal — a fact that exasperates businesses that still rely on demographic segmentation to attract Millennials’ trillions of dollars’ worth of spending power.
But these tech-savvy consumers do have a number of characteristics in common. Wellness and on-demand access are very important to them and they prefer paying for experiences over buying things. Their unique predispositions fueled the growth in the Sharing and Experience Economies — economic trends that have had a direct impact on the hotel industry.
So it’s no surprise that America’s first digital generation makes up 66% of Airbnb app users and are playing a key role in transforming, driving growth in, and redefining customer service in the US$1.3 trillion travel industry.
Changes in content consumption
In 1927 the Hotel Statler in Boston became one of the first to offer complimentary newspapers to its guests. Since then, most other verticals in the luxury travel industry from hotels, to airlines and cruise ships followed suit because they wanted to:
• Differentiate and enhance their brand
• Enrich the guest experience
• Encourage travelers to stay onsite rather than go out to look for a newspaper
• Allow visitors to keep in touch with what is happening “back home”
• Keep business clients connected with important business news
But when the internet took off two decades ago and more and more people started getting news online, the single source of printed news outside rooms became irrelevant to many guests.
Marriott Chairman and CEO J.W. Marriott, Jr. who in 2009 gave guests the choice of receiving a newspaper or not said, “I visit more than 250 hotels a year, and more often than not, I’m stepping over unclaimed newspapers as I walk down the hallway.”
Today, many hotel chains who are looking to upgrade to a more relevant news service for their guests are first asking themselves, “Is mainstream media still an integral part of the guest experience?” Well, if Forbes Travel Guide’s 5-star hotel criteria that includes, “the choice of at least two complimentary newspapers is offered and” (including digital), is any indication, then the answer appears to be, “yes!”
We’ve all heard about the doom and gloom in today’s media business with plummeting advertising revenues and declines in print circulation, but the truth is:
• People across all demographics value high quality content and those who use news apps (which are on the rise) spend even more time consuming news
• They’re just not willing to pay for it
• 89% of the U.S. adult mobile population access news via their mobile device, preferring to spend that time on “hard” news about current events and global news, as opposed to weather reports and other forms of “soft” news.
• Long-form journalism (typically found in newspapers and magazines) receives more views and shares, and engages readers more, than other article forms.
• And despite what one hears about the growing mistrust in mass media, trust in newspapers is actually strong across all age groups.
Meanwhile, loyalty in magazines remains high because of the quality of the editorial and even the advertising — often attributed to the “Vogue Effect.”
Better to give and receive
If ever there was a time for the luxury travel industry to capitalize on the changes in technology, consumer behaviors and content consumption for a more profitable future, it is now. Every day, new opportunities are opening up to grow loyalty with connected consumers by offering a superior customer experience along every touchpoint in the guest journey.
Having a guest stay in your establishment is the warmest lead you’ll ever get and there are many ways to connect and sustain a long-term relationship with them long after their reservation ended.
Thousands of hotels are already doing this by offering premium content that:
• Drives positive brand experiences across numerous customer touchpoints, pre-, during and post-stays
• Integrates quality content into their marketing pipelines, including loyalty programs, social media, email, advertising, and crosspromotional partnerships with publishers
• Delivers higher levels of personalization based on who customers are, where they live, where they travel and their media interests
Studies have shown that when people receive a free gift, they respond in a number of different, often unconscious ways. Most feel a real sense of indebtedness towards the giver — a reaction coined as the reciprocity principle.
Hotels that have been giving complimentary newspapers and magazines to guests for decades understand the power of reciprocity. But those gifts were limited to customers already staying with them. Imagine giving a guest a digital copy of Vogue Paris after she stays at your hotel, with a message like “we noticed you love this magazine, so here’s next month’s issue, on us.” This is a powerful way to engage guests post-stay and deepen their relationship with your brand in a way that:
• Enhances awareness for your brand
• Generates good will, turning past guests into brand champions
• Strengthens your affinity with premium publishing brands
• Enables you to follow, connect and engage with guests through your own branded content channel long after they’ve checked out
PressReader offers your guests unlimited access to more than 6,000 of the world’s best newspapers and magazines. Want to know more? Let’s talk.
Mobile subscriptions outnumber the world’s population
One of the most surprising results of the survey was the low priority given to post-stay engagement.