Understand the Hotel Guest Journey to Enhance Experience
Everything in hoteliering is dynamic. The practices of yesterday are no longer relevant today.
Back in the past, accommodation businesses wouldn’t bother to dig deeper and gain insights into their potential guests’ preferences. But not anymore.
Over the last decade, hotels are inclining toward data-driven and psychological approaches.
One such aspect of hoteliering is “understanding the guest journey”. And in this piece of article, I am getting down to the brass tacks and help you have clarity around this subject.
What Is Guest Journey?
A guest journey can be defined as a collection of events that starts and goes beyond the physical walls of the hotel.
Typically, these events are considered only when there’s an interaction between the guest and the hotel. However, that is not true anymore. A guest’s journey starts way before someone tries to reach out to the hotel.
Understanding the Different Stages of Hotel Guest Journey
Understanding guests is vital for your hotel. It will help you provide them with a great experience at your property, and in turn maintain or even increase guest retention, thereby boosting your bottom line revenue.
While there are various ways to learn about your guests’ likes and dislikes, I would suggest you start by understanding the various stages.
Here are the prominent hotel guest journey touchpoints:
Emily, a 23 old microbiologist is thinking of taking her first solo trip. And this particular moment is stage one of a guest’s journey.
In this phase, she is reading various vacation articles on the internet, binge-watching solo travel videos, scrolling through her Instagram feed, and whatnot.
Even though you know or at least have an idea of what your Emily is up to, you can’t really get into her mind and manipulate her thoughts.
Then, what’s the point of knowing about this stage, you ask?
Here’s the interesting part.
Instead of trying to become a mentalist, you could try to become a part of Emily’s dream or thought.
What if she could read all the travel articles you have published? What if she could watch solo travel videos on your YouTube channel?
You see where I am going with this, right?
By creating content, keeping the bigger picture in mind, and taking less about yourself, you can become a part of millions of people’s travel dreams. And this is exactly what you’d be doing to make your good hotel great.
After mulling over it for quite some time and gathering all her courage, Emily has decided to take her first-ever solo trip to Seychelles.
You go, girl!
Now at this point, she is researching all the locations of Seychelles. From checking out articles to watching videos, she is spending time learning about the place, its culture, etc. She is also comparing options for transportation, accommodation, activities, etc.
Evidently, this is the stage when she is most likely to turn to search engines, OTAs, metasearch platforms, destination marketing organizations (DMOs), and social media.
Emily is open to ideas and you as a hotelier must grab this opportunity to present your accommodation to her.
And how could you do that? By having a significant presence online; be it a dedicated website, Google My Business profile, OTA listings, social media, etc.
You can also reach travelers like Emily through targeted ads on Google, Facebook, and Instagram. But again, you must know the target stage and deliver content relevant to that stage.
Wait! Budgeting comes third?
Yes, and here’s why.
When you’ll set a budget before anything else, you’ll soon realize that everything goes beyond what you thought and your budget is just useless.
You get the budget right only after your initial research because now you have the knowledge of every single element that’s going to be involved in your trip.
Now, let’s talk about Emily’s trip. She seems excited and I don’t want to ruin her mood.
Emily, upon completing her research on Seychelles, is down to creating a budget. She has gathered all the average prices of everything that could be added to the trip. And voila, her budget seems to be spot on.
But wait, there’s a little problem. Despite a great budget, she might miss out on a lot of activities it seems.
These kinds of scenarios are undoubtedly perfect opportunities for hotels.
Want to know how?
Create holiday packages that include everything that most travelers ask for or seek. Not to mention, ensure that the price of the package is not high. Keep it within the basic budget of a traveler.
#ProTip: Travelers usually compare packages based on budget. They try to determine not just the price difference but also what’s included. So, you want to be really mindful about it and ensure that your packages are worth every penny.
Sounds good? Great!
Emily has booked her two-way flight and is now looking at hotel options. With so many options, she is certainly overwhelmed. From OTAs to metasearch, she’s checking every single platform.
Not to mention, Emily is also checking out the website of hotels and calling them directly to see if a direct booking is beneficial.
This is where your hotel can become her choice if you play your card right.
Here are a few tips that would help you up your game:
- List your hotels on as many relevant OTAs as possible
- Optimize your listing to rank better on OTAs
- Maintain rate parity across all the platforms
- Build and maintain an intriguing hotel website
- Offer exciting incentives on direct bookings
- Perform compset analysis to learn about your competitors
- Keep updating your OTA and website content to eliminate errors
- Have flexible cancellation policies
- Provide phone numbers for guests to book on call
- Make the reservation process supremely easy
- Maintain transparency in policies, pricing, and even on photos of the property
Seems Emily has booked your hotel for the stay. Good for you!
But don’t settle down already. The real job starts now.
You have a couple of days before she lands in Seychelles. So, let me prepare you for a crucial stage that’s about to come.
The very minute Emily walks into your hotel; her experience phase is going to start. Every single element in your hotel will make an impact on her experience.
I have a few tips for you to make her stay at your hotel great.
- The moment she walks into your property, greet and welcome her wholeheartedly.
- Try personalization by placing a welcome goody with her favorite wine in her room.
- Make her familiar with all the technical elements of your hotel that would make her stay great.
- If you’re leveraging WhatsApp marketing practices, drop her timely information about the destination — parties and gatherings happening around, best places to eat local cuisine, what your hotel offers, etc.
- Offer her a good discount on extra nights to lead her to extend the stay.
- Keep your hotel cleanliness game on point. Make sure every corner of the property is spick and span.
- Make guest communication seamless. There has to be someone to address guest queries at all hours of the day.
- If there’s a query, make sure you respond quickly and come up with a solution.
- Have empathy towards her and all the other guests at your property, and focus on making their stay memorable.
#ProTip: If by any chance, you have the information that she’s taking her first ever solo trip or coming to Seychelles for the first time, I suggest you offer complimentary pick up from the airport. Trust me, this first gesture is going to make a phenomenally positive impact on her experience. Not to mention, it might also take some burden off your shoulder during her entire stay.
6. Final impression
After a wonderful stay at your hotel and the lovely vicinity, it’s time for Emily to check out from the hotel.
And just like everyone else, she’s a little all over the place. She came downstairs to the reception multiple time, enquiring about several things.
These types of instances are usually normal for people during their check-out. And as a hotelier, the best you can do is to help them with their chores.
In Emily’s case, here’s what you can do to make an everlasting final impression:
- Get her a cab for airport drop at a reasonable price. If she has stayed for a long time, then you could offer a free drop.
- Remember how you greeted her when she arrived? Well, keep the vibe similar when she’s checking out.
- Make the payment process SIMPLE. She’s got a flight to board; do not make her wait during check-out for payment.
- Contactless check-out is also a great option to make her check-out process seamless.
Emily has checked out from the hotel, boarded her flight, and she’s now home.
Does that mean her experience with the hotel and the stay is over?
Well, it’s both Yes and No.
But as a hotelier, you still have tasks to tick. You must be in touch with Emily to drive loyalty and ensure your hotel is on top of her mind when she’s planning the next trip.
Here’s how you can engage with Emily once she check-out:
- First and foremost, you want to get her feedback. Do not just send a feedback form, request her to write your hotel a review on GMB, OTA she used for booking, or directly on your website.
- Next up, automate this process of seeking feedback and review. Use a high-end CRM that sends out automated emails on check-out.
- Reply to Emily’s online review. If she has written something negative, acknowledge it and promise to work on it. If it’s a positive review, thank her wholeheartedly. Not to mention, do sound like a human and not like a marketing bot.
- Add Emily to your email nurture program. Send her monthly newsletters, offers, etc. You can take it to the next level by wishing her on her every birthday.
- Send offers and content that are relevant to Emily. Because when you personalize content, guests are more likely to engage.
Today’s Travelers Are Value Seekers
The preferences of travelers have changed significantly in the last couple of years.
Travelers today seek value above anything else.
Now, what I mean is that people aren’t hesitant about spending money. However, they want services and experiences that are worth what they are spending.
For example, despite being a first-time solo traveler, Emily wasn’t hesitant about spending. Rather, she ensured that she gets the best sans any hassle.
Let me explain this better with one of my experiences now.
When I travel alone, I tend to do it on a budget. I take the cheapest hostels and eat at budget-friendly food stalls. I feel this gives me the freedom to explore more and spend on experiences.
But recently, I was traveling around Delhi and Amritsar with my parents. And I made sure that the best hotels are booked in every location we visited. I even made reservations on the best sleeper buses for overnight travel. (One bus had a toilet on board. That itself was a super relief).
All in all, I was seeking comfort and a little bit of luxury. And one way or the other it is changing my preferences. I don’t think I would go back to those extreme budget-friendly travels. I would rather work a little to improve my budget and have a comfortable experience.
For accommodation providers, of all shapes and sizes, it is imperative to understand the entire hotel guest journey. The better picture you have of your guests’ preferences and the activities, the better you get to serve them.
However, many hotels overlook this aspect of hotel guest journey mapping, thinking it is complicated. That shouldn’t be the case.
Learning about your hotel customer journey isn’t a tough nut to crack. All you need to do is understand their personas.
I hope the story mentioned above of Emily along with the points is going to help you in your hoteliering.
Taka one step at a time and see how things fare for your hotel. Let me know in the comments if I have missed out on anything.