From the online search to the hotel lobby arrival: the guest journey
For hotel guests, booking is a long process that requires hours of time and effort, from research stages to the point they step foot in the hotel lobby. There is no one path to booking, but most start long before the hotel is reached. Savvy bookers resist their temptations and pursue a wide assortment of information about their options before booking such a big expense. That creates an opportunity for hotels to invest more into sales and marketing that provides useful information and coverts travelers into customers.
To make it easier for hotels to market their brand to guests throughout the end-to-end client experience, below we take a look at the “path to purchase” at each step of the way.
First things first: from couch to hotel lobby
Step 1: Research
Research is an obvious first step in most vacation plans. The average traveler checks out over twenty separate travel websites before making a final decision. At this point, prospective guests are really looking to figure out broad questions such as destination and what kind of lodging they’re looking for.
If your hotel website is solid—both functionally, SEO-wise, and technically—you’re in a good position to catch the prospect at this stage. This should include both your brand’s own web page and your presentation of third party online travel agencies. To accomplish this, fill your profile with high quality photos, media, and plenty of details. Spend some time managing reviews by encouraging happy customers to post a positive review and reaching out to guests who leave poor reviews.
Step 2: Booking
Once prospective guests figure their destination, they’ll likely waffle between a few different hotels based on location and value. To stand out at this stage, you have to make your hotel attractive to visitors looking at your destination. You also have to ensure that your booking engine is easy and functional.
Ensure that your engine is effective and user-friendly. You want to cut down on clicks and unnecessary fields. But also provide options to upgrade and upsell without being overbearing. Focus on extras that appeal to your clientele. A good booking engine will integrate smoothly with the rest of your online presence
Step 3: Preparation
Once a guest books with you, they’ll be understandably excited about their upcoming vacation. Lean into this through targeted communications to keep them engaged.
From your app or email channels, send them offers for additional services and upsells. Also inform them what features and amenities they should expect when they arrive. You can also send tips and recommendations on what to do once they arrive in the locale.
Step 4: The Stay
The guest pathway does not end once they room is booked, of course. The stay is what ultimately will define a customer’s experience and therefore loyalty to your brand. The experience they enjoy at your hotel is hugely important. Ensure that you and your staff take care of your guests and fulfill as much of their expectations and needs as possible. Make sure that your hotel staff is friendly and helpful. Continuously clean and maintain hotel property. And finally, be helpful and communicative to your guest.
Step 5: Share
Happy guests turn into brand ambassadors. Investing in their enjoyment of their stay pays dividends through word of mouth exposure and social media sharing. Nearly all millennials share photos while travelling, and the trend is spreading to other age groups too. If you commit to great service, some guests will share their positive hotel experience with the world.
Ideally, you want to establish a social media presence through tagging. You can even encourage your guests to use a standard hashtag for your hotel. Additionally, good reviews on apps or sites like TripAdivsor and Yelp can attract newer customers at the booking stage. Encourage positive reviews and always make sure to respond to negative ones. Having channels for receiving and responding to guest feedback before they take to the internet is always optimal.
Be proactive! Use guest surveying and feedback tools to get a feel for what guests are thinking. By addressing common issues and concerns quickly, you can avoid a slew of negative reviews about common but fixable issues.
The guest path is a multi-step process with each leg very important to your success. Hotel marketing and sale departments must appreciate the inter-locking stages and how to leverage each to provide a top notch guest experience.