Travel Demand Creates New Opportunities to Transform Guest Loyalty
Robots are a cool and contactless addition to the hotel experience. (iStock/Ekkasit919)
It’s predicted in a study by The Points Guy and Healthline Media that half of U.S. adults are likely to take a summer vacation. As travel demand increases, hotels have a renewed opportunity to gain and retain loyalty members. Why focus on loyalty? On average, a loyal guest spends 82% more than a new one, and is more likely to book directly, saving hotels on acquisition costs too. Beyond benefits for the hotel, guests can enjoy an immersive experience across brands, convenience and of course, rewards.
What can hotels do right now to create strong first impressions post-pandemic? Let’s take a look at the key areas that impact guest loyalty and how to amplify each touch point along this transformed journey with technology.
Perks, Incentives and Rewards
As the guest experience shifts to accommodate a post-pandemic world, it’s important to consider how loyalty programs should change as well. When it comes to earning points, consider thinking outside the box, like Marriott. In response to guests booking less hotel stays, they partnered with Uber to offer points for rides and dining with UberEats.
The Global Business Travel Association reports that the top rewards guest value are free nights, room upgrades, express check-in and service perks. Contactless technology can support many of these reward options: a guest can check in quickly and contact-free with mobile check-in, view, and select room upgrade options or redeem points for better Wi-Fi or dining perks all via the hotel app.
Another option for offering unique guest experiences while limiting contact is beacon technology, which uses real-time offers to drive guests to restaurants and shops at the hotel. For example, loyalty members in the lobby during the afternoon could get a notification for a happy hour special for a free drink or appetizer. Even in this uncharted territory, hotels have unique opportunities to reach guests and offer new and exciting perks to loyal members.
A study by Oracle discovered that 90% of guests would like personalized service from hotel staff that understood their preferences and pointed them to relevant excursions, recommendations or offers. How does this look today? Instead of receiving local recommendations from the concierge, guests can turn to interactive digital signage or in-room virtual assistants for personalized suggestions.
In order to offer targeted personalization, listening to guests is critical. This can be done by sending out digital surveys, monitoring social media and review sites, tracking data and reviewing analytics. Hyatt has looked at implementing a “Social Customer Care” approach: when one guest tweeted from a rooftop pool that a cocktail was the only thing that could improve her view, they had a drink delivered right away.
Service and Amenities
With health top of mind, hotels can offer wellness amenities to loyal members. Include options to digitally schedule private time at the fitness center or pool. Rooms can have TV casting to give guests choice in video content to stream workout videos or guided meditations depending on guest preferences (or just watch Netflix). Plus, it’s all in the language of their choice and controlled by their own device.
Robots and AI are also a cool and contactless addition to the hotel experience. Guests can ask their in-room assistant for more towels, to book spa appointments, to provide local food recommendations or even to order room service. Yotel Hotel in New York City even has concierge robots to bring luggage up to the room. Now that’s taking service to a whole new level.
These robot concierges can improve the guest experience by increasing convenience, reducing transaction times and offering quicker assistance. Guests are open to this high-tech option as well, as evidenced by a study where 60% of respondents expressed they would be comfortable being attended to by a robot.
Remember, customer experience drives over two-thirds of customer loyalty. Some of these technology upgrades are drastically improving the guest journey. Limited physical touch points doesn’t mean lower service.
As remote work becomes the norm, there has been an increase in “work-from-hotel” guests. It’s likely these guests will choose to work in familiar hotels where they can redeem benefits. Hotels can use technology to give loyal guests increased productivity with better connectivity.
Passpoint technology uses automatic authentication to connect guests to Wi-Fi securely and seamlessly anywhere on property and across the brand. A loyalty member can get online immediately when going to a conference in their home state or when travelling internationally for vacation.
As summer travel heats up, it’s time to upgrade programs to welcome travelers back. Many hotel chains have already reimagined their loyalty programs due to the requirements caused by the pandemic. The shifting landscape of our industry offers an opportunity to address each key area that impacts guest loyalty, including with technology upgrades that can exponentially impact guest experiences.
Paul Payette is vice president of strategic relations of Nomadix Inc. He is a hospitality veteran with more than 20 years of experience growing global business and leading sales, strategic partnerships, marketing and strategic planning.