January 3, 2017, by Gilad Berenstein, CEO of Utrip
Perhaps the most discussed topic in 2016 amongst hotel owners and operators has been Airbnb and the growing market share they’ve taken from hotels. While the big OTAs don't seem to be too affected—yet—hotels are feeling the pinch, which for many is a cause for worry. While some are projecting doom and gloom, we at Utrip believe that there is a great deal of good news for hotels and an opportunity to capitalize on these same trends.
It is not rocket science - Airbnb is simply highlighting what travelers are looking for and providing solutions for the traveler’s trip as a whole; not just a bed. Hotels are well positioned to benefit from this trend with the help of recent advances in personalization technology, and you don’t need a team of engineers to do so.
At Utrip, we have been carefully observing that Airbnb is doing an excellent job of utilizing the four following trends in travel. Hotels that don’t want to fall behind should take note—especially because with just a few simple steps, they may be even better suited to delight their guests.
Airbnb has effectively marketed its emphasis on true local experiences and the launch of Airbnb Trips takes them further down this path.
The good news for hotels is that they already possess incredible insight into their destinations! Dedicated hotel staff, unlike part time Airbnb hosts, hold an enormous wealth of knowledge and connections in their neighborhood and destination. This wisdom and familiarity should be highlighted and shared.
Giving the same old, generic recommendations to travelers is no longer acceptable. You need to highlight the great people on your property and offer true local recommendations to your guests.
For hotels, it is no longer acceptable to simply promote what is on your block. Travelers are not just looking for the must-see attractions, especially as information on them is the most easily found online and thus commoditized. Travelers want richer experiences and it is incumbent upon you as a host to promote and guide them to exceptional neighborhoods and attractions in your city.
Utilizing new technologies, like Utrip PRO, and incorporating this information into your guest experience and digital offering is now a must. If you don't, travelers will look elsewhere for accommodations and they will specifically look to non-traditional/value-added lodging providers that feel more authentic and offer a local experience.
Emphasize personalization and discovery. With easy and affordable transportation options like Uber and Lyft, travelers are willing to travel further to find what's most unique and personally exciting to them.
Brochures in the lobby are not where people look for information, and generic front desk recommendations are not enough, as the vast majority of travelers are now comfortable exploring and booking online. Airbnb effectively utilizes their digital experience to aid in dreaming and discovery and thus captures a traveler’s imagination; they are as much a tech company as they are a hospitality company.
It is imperative that your website, Facebook page, etc. provide value to travelers in every stage of the travel lifecycle. If your hotel doesn’t offer an engaging experience for the traveler who is still in the dreaming phase, you’re going to lose guests who aren’t necessarily ready to book when they visit your site for the first time. You need to understand how travelers use technology and be there with a differentiated level of guest service—every step of the way.
Utrip PRO enables you to be there for the traveler that is six months out from their trip, at home and simply exploring things to do in the city they are hoping to visit. Utrip PRO is also there for the traveler who is in-destination, looking for a recommendation for dinner tonight or for something fun to do. Working with Utrip PRO brings market-leading artificial intelligence to your guests in a seamless and cost-effective manner. You no longer need to be a technology company to offer top-of-the-line digital experiences to your guests.
Utrip PRO makes travel planning easy, enjoyable, and personal for guests—whether they are just beginning to plan their adventure, or if they’ve already checked-in.
Most importantly — Personalization
Companies like Netflix, Amazon, Pandora, and others have created an expectation for personalization on the web and in commerce. Travelers expect personalization from all brands they interact with, and a hotel is no exception.
The most successful hotels, like Airbnb, offer more than just a bed.
Don’t lose sight of the fact that each individual guest is seeking a unique special experience that they will remember and can share with family and friends. Travelers’ personalities, preferences, budgets, and interests all contribute to our individuality and hoteliers should use our uniqueness as an opportunity to really pull out all the stops and help create a travel experience that is truly unique; this is also how you build loyalty and word of mouth. Stop providing generic top 10 lists and the same handful of restaurant suggestions to every single traveler. Go beyond and become an integral part of their travel experience.
Companies like Utrip can be easily integrated into your website, post-booking emails, email marketing, and on-premise experience to provide true personalization to each and every traveler.
Remember, the customer is king and in 2017 every customer expects a personalized journey.