To best cater to the right type of travellers, optimise marketing and increase bookings, hotels need a good understanding of what travellers are looking for and need when making their booking decisions.
Studies reveal that “what travellers say is important” towards certain attributes of a hotel often differ from the actual actions they take ie “what travellers do when booking”. Why is that, and what does it mean for hotels?
While hotels differ on the type of traveller they look to attract, a few things remain universal.
- customer expectations – what they believe they are booking is what they get ie the hotel product and service needs to match the promise/s made on all distribution channels. This is especially more important when looking to achieve the authentic experience you promise. Check to ensure that the marketing content used across all channels – hotel website, OTAs and GDS among others is consistent and offers an attractive but accurate picture of the hotel. Photographs are a common cause for grievance.
- customer reviews – they matter and have a big impact on bookings and the rates a hotel can charge. Check to ensure that responses to reviews are made consistently in a neutral but friendly tone. Equally important is to address any recurring themes in the feedback and also recorded in the responses for future bookers to perceive your hotel as responsive.
- ease of booking – most individual bookings are transactional and this requires speedy booking processes whether online or offline. While OTAs have mastered the art of converting lookers to bookers, hotels typically lag on ensuring that their website is fast loading and geared towards generating bookings. Most hotels focus on their hotel websites being a glossy shop front more than a booking channel. Boutique hotels with its inherent “photo worthiness” can overdo it. Finding the right balance is critical to ensure that bookers have a seamless experience. Likewise, call handling and reservation processes should be monitored to ensure that reservation calls are handled quickly and efficiently.
- fair price – no one wants to find that they have paid a higher price by booking on one channel versus another. This also goes for hidden prices not clearly stated in the booking process. Pricing is probably the most sensitive part aspect of the booking process. Price integrity across all public channels is critical. Any additional costs not included in the booking price and payable later should be identified clearly.
- fair policies – cancellation policies and related terms need to be fair to both the hotel and the customer for it to work. OTAs have identified harsh cancellation policies as one of the biggest factors in reducing hotel bookings. And the reasons for that are clear. Bookers seek flexibility and options to manage their requirement. By giving a non-refundable lower price and a flexible higher price option for the same room, hotels can give bookers the option instead of having one inflexible cancellation policy.
- responsiveness – how responsive a hotel is during the booking process can be indicative of what to expect at the hotel. This applies equally to an online and offline transaction. We live in a fast-paced world and hotels with its inherent service-oriented approach has had to adapt to changing expectations. Bookers are quick to attribute the hotel responsiveness during the booking process to what they can expect. Monitoring average response times during the booking process can help identify and remove bottlenecks.
While hotel facilities and room amenities matter, travellers need to get past these “expected” checks before they can experience them.