While providing great hospitality is at the heart of the hotel industry, achieving commercial success is key to providing it consistently. This requires that hotels dig deep to really understand what drives online bookers to the hotel – and not just follow the pack.
Hotel booking behaviour online is hard to predict. However, the factors that influence booking behaviour is slightly easier to understand and possibly influence.
What has changed?
Bookers now increasingly flit between multiple gadgets, websites and apps in the course of their booking journey. Speed and ease of booking is now a minimum requirement.
Expectations from hotels have evolved – a big factor has been the popularity of AirBnB. Many hotel companies, in turn, have adapted its products and services to cater to these evolving expectations.
Challenges and opportunities
The speed of change brings about a real challenge to hotels in terms of understanding travellers and their booking behaviour. There is a real divide between hotel companies and online travel agencies (OTAs). While hotel companies sell hotel rooms supported by technology, the latter is a technology company selling hotel rooms and related products.
Equally the online world is no longer separate from the “offline” world and presents real challenges for hotels that are used to doing things in the traditional way.
As always challenges bring opportunities with them.
Hotels have a real advantage when it comes to being able to understand their guests during their stay. This opportunity to understand why a guest is staying at your hotel and how they got there is unique and should not be taken lightly. While there are many ways to go about it, hotels should use this knowledge to adapt their products and services to improve their product mix. It also can provide insights on their online booking journey to help the hotel improve their distribution channels and loyalty.
How can hotels adapt?
While resource constraints are a major limitation for every hotel, it really is a question of establishing priorities. Hotels that have done well in this area have separated the operational duties from the marketing and analytical function.
This is hard to do for smaller hotels; however, this separation is key to understanding the influences on its target audience and to take steps to adapt. In some cases, this may mean outsourcing but in many instances, it is a question of finding the right type of person to take on the responsibility.
So where is your hotel now? Does your hotel understand the factors that drive bookers to your hotel and those that drive them away? What actions can you take and what can it look like? Are there tools and resources that can help?
- Online guest review scores are a good place to start, but the details in those comments provide a wealth of useful information on bookers.
- Google Analytics or similar analytics platforms can provide insights on how online bookers behave and buy on the hotel website.
- A huge amount of data on bookers and booking behaviour is provided by Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) like Booking.com and Expedia.
- Frontline staff in hotels are a great source of insights on guests – and there are some excellent opportunities to engage and gather feedback. This could be technology enabled but with a human touch.