We’re forever being told that the hotel industry is changing at a rapid pace, but what does that really mean?
Is it the increasing influx of celebrity-owned and endorsed properties? What about the meteoric rise of services such as Airbnb? And are online travel agencies really set for world domination (if they haven’t already achieved it)?
Sometimes, the smallest of revolutions have the biggest impact, and the real trends to watch out for are those that arrive with every guest that walks into your reception area.
Guests are the harbingers of change. They drive hotel strategy, encourage adoption of new technology and force revenue managers of independent hotels to come up with ever more inventive ways to tempt them away from the big chains.
Unfortunately, such change isn’t always easy to spot, and if you’re unaware of emerging trends amongst hotel guests, they’re likely to creep up unawares and take you by surprise.
For a hotelier to survive and thrive in the modern world of hospitality, they need to be ready for the following 5 guest habits that are already taking hold:
1. The BYOD revolution
There was a time when hotel’s provided PCs in reception areas. Remember that? Perhaps you’ve still got one and, if you have, can you remember the last time anyone sat down to use it?
There’s a good chance it was some time ago. The ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) revolution has had an impact on businesses of all kinds and nowhere is it more prevalent than in hotels. Most guests will now come armed with their own tablet or laptop and they’ll almost certainly have a powerful smartphone in their pocket.
That means every email, web browsing and media consumption duty they intend to undertake at your property will most likely be carried out on their own device. This makes solid WiFi an absolutely essential investment and the order you’ve just placed for those expensive LCD TVs rather questionable.
2. Self-check in aficionados
If you’ve taken a flight abroad within the last few years, chances are you’ll have checked in before you reached the airport. Doing so is convenient, saves time on the day and removes one item from what is usually a colossal to-do list.
While the number of things a guest will have to do upon entering your hotel doesn’t quite match that of an international flight, the ability to check in days before the stay is something that is becoming increasingly attractive.
Hotel booking systems that offer or intend to offer integration with the new wave of door locking solutions make this possible. A guest books online, receives a notification that check-in prior to their arrival is open and, if the option is taken, receives a digital key that resides on their smartphone. All they have to do on arrival is head straight to their room, open the door with their phone and begin the process of relaxing. Simple.
Even if you’re focused on offering a personable service at your hotel, an increasing number of guests will expect this kind of autonomy. Do you want to be struck off their list?
3. Wallet-free payers
Apple Pay and Android Pay are taking the UK by storm. If you’ve seen someone tap their phone against a Chip and Pin machine when paying for their weekly shop, you’ll have seen one of these services in action. It offers ultimate convenience, security and is arguably the future of payments.
Expect to see more guests approach your reception desk or bar without a wallet or purse. They’ll expect to be able to pay with their smartphone and it’s therefore essential you run POS hardware capable of accepting that type of payment if you’re to avoid any awkward “sorry, we don’t take that here” conversations.
Hint: if you’ve got a Chip and Pin machine already, it is almost certainly ready to accept Apple Pay and Android Pay. Speak to your card acquirer to be sure.
4. Luxury guests
Despite what remains a challenging economic backdrop, there’s still an awful lot of wealth in the world and as a hotelier, you’re likely to come into contact with an increasing number of ‘luxury guests’.
These are people who demand personalised services and every whim catered for. Servicing such people may not be your idea of fun, but if you have a hotel that has the resources to cater for ultra-expectant guests with extremely deep pockets, would you really turn down the opportunity?
If you regularly spot people inhaling from what looks like a car engine component and, seconds later, exhaling a cloud of smoke any concert technician would be proud of, you’re witnessing the increasing number of people who ‘vape’.
It’s estimated that there are 2.8 million users of electric cigarettes in the UK. Chances are, at least one of the guests you welcome into your hotel today will be a vaper, and knowing how to deal with them is becoming increasingly important for business owners.
The devices aren’t illegal, nor are they toxic like cigarettes, but many hotels have taken the decision to treat them in the same way, excluding their use from within the hotel and politely asking that all vaping is carried out in the smokers’ area.
Whether or not you allow vaping in your hotel is entirely up to you, but take time to consider every side effect before you do. Will other guests be offended by the presence of cherry-flavoured vapour filling the bar area or do you encounter that many e-cigarette users within your hotel that it seems daft not to allow them to be used?
Act quickly on the above. Investigate each one and quiz the guests who exhibit any of these habits - they’ll give you a great steer on how to turn them into revenue-generating and crowd-pleasing endeavours for your business.