About the author: Roger Graham lives in Sydney, Australia, with his wife Karen and their four children. There are also two dogs, Peppa, and Pickles. With over 25 years in technology, Roger has worked across all facets of business in multiple countries with a particular focus on the hospitality and gig worker markets, which often go hand in hand. Having a passion for new technology, Roger works to create innovative products in a secure environment that benefits the end user. When not in Australia, Roger spends his time in the United States.
The last two-plus years have been a double-edged sword for the accommodation sector. The accommodation market broadly splits into multiple segments, with the top end being your large brands such as The Hilton Group. Airbnb and Stayz cater to the smaller market.
In the middle is a substantial middle layer comprising boutique hotels, motels, and other accommodation offerings. These are the ones who generally have been slow to adapt to the changes in technology due to two years of chaos and not having an in-depth understanding of your guests’ changing needs and even how rapidly technology is changing these expectations.
We must face the reality that digital disruption has arrived far earlier than expected. This digital disruption is a direct result of the covid pandemic. It is immediate and impacts all four corners of the globe.
So what does this technology mean for your business?
Your business must determine what impact this will have and assess your digital roadmap for the future. Your guest expectations are the number one driver for your digital roadmap, so if you don’t have one yet, you need to get one going today.
Large groups such as Hilton already know how vital guest expectations are to their brand. They are already spending big on their digital platforms, focusing mainly on their app. They continually upgrade their hotels and technology and use the app to promote and upsell guests at every opportunity. As a middle-layer accommodation provider, you can likely never compete on the same level as a Hilton on a technology level. But you can complete with them on a personal level, and current trends show us guests want that personal experience, but the catch is that they still want the technology that comes with this. A guest does not care if you are not a Hilton. Once they have tasted digital, their expectations will not change.
So what changed, you ask? The truth is that everything changed in 2020. And as an owner or operator of any accommodation business, you need to realize this before it is too late.
In one of my recent podcasts, I highlighted that companies that fail to identify the technological paradigm shift over the next five years would probably not survive.
The first objection
One of the most common objections I always hear when discussing technology with the middle accommodation sector is: “Well, we have a website.”
My standard reply is, “Well, so does everybody else”! A website today is expected. It does not make you unique anymore.
The next objection
The next objection comes in the form of again referring to the website. “Our guests know we have a website, so they find all the information they need on the website.”
Typically my reply is, “So how do you know this”? Research shows that over 74% of guests never refer to a hotel’s website for information after booking.
Your website is not interactive guest technology!
And this is one of the critical areas where I feel hosts and owners do not know how the changing paradigm impacts their business.
Your website is there to sell to your guests. Sure, you can have information on it, but its critical fundamental role to your business is to market your accommodation and get them to book. It is a sales tool. It is not an information tool.
If you think your guests will refer to your website after they have booked, think again. Over 74% of them won’t!
So, where do they look if they are not referring to my website?
Do you understand your guest in 2022 and beyond?
To understand this, you must understand your guest and how they see this new post-covid world. You must put yourself into your guest’s shoes and see how they operate.
2019 may only be a short three years ago, but in technology terms, it is as good as ten years ago.
When booking a trip, your guest will probably use their device to find and book flights. They will then find and book your accommodation using their device, typically using a popular booking site like booking.com. They will likely board their flight using their phone as a boarding pass, and when they arrive, use Uber on their phone to get to your accommodation.
By now, you have probably noticed the common theme here. Guests use their devices for everything today. It is the one thing every guest will have with them 24/7/365, even on holiday.
So is your accommodation giving your guests a piece of paper when they arrive? If you are, I am sure by now you can see the major problem this poses for your business!
So what do your guests actually want?
Your guests want a personal experience, to be in control, to feel special, and for individual attention. Today’s Apps, appropriately done, give your guest this immersive experience. Your website does not do this.
The last thing any guest wants to do is search for information on a website, which is actually trying to sell them a room. It is simply too much hassle.
What technology are we talking about here?
We are talking about modern technology in Progressive Web Apps, or PWAs, delivered to your guest from the minute they book their accommodation with you. A guest’s journey starts long before they arrive, and you want your brand to be with them in every step of that journey.
These apps are, in effect, a modern-day compendium or welcome guidebook. But they are nothing like the paper-based versions of 2019. Packed with up-to-date information, interactive navigation, online bookings, and everything you know a guest needs, they provide an immersive experience for your guests 24/7/365, answering all their questions before they even arrive and long after they leave.
So do you even need a website anymore? A website is critical in your business to fill rooms. However, as a professional in the accommodation industry, you must understand the journey your guest takes and offer what they need at the right time.
Technology now gives your accommodation what it needs to offer guests the immersive experience they are looking for by providing your guests with a fully branded app. Your app will give them the experience they are looking for (and already get from the likes of The Hilton Group) but also give you priceless branded real estate on your guests’ devices that travel with them when they leave.
There are many more benefits and potential you get from having your app, and I will discuss this in more depth in a future article, so keep an eye out for it, or better still, subscribe to get the latest news.