“Growth is everything for hotels,” notes Skift’s just-released “Megatrends Defining Travel in 2016.” So simple and so true. Growth strategies may read differently depending on the size, brand scale, and category of hotel, but growth is essential to thriving in a market with a more diverse set of players than ever before, like private accommodations, sharing economy, and alternative lodging.
Growth for independents starts on the ground level with guests. While repeat guests are highly lucrative over their lifetime and very important in your sales and marketing strategies, it goes without saying that new guests are where the growth opportunity is. (Especially when you consider that 41% of Americans did not take a vacation day in 2015.) Capturing new business is paramount during an industry explosion mixed with uncertain global economic conditions.
Recent NAVIS data, from a review of more than 100,000 reservations from “high consideration,” independent properties, shows that:
- More than 70% of direct business came from travelers who were considered “new” (meaning that they had not been previously identified in the property CRM).
- Approximately 50% of these guests booked offline, via phone reservations.
- Of the 50% who booked online, almost half still engaged with reservations sales staff during the process.
It’s undeniable that the path to growth necessitates an optimal reservations process—both online and offline. Making it as easy as possible for new guests to book requires tackling aspects of both. However, so much attention has been directed toward online reservations (e.g., one-click booking, room selection, mobile check-in) that offline reservations have, for many properties, failed to evolve. For instance, for all the data we have on abandoned online reservations where is the same data on call abandonment due to hold time? (Stay tuned for our report on this soon!)
For hotels and vacation rental companies, exceptional guest and prospect experience management begins with knowing the traveler’s name and geography before anyone says “Hello!” It means knowing exactly which marketing campaign drove the call. It means, especially for high consideration stays, ensuring that when a guest calls back the second, third, or fifth time, an agent can answer, “Hello, Margaret. I see that you spoke with Brad yesterday about a family visit in March. How can I help you?” It means planning for peak and overflow to avoid hold times. A hold time longer than 30 seconds has a substantial effect on conversion levels and abandonment (not to mention that it is unacceptable in the guest’s mind). It means agent training, performance metrics, and regular coaching.
Right now, at this moment in hospitality history, the race for guest acquisition has never required faster, more efficient management. The race, however, is about more than grabbing up guests. It is a contest to deliver the very best experience from the very start because the goal is ultimately to build a collection; a database that your company owns that will see you through the inevitable roller coasters of industry and global economic change ahead.