With gas prices at their lowest in nearly a decade, Americans are hitting the road in record-breaking droves. According to AAA, as a country, we broke all sorts of travel records in 2015, including the astounding 100 million-plus travelers that took trips over the recent December holidays (AAA). That said financial crises in Russia and China are destabilizing the global economy. Closer to home, they are also decreasing travel to U.S. gateway cities like New York and San Francisco; declines like this effect accommodations, ancillary services such as dining and transportation, and retail outlets, ultimately rippling through the urban economy.
Economies shift and evolve necessarily. A projected uptick in American travel this year means that savvy hotels and vacation rentals have the potential for unprecedented success; however, this is all the more reason to consider what you can do now to weather inevitable economic downturns. Perhaps this is why there is so much conversation in the hospitality industry right now around guest experience technology. Guest experience technology is the support system for nurturing guest relationships from the first touch point, throughout the stay, and beyond. In most cases, a comprehensive solution involves multiple technologies, ideally from the very first call… or even before they call.
NAVIS’ Narrowcast solution, as an example, automates the display of a potential guest’s name, address, past stay history, and the specific marketing campaign driving the call. This makes inquiries simultaneously more efficient and more personable. For high-consideration stays sometimes requiring several phone calls (e.g., family reunions or “framily” travel), a well-trained agent can capture all the essential details so the agent teed up for the next call may pick up the dialogue exactly where the guest left off. This means guests are no longer required to explain and re-explain the details, lessening their frustration and the potential for miscommunication. This elevated guest service, assuming that it is carried over throughout the stay, positions your property among the top tier considerations when consumer purse strings tighten.
Further, the new guests you’re attracting during the healthy economy populate your long-term database, complete with past-stay history and preferences. They can then be segmented by criteria such as stay value, seasonality, ancillary services, and so forth to create ultra-personalized, highly effective marketing campaigns when the marketing budget to attract new guests may dip during an economic shift. When the guest calls, service is at a premium, with agents able to immediately access and speak to the guest’s prior accommodations and any known preferences and activities. Nurturing the guest relationship in this way substantially improves the opportunity for conversion.
According to Smith Travel Research, the coming year, while not as strong as 2015, will still show increases in occupancy (0.8%), demand (2.2%), ADR (5.2%), and RevPAR (6.0%).
Right now, while new guest acquisition opportunities are strong, is the time to consider every nuance of guest experience. It is the time to acquire guests for a future date when the cost to convert enough new guests may be too high.