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10 Ways Hotels Can Enhance The Guest Experience Of Millennials and Help Increase Ancillary Revenues

Posted on Sep 7, 2017 11:13:41 AM

Millennials will soon be the biggest bookers of hotel rooms in the world. According to Forbes, by 2020 Millennials will be taking 320 million international trips per year, making them the biggest travel market on the planet. However, Millennials’ behavior are quite different from those of previous generations; they aren’t attracted by the same features and services. Understanding their behavior is key to enhancing the guest experience, which is in turn crucial for building loyalty and increasing ancillary revenues.

Three of Millennials defining characteristics are that they’re quick to embrace new technologies, they rely heavily on their mobile devices while traveling, and they’re attracted to health-oriented, personalized experiences.

Below we examine 10 ways that brands like Hilton, Starwood, and Virgin are leveraging technology and millennial tastes to enhance the in-destination guest experience and increase ancillary revenues.   

1. Take Advantage of In-Destination Travel Apps

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According to EyeforTravel the number of millennial travelers will double by 2020 and Google has found that two-thirds of those travelers are already comfortable planning their travels on a smartphone.

The overwhelming influence that apps have on the in-destination experience is obvious, as is their usefulness to hotels. Custom hotel apps are, of course, a smart and creative way to add value for guests that more and more hotels are building all the time.

Ensuring that your hotel has a presence on the 3rd-party apps that people use for travel planning is also key. Also, making sure that your staff understands how to use the best and most useful apps for your specific location is an easy and low-effort way to improve the guest experience.

Here is a list of the most useful apps that travelers can use to explore your city and discover your property.

 

Ride Hailing Apps

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Ride-hailing apps like Uber are often better for travelers than normal taxis because the app automatically tells the driver where to go, which removes any language-barrier problems. The cashless system also prevents currency problems and the automatic tracking of drivers and passengers also helps with issues of both safety and recovering lost items.

Make sure your staff knows which ride-hailing app is best for your destinations and how to help guests use it.

Here is a list of the most common:

Uber

Uber is the most widely-used ride-hailing app on the planet. A list of cities it serves can be found here.

Lyft

Lyft is Uber’s biggest competitor in the United States, and often a good alternative.

Grab

This Malaysia-based app is more widely-used than Uber (or any other app) in much of Southeast Asia. The app is currently available for use in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, Myanmar, and Thailand. The company also offers an app called GrabBike in many of the same destinations, where motorcycle taxis are popular because of their ability to navigate heavy traffic.

Yandex Taxi

A popular ride-hailing app in Russia.

Dining Apps

Open Table

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Open Table is an American app that helps users discover nearby restaurants based on user reviews and make reservations. It’s an excellent tool for making dining choices when little information is available.

 

Yelp

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Also very popular in the USA, Yelp is another app that will help users to find nearby restaurants based on their GPS location and that will make recommendations based on ratings.

 

Open Rice

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This Hong Kong-based app offers reviews of restaurants around Asia, along with coupon offers, and the ability to search for restaurants according to dietary restrictions (e.g. halal).

 

Translation

Youdao Translate and Google Translate

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Youdao is a popular translation app created by a Chinese search engine. The app includes offline translation, audio translation, and the ability to visually translate signs and type (such as restaurant menus) through your phone’s camera.

Google Translate also offers similar functionality. Each app has its strong and weak points (Yodao, for example, is better at Chinese-English translation). It’s a good idea to know which works best for visitors to your destination and recommend that they install it.
 

Destination Exploration Apps

Guidebooks and online guides are great, but the information tends to be out-of-date because it’s impossible to do good research for an entire country and publish it quickly.

Klook 

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Klook is an in-destination travel app that lets tourists explore, discover, and book tours around Southeast Asia.

 

Cool Cousin

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Cool Cousin (available in Europe) is a custom destination app that enables travelers to find new and emerging spots that locals recommend - even if they’re brand new -- and allows visitors to connect with locals with similar interests so that they can curate a personalized experience of the city.

Inspirock

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(image courtesy of Inspirock)

Not technically an app, but simply a well-designed mobile site that behaves like an app, Inspirock works along the same lines as Google Trips but with a more specific and user-friendly functionality. Users need only input their destination, check a couple of boxes about their travel style, and the website will instantly generate a customized itinerary including a map and travel times, which they can further adjust to suit their tastes and save.

Google Trips

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There are so many apps out there but there is one in particular that is worth suggesting, Google Trips. Available in many countries and languages this is a great tool to offer if you don't have any form of digital guide or maps at your hotels. The Google Trips planner is also great for suggesting short day trip tours.

 

 2. Offer Innovative Concierge Services

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Concierge services have been around for a long time and are a cornerstone of good guest service and advances in technology are making these services in new and novel ways.

Here are a few concierge-enabled technologies worth considering:

Smartphones

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Guest-ready smartphones with concierge apps and customized hotel marketing services are a powerful way to enhance your guests’ on-property and in-destination experiences, open a direct, instant marketing channel to current guests, and to gather detailed analytics on guest behavior not only while they’re at your hotel, but all around your destination.

Asking guests to download a hotel’s app, is often a tough sell and an annual North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study showed only 19 percent of all guest respondents have downloaded a hotel app.

handy provides hotels with guest-ready smartphones that use In-room technology customized to connect all hotel services such as spas, in-room dining, F&B restaurants menus and happy hour drinks through the mobile device.

Consider partnering with a mobile technology provider for all your hotel, concierge, and F&B properties.

Tablets

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Tablets are great devices and guests love them. However, overusing them is not recommended. Their deployment to every room in a property is extremely costly and their usefulness as a dashboard for room controls is questionable.

Instead, placing complimentary tablets at key locations where your guests gather and wait, such as the lobby or lounge, is recommended. This is an excellent way to maximize the benefits and minimize the cost of tablet technology, as the investment for this is nominal, but you are still able to push large numbers of guests to your mobile website and encourage them to fill out online reviews and reputation management surveys.

 

LCD Touch Panels

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You’ve probably seen these deployed mostly in malls and airports, but LCD touch screens are also being rapidly adopted by hotels to display the latest local information, news, and weather, and to help guests learn about and interact with hotel guest services.

The cost and size of the large LCD touch screens make them only useful for placement in high-traffic, high-visibility areas, similarly to the way they are placed in malls and airports but are an excellent way to engage a large number of guests through a single console.

Concierge Robots

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(image courtesy of IBM Watson press)

Hilton and IBM have already partnered to pilot the world’s first concierge robot, Connie, which will be the first Watson-powered robot for the hospitality industry.

The technology is still very new, and, for now, concierge robots are still a bit of hospitality science fiction. But it will probably not be more than a year or two before we start to see AI-powered robot concierges of some type (probably in the beginning as simple voice-interface applications) answering guests’ questions, freeing up human resources, and reduce operating costs.

 

3. Selectively Implement Smart In-Room Technology

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Internet of things is rapidly transforming the everyday objects around us into smart devices that are able to interpret and interact with their surroundings, and hotels are an obvious target market for the producers of these technologies. Appropriately, Samsung America and SONIFI Solutions have announced a strategic partnership to create an integrated in-room technology bundle.

But they’re not the only organization aggressively jockeying to position themselves as industry leaders in the smart-room space for hospitality.

Virgin hotels, for example, has created a smartphone app that enables guests to control their thermostat, in-room music, and television, thus further extending guests’ control over their rooms.

 

Smart Room Voice Controls With Amazon Echo

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(image courtesy of Amazon press)

By far the most popular smart-home device on the market is the Amazon Echo, which many hotels are testing. This voice-recognition speaker can already reliably control lights, draperies, and room temperature, and the possibilities for guest services are so great they almost seem limitless. Expansion into assistance for room services such as in-room dining seems imminent and inevitable.

Hotels have historically been the places where average people are treated to novel new amenities that can only dream about for their own homes. As Millennials, with their love of novel and intuitively-designed technology, begin to travel more and more, the role of hotels as windows into the future of the home is going to increasingly transform hotel rooms into showrooms for the latest and coolest home-management technologies.

Mobile Device Room Keys

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(image courtesy of Hilton press)

Hotels such as Starwood and Hilton have developed their own apps to replace normal room keys. Guests simply install the hotel app on their mobile and get a push notification when the digital key is ready for use. Such an efficient and automated system obviously has advantages, it also comes with marked and less-acknowledged disadvantages (most obviously, technical failures and dead phone batteries).

Convenience is the key here and, although many hotels are quick to adopt the Electronic key technology, they have addressed the drawbacks of that technology with varying success. It’s possible that this trend is more hype than substance.  Virgin Hotels notably refrained from including electronic keys when they launched their long-awaited feature-rich app Lucy and opted to “see how it plays out in the industry,” because of, “bumps in the road with other hotels launching smartphone room keys.”

 

4. Set Up Chat Communications 

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Mobile messengers like WhatsApp (1 billion), Facebook Messenger (1 billion), Wechat (877 million), and Snapchat (300 million) are quickly becoming the most dominant communication platform for users from all demographics and countries on mobile devices. Some of the most prominent tech communications professionals even believe that the next major platform shift will be from social media to chat and Silicon Valley investment trends seem to support that theory.

Whether or not to adopt Chat technology for customer service and sales is no longer a question. The only question is which channels are the top priority and whether or not it’s worthwhile to invest in a chat bot.

Here’s how some hotels are taking  to get ahead of the curve with Chat.

 

Mobile Messenger Website Chat

Starwood Hotels & Resorts are using the Let’s Chat app to engage with guests 24/7 before, during, and after their stay. The guest can use WhatsApp or Blackberry messenger to communicate with guest services at more than 150 selected hotels worldwide.

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Meanwhile, Hotel Indigo is engaging Millennials with their Facebook Messenger bot, which sends and receives messages through the Facebook API. IHG believes that a hotel’s interaction with guests through the mobile channel is primary and thus it sees post-booking to pre-check in notifications as critical for brand awareness. So, IHG, the parent company of Hotel Indigo, has created a mobile app for all its brand properties that includes booking, cash redemption, account activities and a smart translator available in 12 languages.

 

Wifi-Marketing with A Login or Social Connection

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(image courtesy of Social Wifi)

Millennials more than any other age group expect free WIFI as a standard amenity, rather than a perk. The best way to take advantage of this expectation is by using WIFI marketing.

Social Wifi is a service that helps hotels turn this expectation into an opportunity. When a guest logins to your free WIFI, it simply redirects them either to a mobile-responsive website that asks for their login details or to your Facebook page for promotional offers. In both cases, you capture guest data for remarketing and future marketing efforts.  

Most hotel marketers already include social mobile as part of their marketing strategy. If you haven’t already started remarketing to current guests on social mobile, you’re missing a good opportunity to boost ancillary revenue.

 

Mobile Push Notifications

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Push notifications are a powerful way to market on-site services to guests, and there are lots of apps out there ready to help. Push notification messaging is the ideal medium for hotels to engage with their guests moment-to-moment throughout their stay to offer them services they may need and ensure that they’re happy.

They’re also very useful for managing emergencies, sending critical information, promoting limited-time offers and specials, and for communicating in-room dining and other hotel information.

 

Read Blog on Push Messaging a tool for Hotel Marketers

 

5. Implement Reputational Management Tools

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According to Tripadvisor, 83% of hotel guests say that online reviews help them choose their hotel and 80% read six to twelve reviews before making their choice.

Reputation management software is an excellent tool for gathering feedback, managing the perceptions of online researchers, and improving guest experience. But, that’s old news. Reputation management software can also help you identify and turn customer service shortcomings into opportunities and to prevent bad reviews before they happen.

Many hotels are now pushing in-stay surveys to guests. This enables the hotels to quickly identify and address the issues of guests before checkout, which helps to both increase guest satisfaction and improve reviews. 

Building a mobile-friendly survey on a reputational management platform and sending it out to guests through hotel WIFI landing pages, push notifications, hotel apps, or hotel-provided mobile devices are optimal ways to identify common problems so they can be directly addressed and, thus, increase average review ratings.

In addition to preventing negative reviews and driving positive ones, these efforts are also an opportunity to refine operational efficiencies and identify opportunities to increase ADR/RevPAR.

 

6. Provide Virtual Tours

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(Image courtesy of Virtually anywhere)

Onsite virtual tours are a fun and novel activity for guests and an excellent medium for soft-selling your guests' new experiences, whether local tours in your destination or other properties that you own around the world.

Virtually Anywhere is an example of a company that provides travel tourism service, which enables your guests to explore the monuments, historical sites, and wildlife without leaving your hotel. The Mansion at Casa Madrona, in contrast, uses an augmented, printed brochure that can be scanned to immerse the user in the luxurious property.

Through interactive experiences, your guests can virtually visit a hotel’s restaurant, spa or fitness center, and using touch and drag technology users are able to navigate the 3D reality.

 

7. Sell Experiences To Millennials

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We’ve all heard the marketing mantra, “Millennials value experiences over things,” which is great news for the travel industry and an excellent opportunity for hotels to engage millennial guests.

Hotel Eden, for example, provides free guided excursions in the mountains for guests who are interested in their health and enjoy nature.

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Four Seasons has compiled a portfolio of unique experiences -- including arts and entertainment, bespoke, culinary, culture, nature and wellness, and sports and adventure -- designed to appeal specifically to their guests.

Does your destination or special expertise lend itself to an experience that is unique to your hotel? Providing a relevant experience that cannot be replicated by others is an excellent way to differentiate your property and add value for millennial travelers, who are known for their affection for unique, authentic experiences.

 

8. Provide Seamless Connectivity Beyond The Hotel

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More and more hotels are exploring ways to extend their service beyond their properties to become an integral part of the traveler’s entire journey in-destination. Helping guests to stay connected throughout their stay not only adds value for those guests but also enables you to reach them instantly to enhance their stay in your property and in-destination.

Here are a few ways hotels are helping guests to stay connected to the Internet, and their hosts.

Provide Local Sim Cards

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iPrestige, which owns several properties in Hong Kong, is rewarding guests for booking rooms through their Facebook page with a free Discover Hong Kong SIM card preloaded with 1.5 GB data.

 

Provide Smartphone Amenities that have both local, international callings and unlimited access to internet.

 9. Set Up Tech Lounges 

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Lounges that provide guests with all the tech equipment they may need during their stay are an excellent, low-cost way to improve convenience and set your property apart. Hilton’s Sonesta Resort has done an excellent job of this in their tech lounge, which offers high-speed Internet (both wired and wireless), USB charging ports, computer workstations, scanners, printers, and power outlets for laptops alongside comfortable seating and a 47-inch flat-screen TV showing the news of the day.

 

10. Offer Personalized Services 

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According to Trust You, your guests generate information (or data points) during their journey that provide all the information you need to create a customized experience. Personalization will be the key differentiator in engaging Millennials and every bit of information that you collect will help you to improve your service offering.

One way to do this is to connect your CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software to your central reservation system to extract relevant data about your guests, which can be used to build customer profiles. The more information you collect about your guests, the more personalized and customized your services will become.

Four-star Hotel Lugano Date, for example, offers online check-in and provides a portal page for guests to customize their experiences. The hotel offers 150 options from baby cribs, changing tables, drinks in the mini bar to boat trip rides. Starwood Hotels is using a slightly different approach with beacons placed in selected locations of the hotel lobbies to enable seamless mobile check-ins.

 

Did We Miss Anything?

We did our best to create a comprehensive list of the best strategies for using technology to appeal to Millennials, but nobody’s perfect. Is there anything that we missed?

 


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Topics: Guest Experience, Ancillary Revenues, Millennial

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