Give Your Guests Something to Write Home About

By Darren Panto Business Development Director, iRiS Software Systems | February 14, 2016

More and more guests post reviews online, tweet about their experience or post photos about their idyllic holiday getaways. This trend is gaining considerable momentum and many potential hotel guests place a lot of importance on these online opinions and will often make their decisions on which hotel to book based on these recommendations. Hotels can see this as an opportunity to boost their online presence, their brand awareness and grow their online community of fans. What tools can hotels use to encourage guests to post positive online reviews, tweets and photos? How can they increase customer loyalty and see their guests as their best marketers?

More Than a Booking App?

Guest facing technology is on the rise in the hospitality industry in general and particularly in hotels. We have seen an increase in the use of this type of technology from mobile booking applications to in-room tablets enabling guests to order room service or even large touchscreens displaying information in hotel lobbies. There are many reasons why hotels and restaurants are choosing to adopt these various apps ranging from saving guests time to improving operations.

However the main aim of all this technology is to enhance the guest experience, to give hotel guests a unique experience that differentiates the hotel from the competition. This is the new 'frontier' hotels are exploring to stand out and attract attention and as much as 89% of hotel guests surveyed say they want stay-enhancing tech. In order to improve their guests' experience, they first need to identify what the main frustrations for guests in hotels are; the biggest one of which seems to be time wasting activities with as much as 67% of guests naming waiting in line to check out as their biggest frustration and 50%* of them being annoyed at having to queue up to check in. So it would stand to reason that hotels focusing on time-saving technology would have happier guests more willing to share their positive experiences on social media. Indeed, research conducted by iRiS Software Systems showed that 92% of hotel guests would actively use the time saved with a third of guests using the time to post a positive review on social media(1).

This shows that hotels can encourage their guests to use social media in a positive way by analyzing broad industry trends (such as hospitality technology) and implementing targeted solutions that fit their clientele, they can empower their guests to act as the hotel's best marketers via the medium of social media. Targeted guest facing technology solution that enhances the guest experience can subtly encourage them to willingly use social media to share their positive experiences. The guests won't feel pressured to share and will therefore be more spontaneous leading to potentially viral content. It is important that the hotel staff respond and interact with their guests on social media in a timely manner so that they feel listened to and rewarded for posting positive stories on social media. A positive experience in any hotel will create loyalty in a guest and social media is a great way of magnifying the word-of-mouth effect. The unsolicited publicity and favorable public reaction from guests is also very credible marketing for the hotel.

In terms of generating revenue, potential guests are now paying more and more attention to online reviews and the hotel's twitter feed before making their choice. With the rise of millennial travellers, a great way to attract those tech-savvy guests is by enhancing and modernizing the guest experience with guest facing applications.

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Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.