According to a study conducted by PGAV Destinations in 2011, 78% of millennial travelers are looking for new experiences when they are traveling, which is a much higher figure than previous generations. This is a trend that has continued to grow, with an ever increasing number of travelers looking to experience the local flavor of a destination, which extends to the choice of hotel they make. Thus, many are gravitating more towards independent hotels that can provide them with a unique experience, preferring them to standardized chains. And if TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice Awards in recent years are anything to go by, travelers are not regretting their choice.
TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice Awards Indicate Independent Hotels Are Definitely Doing Something Right
For the past few years, many of the Travelers’ Choice Awards handed out by TripAdvisor have gone to independent hotels. In fact, in many areas, independent hotels have beaten out chains by a mile. A quick read of the reviews for these properties show travelers gushing over how great the hotel in question is not just because of design but also because of the great level of service.
For example, the above review is for an independent hotel in Hong Kong and it calls out not only the design of the rooms, but also thanks the staff by name for creating a great experience. And that’s where the secret is. Independent hotels are in a better position than chains to offer guests the extraordinary, personalized experience they crave.
The above review, for the same hotel, shows that a member of the concierge staff took the time to walk a guest to a nearby restaurant to ensure they didn’t get lost. This is something that would never happen in a chain hotel because staff simply don’t have the flexibility to engage in this type of behavior.
These reviews also show that by consistently offering an amazing guest experience, positive reviews will flow naturally. You won’t have to engage in any special tactics to generate positive reviews. They will be a natural byproduct of the delightful service you offer on a consistent basis.
Why Chain Business Models Can’t Compete
At one point in time, chains were highly successful for the exact reason they are now losing ground: they offered a standard, consistent experience. Travelers knew that they could expect the same room type, the same level of service, and the same amenities regardless of which branch location they select.
But this was before the power of the Internet came into play. Before the Internet made finding a local hotel easier for travelers, they gravitated towards chains because they knew they wouldn’t encounter any nasty surprises. Now, though, sites like TripAdvisor and social media networks have eliminated this problem. Travelers no longer have to wonder whether a hotel is all marketing hype because peer reviews always disclose the reality. This has made travelers a lot more discerning and more eager to choose hotels that will provide them with a new but high-quality experience.
So, standardization has gone the way of the dinosaurs. But what about service? Yes, chain hotels have a standard in terms of service too. And this standard is so inflexible that it’s almost impossible for staff to deviate from the script and offer guests those little extras that will make their stay more pleasant.
Of course, going the extra mile is also much easier for smaller, independent properties, because fewer guests at one time means staff can take better care of each guests. It’s not unusual for a chain hotel to have as many as 500 rooms, which means a lot of travelers and makes it hard for staff to deliver a personalized experience. On the other hand, a boutique hotel with fewer than 100 rooms can pay much more attention to each guest.
Touches such as tailoring complimentary snacks and beverages to each guest’s tastes and providing them with recommendations on what to visit during their stay based on their interests are the type of touches that will ‘wow’ guests and are certainly easier for an independent hotel to implement. A chain hotel has to get approval, which involves a lengthy process and the guest is likely to have checked out by the time an agreement is reached.
Independent hotels are in a great position because more and more travelers are gravitating towards these types of properties. To get those travelers to choose your hotel, recommend it to others, and to keep them coming back, you have to offer a delightful, personalized guest experience, one that a chain could never hope to replicate.