The Internet has changed the world. A lot. Consumers no longer bow and scrape to companies. Now, it’s the other way around, which is pretty much how it should be. Because of the way consumers have evolved, independent businesses can now compete head to head with massive brands, and they often win.This means that independent hotels are in a more powerful position than ever to compete against chains and win. But to do that, you need to be able to cater to guests and their changing needs. You have to adapt as quickly as their needs change. So, let’s take a look at how guests’ needs have changed.
Guests No Longer Limit Their Choices to Big Brands
Three decades ago, guests tended to stick to big brands for one simple reason: reliability. They knew they could rely on a certain level of service when they stayed at big brand hotels. They had no way of determining the quality of an independent hotel. All they could do was rely on marketing and advertising, which we all know isn’t always completely transparent.
Nowadays, this restriction is no longer a factor. Thanks to online reviews, travelers can immediately determine the true quality of a hotel, which makes them more adventurous. In fact, nowadays, guests are more likely to book an independent hotel because they are looking to immerse themselves more and more in the local culture of the destination they are heading to, and that is something chain hotels are rarely able to offer.
This means that positive reviews are essential because a large percentage of travelers use reviews in their decision-making process. So, the more positive your reviews are, the more often guests will choose your hotel. It’s no longer a competition between brands. It’s a competition based on how great the guest experience is and how good you are getting your guests to leave positive reviews.
An Increasing Number of People Travel Alone
According to the Visa Global Travel Intentions study, 37% of travelers went on their trip solo in 2015, compared to 16% in 2013. What’s interesting is that many of these solo travelers are not single – they are either married or in a committed relationship.
An independent hotel that is able to cater to the needs of a solo traveler, whether they are traveling alone because of work or not, will certainly stand out from the crowd. Again, chain hotels do not have the ability to adapt their services as quickly as an independent hotel, which could easily attract solo travelers by going the extra mile for them.
Mobile Bookings Are On the Rise
An increasing number of guests are using their mobile devices to make a booking, and, according to Carlson Wagonlit Travel, it is expected that 25% of all online bookings will be performed using a mobile device by 2017. Furthermore, approximately 40% of leisure travelers and 36% of business travelers use their mobiles to book their hotel stays.
So, is your booking system mobile friendly? Don’t worry about creating a specialized app because Google says that travelers tend to use their mobile browser rather than an app to book. But is your site mobile friendly? Because if it’s not, you are missing out on a lot of business. If a traveler can’t book through their mobile device, they’re likely to turn to their second choice of hotel, if said property allows them to make a mobile booking.
Guests’ Expectations Have Changed
If three decades ago, a hotel could get away with treating a guest as just a walking wallet, with little care for their experience, nowadays, this approach would be fatal for the hotel. Before, guests could only really complain to their friends, family and acquaintances, which was a relatively small circle for most people. Now? Well, now, even the smallest mistake on a hotel’s part will get posted all over the Internet and be seen by the entire world. That might be a bit of an exaggeration, but if someone is researching your hotel, they will find the poor reviews.
Luckily, independent hotels are better able to manage guests’ changing expectations and offer a personalized experience that guests will be more than delighted by. And that doesn’t mean mistakes won’t be made, because we are all human, but an independent hotel has the flexibility to not only fix the problem right away but go the extra mile to make it up to the guest. More often than not, the way you deal with mistakes will have a greater impact on the guest than their entire experience with your hotel. Chain hotels, on the other hand, don’t have this flexibility, and going off script requires approval from everyone and their mother, which means independent hotels have a massive advantage.
Guests Spend a Lot of Time on Social Media
We’ve already established that people do almost everything online, and socializing is also something people are doing more and more online. This is a great forum for you to attract guests, but you have to do it right. You first have to offer value and only then ask for something in return. And, of course, remember the social aspect of social media. Be social, be engaging, think of your guests and give them what they want, and then you will be able to ask for something in return, like a booking.
A lot of travelers rely on the internet to do their research (62% according to Google Research), which means that you need to be online. If you aren’t you are missing out on a lot of business. But you also have to adapt for mobile, and one of the most effective ways to do this is to use cloud-based technology. Cloud-based systems are highly adaptable, meaning they can be used for everything from social media to review sites. Furthermore, they are mobile-friendly, and since the technology is constantly updated, cloud-based systems are the future.
"Staying Up to Speed with the Dynamic Needs of Today's Travelers",