With hotel occupancy rebounding from the lows of the recession and room rates increasing, hotels across the country are ramping up their emphasis on personalized services to get customers to come back in the future.
“The loyal, engaged guest is driving large amounts of revenue,” said Casey Ueberroth, senior vice president for marketing at Preferred Hotel Group. “If you take care of that guest, he keeps coming back.”
Hotels are trying to win over the repeat customer who stays at the same hotel chain 15 to 20 times a year. “That’s family,” he said. As a result, he said, hotels now must “do more, more, more to engage those travelers.”
A Deloitte survey released in January showed that only 8 percent of respondents said they always stayed at the same brand of hotel. “People want to get things that are important to them,” said Adam F. Weissenberg, vice chairman for the hospitality and leisure practice at Deloitte.
Business travelers are the target customers for hotels because they are on the road up to 50 percent of the time and they can keep the rooms full. They typically pay more because their dates are not flexible. “It is about capturing that guest who is going to be loyal to your hotel,” said Scott D. Berman, a principal at the accounting and consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers. “Hotels are expanding loyalty programs and expanding product offerings to satisfy what the most loyal guests want.”
Even with the growth of social media sites like Facebook and Instagram, hoteliers realize they need to use technology without losing focus on the personal interactions and amenities needed to attract travelers.
“It’s a very competitive landscape,” said Paige Francis, vice president for global marketing at Aloft Hotels, which is owned by Starwood Hotels and Resorts. “There are a lot of options for travelers to choose from.”
In the past, hotels would compete “on some of the basics – a great bed, free WiFi, a great shower,” she said. Now they are competing on amenities and services that are far beyond the basics – live music from emerging artists, interior design, personalized service based on knowing the individual guest.
“In a hotel, you’re only as good as your last guest,” Said Tawny Paperd, director of sales and marketing for Hotel 1000 in Seattle.
To win repeat customers, hotels aim to create environments that will substitute for family, or home for business travelers. “We create social engagement: taking care of people one-on-one,” said Eric Jellson, area director for sales and marketing at Kimpton Hotels/Epic Hotel in Florida. “We believe that there is still room for that personal engagement and personal relationships.”
For example, he said: “When you are not feeling good, someone sends up some soup. They may be missing their family so the hotel becomes their family.”