It’s a buzzword of our time, digitalization. And it seems like every company out there has to embrace it as part of their culture to stay on track and have a smooth sail into the future. But what does it actually mean to embrace digitalization in hospitality, or more specifically, in hotels? In hospitality, the digital world and the personal touch are often seen as two opposites. Luckily, one doesn’t have to exclude the other – in fact, they can go hand in hand.
“They may forget what you said, but they’ll never forget how you made them feel”.
I love this quote by Carol Buchner, which makes a lot of sense in the hospitality industry. The foundation of hospitality in itself is made up of feelings – it’s the personal touch that makes all the difference. So when we turn our attention towards digitalization in hotels, aren’t we ruining the concept of hospitality? Aren’t we excluding the genuine, softer values? My quickest answer: of course not.
It’s a general misconception that one has to exclude the other. In fact, I believe the best hotel experience one can offer a modern-day traveler includes a bit of both; the warmth of the personal touch and the comfort of the digital tools. The hotel industry is known to be lacking slightly behind when it comes to embracing these new tools and ways of thinking. It’s easier to implement tech in a fashion or lifestyle company than it is in a hotel, or so it seems. The best thing a hotel can do to meet its future guests, though, is to advance in their marketing efforts and follow technologies and digital tools that’ll simplify the lives of their guests. After all, hotels will welcome more and more of the so-called ‘digital natives’; not only as guests, but also as future employees.
When I talk to the hospitality professionals in my network, it’s clear that there’s a certain level of confusion and lack of understanding when it comes to all these new apps and technologies seeing the light of day. And who can blame them?! It can definitely be overwhelming! Managers deal with questions such as; “which tool(s) should I use for my hotel in order to gain more visibility and bookings?” and “will my guests even want to open an app when checking in?” To answer these things, they obviously need to know their clientele quite well, but also take future guests into consideration. And by future guests, I mean Generation Z.
In case you’re still not sure, Generation Z constitutes those born after 1995. They’re now slowly starting to show their social and economic influence, and many call them ‘the first digital natives of our time’. If you’re a hotelier or in any way responsible for driving a hotel safely into the future, you’d better pay notice to the more than 70 million members of this generation. Last year, the hotel chain Marriott began adapting their strategies to the travelers of tomorrow – and so can you. How? By embracing digitalization.
As you can see from the illustration below, the guest experience can be divided into three categories:
Pre stay – stay – post stay
In this post, I won’t go into details with all categories, but mainly focus on the actual stay and how a hotel, in my opinion, can optimize in order to drive more satisfied guests and bookings. First off; provide value and information from arrival to departure.
Modern-day travelers expect things to be easy, accessible and entertaining. In my e-book “11 marketing ideas for your hotel” I talk a lot about the importance of creating tailor-made information and content for guests, as they’ll simply go get it elsewhere if not from you. This could be easily accessible travel guides on your hotel’s website, an online tour of your rooms and hotel facilities prior to arrival or tailor-made emails prior to a stay. It could also be tools to help the guests experience the local environment through a local’s eyes. Although I’m sure some travelers wouldn’t mind downloading an app in connection to their stay, I still believe it’s risky to count on this, at least as a single-handed effort to meet digital needs, as many still don’t want to be bothered with downloading apps to get information.
The less a guest has to search for information prior to (or during a) stay, the better.
And speaking of that, I recently came across a digital tool called DigitalGuest – a Danish platform designed to meet the needs of modern-day (and future) hotel guests. The platform pretty much sums up everything I mention above; making information accessible, even before check-in. This comprises information about restaurant bookings, Wi-Fi (say goodbye to the never-ending search for WiFi and passwords!), opening hours, facilities, directions and more. A roadmap, you could call it, to a smooth hotel experience. It’s not an app and it doesn’t require downloading; a simple link will be send to the guest’s smartphone upon a hotel booking – and with that link, a beacon of information. And, may I add; it’s all wrapped in a delicate design, which also plays a vital role.
On another note, the hotel chain Accor is currently working on a new – and very interesting – concept called ‘Augmented Hospitality’, which is basically tailor-made services on a very high scale. But the point is this: it doesn’t matter if you’re a big hotel chain, like Accor, or a individual boutique hotel. Embracing digitalization and using it wisely to tailor-make your guest experiences is crucial for your hotel’s survival.
What’s your take on digitalization in hospitality? I’d love to hear your opinions below.