default logo

Why the future of hotel booking is experiential (and how you can cash in)

Once upon a time, upscale and luxury hotels were designed exclusively to provide guests with a beautiful place to stay while visiting a destination or on a business trip. Booking the stay usually boiled down to four simple considerations: the quality of the product and the location of the room, the amenities available to guests, the level of service presented by the staff and, most importantly, the price compared to the competetion.

Fast forward to today, and you’d think the booking game no longer follows the same laws of economics. How come if Hotel A offers the same level of product, service and amenities for a lower price than Hotel B, the reservation is still not guaranteed? The answer is that we are no longer in the business of selling rooms, we are in the business of selling experiences.

The point is that Hotel B could make the customer feel something Hotel A does not do. Today’s affluent traveler – for leisure or business – already expects hotels at a certain price point to offer a unique offering of products, services or amenities. What sets a hotel apart is the experience it can deliver on top of that product. In fact, Skift’s “US Experiential Travel Trends 2018” report found that 65% of avid travelers would rather return from a trip having experienced something new, rather than feeling rested and recharged. Additionally, 69% would rather spend more on better activities, than spend more on a nicer hotel room.

For us marketers working with hotels, here are three key ways to embrace the experiential element of hotel booking and, in a modern way, always put your head in the beds.

1. Use content marketing to put experiences at the forefront of your brand.

When you think of brands closely tied to unique experiences, companies like Red Bull, Disney, American Express, Airbnb or BMW will probably come to mind. Indeed, these brands have invested heavily in content marketing campaigns designed to showcase the experience their product provides, not just the specs.

By associating their brands with exciting experiences, hotels can do the same and stand out to consumers looking for accommodations. Incentivize user-generated content to organically promote the experiences guests enjoy at your hotels. Invest in engaging video content that inspires the imagination as guests plan their stay. Write personalized and timely editorial content that social influencers share with thousands of impressionable online consumers.

However you see experiential content best embodying your brand, be sure to integrate it into every step of the customer journey – from initial planning to booking to in-person stay. You will reap the rewards not just today, but again and again when that same customer becomes loyal to your experience.

2. Rethink your special offers.

When virtually every hotel in the world offers the same packages (think 15% off, $50 food credit, or “stay 3, get 4” deals), your specials aren’t so special anymore. The bottom line is that this is an outdated marketing technique designed to sell rooms but not experiences.

For modern hoteliers and marketers, creating packages offers a great opportunity to get creative around experiential merchandising. If you run a hotel on the beach, don’t just sell yoga on the beach as a separate add-on; build a whole package around this that builds the experience into the room rate (and continues the experience with related wellness offerings and nutritional food options). If you are marketing a hotel in a ski resort, create a family package that includes equipment rental, private lessons and an après-ski offer at the hotel. Or, if you have a fine-dining restaurant on property, treat foodies to a culinary package featuring private menu tastings, exclusive wine experiences, and/or expert cooking classes.

Once these unique packages are created, use your CRM to target segmented consumers with offers that match their personal interests and travel goals. It shouldn’t take long before you’re generating significantly higher ancillary revenue and, by extension, selling more rooms.

3. Prioritize experiential selling in your booking process.

When selling packages and activities within your booking engine, there is a fine line between annoying customers with unwanted offers and enhancing your product with custom add-ons. For one thing, you don’t want to force customers to wade through an entire page of the booking process dedicated to experiential offers they aren’t interested in. But you certainly don’t want to completely eliminate the experiential part.

In addition to selling the authentic special offers described above, the solution I recommend is to integrate your dynamic packaging (i.e. add-on experiential offers) as a passive shopping cart feature in the last page of your booking engine, much like Amazon’s “recommended”. for you”. This means that customers can easily add certain experiences to their stay by simply clicking on “Add to cart” and not having to refuse other offers that do not interest them.

This way, you’re not compromising your conversion rate with direct promotions, but you’re still delivering value to customers who are making purchasing decisions based on their lifestyle and aspirational offers.

If there’s one thing I hope you can take away from this article, it’s that experience is the new differentiator between hotels of a similar size. Think of it as your own independent loyalty program. If you focus your marketing programs on the experience and personalize that experience to each customer’s individual needs and wants, you could well achieve the holy grail of modern marketing: retaining customers who consistently choose your brand over the competition. , although it is more expensive. .