By Clio O’Gara, Country Manager Ireland at Guestline
Hospitality was one of the hardest hit industries during the pandemic with hoteliers deep in their business whilst supporting their staff to adapt to the ever-changing needs of their guests. Whilst the next 12 months look set to be more positive, the continued need to attract new bookings, to meet consumer needs, and to better understand the shift in the guest mix and evolving attitudes, will take priority as hoteliers re-imagine their business post Covid.
As Irish hoteliers look forward to a historic busy season ahead, technology will play a major role in delivering a sustainable approach to profitability. The increased willingness of guests to adopt a more self-service approach to the administration of a booking has crucially paved the way for hoteliers to be able to safely operate their business against the backdrop of continued restrictions. In addition, it has enabled many hoteliers to take a more sustainable approach to staffing by offering greater flexibility and remote access.
Here Clio O’Gara, Country Manager Ireland at Guestline, discusses the trends that will be paving the way for hotel technology in 2022 and why it’s never been a better time to own the relationship with your guests.
The Value of Direct Business – The Relationship
Now, more than ever, hoteliers appreciate the value of direct business. Whilst there are enormous savings to be had on commission payments, there are other great benefits to the acquisition of a guest, to retaining that guest and to making that guest a lifetime friend of their establishment. The pandemic anxiety has brought a shift in how guests’ book, they want the reassurance of where they are spending their money. With the new Google Hotel Ads and Google free booking links, which presents brand.com links and pricing alongside an OTA listing, guests will be directed to a hotel site easier than ever before. Even if Google were to start charging more for the brand.com ad placements, offering direct guests a cheaper rate than on an OTA, it might for many hoteliers, deliver more bookings and more revenue. Additionally, strategies like offering a 9% cheaper rate if a guest chooses to pre-pay, or 5% reduction if seeking a flexible rate, could still be less than an OTA commission rate.
Prior to Covid, guests may have taken the easy route and used OTA sites to process their booking, now, they are much more comfortable with online purchasing, and they are more accustomed to managing the booking processes. Technology in this space allows for the hotelier to capitalise on this direct relationship with the guest, with new online registration products, like Gueststay, hoteliers can create a relationship with a guest before arrival, during a guests stay and post stay. It has the potential for guest to change their interaction with the hotel and for hoteliers the opportunity to really expand their direct markets.
The question is, how will the OTA’s respond?
Greater Ownership of End-to-End Guest Management
Throughout the pandemic one of the keys to success for many hoteliers has been the agility to respond to a swiftly changing market. In the first instance to the demands for social distancing, and then as they grew more ofay with restrictions, the benefit in the adoption of online tools in the evolution of the guest experience, with a shift towards greater digitisation of the end-to-end guest journey. The secret? Make the journey seamless. If guests have to change to different apps and systems throughout their journey, then it can hold less appeal as they learn to navigate through different platforms. By having maybe one system or at least fewer not only improves the administrative journey but it can also pay dividends in terms of the in-property experience. For example, with staff shortages, queues can quickly build up at reception. Online check-in helps reduce the risk of queues building up and also enables staff to focus on actually delivering an enhanced service to guests. Unquestionably Covid-19 has increased the rate of adoption of online hotel technology by guests and their willingness to use them actively throughout the guest journey. It is now a given as guests have come to accept and expect self-service and self-administration of a booking to speed up the more time-consuming aspects. Moving into 2022 this adoption and implementation of a more digitised guest journey looks set to increase even further as the guest consciously shops for environmentally friendly hotels and hoteliers become more aware of their hotel’s ‘green’ policy now being driven more sustainability with cloud based products and services and less paper.
Pre-payments Set to Drive Market Share
Every hotelier we have spoken to in the last few months understands the payment landscape and they really want to remove any frustrations to their operations. Guests purchasing behaviour shifted dramatically over the last two years with guests now happy to prepay for their stay in advance. With our GuestPay solution, clients can make an e-commerce payment from their own device and prepay for their stay or pay a deposit, allowing for improved customer care and ease of check in.
For the hotel, it’s all the more worthwhile to have all their payments in one portal allowing for quick balancing, fund security and better credit card rates. Hoteliers using a pre-payment structure can then bias the price and incentivise guests to use a pre-pay. Whilst hoteliers might have to take a hit on the price in the short term, in the long term the value that a pre-paid guest offers is arguably worth it. Not least because of the protection that pre-payments and ecommerce offer hoteliers against no-shows and chargebacks which pose less of a risk when initiated by the cardholder (guest). In this way the digitisation of the guest journey and technology available can shape a hotelier’s commercial decision around pricing strategy for example, rather than drive it.