The easing of restrictions has brought with it the strong return of hotel industry events. In the first quarter of 2022, there have already been some amazing events, such as #CoCoBe, Die 101-Future-Hospitality-Days and the Independent Hotel Show Amsterdam, to name only a few. Throughout these events, our team have been keeping an eye on the expert insights shared during the programmes that cover the latest trends on sustainability, optimisation of your direct channel, memberships and brand loyalty. Here are three of the key topics that we’ve seen discussed throughout these events:
1. Building a sustainable business strategy
Nowadays, sustainability is more than ever viewed as one of the key pillars to a successful business. Similarly, guests’ awareness of the environmental impact of their trips and stays is at an all-time high. This means that hotels find ways to accommodate these needs not only to fulfil demand from guests but ultimately a strong sustainable strategy to help them create a stronger foundation for the future.
How to build a sustainability strategy for your hotel
The key is to shape a philosophy that is realistic and driven by investors, owners, staff and guests. Sustainability is not just a project but change management instead. A forever strategy that requires new ways of doing things. ESG, a system for measuring the sustainability of an organization in 3 specific categories: environmental, social and governance, can be helpful here.
A benefit, and pitfall at the same time, is that a sustainable brand is considered hip by the general public. A humble way of communicating standpoints is advised and so is creative thinking. The towels on the floor rule by itself will not suffice; here are some excellent ideas that were shared:
- Have your own garden to grow fresh fruit and vegetables
- Consider hiring staff with a disability
- Collaborate with local suppliers
- Work with bar vouchers for guests that wish not to have their room cleaned
- Include sustainability scores and ratings in guest review systems
2. Taking back control of the guest journey
A noticeable shift in the mindset of the hotel guest is happening whereby the guest is more conscious about who benefits from their booking. Since the start of the pandemic guests feel more sympathy for hotels and realize they would rather not pay commission to help the hotel.
An interesting take on the classic search journey for a hotel is that essentially every brand and every experience is exactly the same on an OTA website. You see the same range of pictures, descriptions and highlights of particular elements in favour of the guest. The OTA becomes a google search; a vertical search engine for hotels.
Your own channel however is fundamentally different and unique. Your website can help you to tell the story that you want your guests to hear. This is where brand building comes in. The first moment a guest lands on your website is where you want to capture their interest and work on a WOW factor. By meeting the need of the traveller on the direct website, the first steps to loyalty can be put in place.
How to take back control of the guest journey
A practical tip shared during a panel at the Independent Hotel Show Amsterdam was to revisit the model of the billboard effect, the phenomenon where your hotel is seen on an OTA website by travellers and then visit and book via the direct website instead. Essentially as a hotelier, you want to extend your online presence and be anywhere, where your audience is to give them a chance to get to know your hotel. Then, over time the hotelier can take more control back by removing less relevant OTAs. This way you create visibility at first, and then test which partners are most relevant to be displayed.
There will always be the need to compare and OTA websites are an excellent platform to help with visibility. Think of languages for example; Booking.com supports over 40 languages and can reach a huge audience by doing so. As a hotelier, you cannot always use a website for all demand opportunities and have to find the things that matter most, by looking at your website from a guest's perspective.
How do the big players approach this?
Next to OTAs, Google is strengthening its position in the market and continues to improve. When looking at your own channel management you might spot some other players making steps up. For example, we notice Airbnb popping up more and more with a bigger focus on hotels. This cannot be unseen by new types of travellers such as eco-travellers, bleisure travellers and digital nomads. All these groups will look for unique opportunities to book for this niche targeting that might be a better fit for them.
There is a lot to learn from other industries. When looking at successful eCommerce businesses such as Zalando or Amazon there are multiple learnings that can also be applied to your direct hotel website. A 1-second delay in site speed equals a 16% decrease in customer satisfaction according to a study by the Aberdeen Group. Similarly, there’s an increased demand for video content and ‘per country’ payment solutions, such as Ideal in the Netherlands.
3. Creating a lifestyle brand
With speakers from Soho House Amsterdam, Sircle Collection and Hotel de l’Europe a step by step rollout was explained and how to implement a membership or loyalty model for your hotel. Generally speaking, these 3 elements need to be put in place:
- A product that provides value. The property needs to have certain elements that bring people together, over and over again. Think of a cinema, a gym, a rooftop bar, a winning restaurant—or all of the above.
- Member events using these areas. For these, listen to what is going on in society. If you notice a particular trend or emerging interest in a certain topic, use it to your advantage. This can be anything from a vegan cooking workshop to a lecturer about diversity in the workplace.
- Build a group of people first, without the product. In the case of Soho Hotel Amsterdam, they focus on a committee of representatives and these first joiners become the founding members of the community for that venue. In order to participate, these members need to provide events and members. This becomes organic growth over time while you as the hotelier or business owner uphold the product and consistently host events to continue to engage with your member base.
As mentioned earlier, the newer traveller types and trends among the local community come back with new ideas for bringing people together. We see hotels with a loyalty model that host well-being gyms and spas, co-working spaces for remote working and intimate get-togethers to boost community culture. With the pandemic and war, it pays off to add to the local community and provide the type of place where people would want to be and spend their time, like co-working now that flexible working has lifted off.
In the case of Soho House, they purposely choose to be exclusive and not make their venues and memberships available for everyone. This way it is easier for them to stick to their culture and ensure that this is carried out throughout their member base who activate this for you. Also understanding your members, their interests and ensuring to document these, are key elements for success. Having the ability to simply pull a list with employers, titles or hobbies will help to curate events - such as a panel evening for designers. Many of these learnings could be applied by hoteliers eager to implement a loyalty program.
Looking ahead to 2022
There are still many great events ahead of us yet in 2022, with plenty more amazing insights to learn from. To find out more about our trend predictions for 2022, read this blog here and stay tuned for more great insights from our team.