The combination of Covid, new technology, and changing booking options at the travellers’ fingertips is changing the guest journey from linear to scattered. This creates both challenges and opportunities for hotels, so let’s look at what these developments mean for your hotel and how you can benefit from them.
Moving from a linear to a scattered guest journey
In the past, most hospitality marketers looked at the guest journey as a linear chain of events. It had become widely accepted that travellers would go through the following five stages chronologically:
- Dreaming: getting the first idea for a trip
- Research and planning: gathering information and creating an itinerary
- Booking: reserving everything on said itinerary
- Experiencing: travelling to the destination, staying at the hotel, experiencing the surroundings
- Sharing: posting reviews, sharing content on social media or telling others about the trip
In The Visitor Cycle, a report by The Digital Tourism Think Tank, Michela Gusso and Nick Hall offer a new idea. They suggest that today, the guest journey has gone from linear to scattered. This theory suggests that guests go back and forth between dreaming, planning/research, booking and sharing before their stay and even while they’re at the destination.
Two major shifts in the digital tourism landscape are at the core of this development:
- Travellers are more connected, empowered and tech-savvy than ever. They gather their own inspiration and do their own research instead of relying solely on the recommendations of a single travel agent or guidebook.
- Hoteliers have access to powerful new technology and resources that allow them to effectively tackle these changes. Hotels can both take advantage of these developments and spur them on by using cutting-edge hotel tech, tapping into new marketing strategies and broadening their offering.
The rise of travel micro-movements
Think with Google originally coined the phrase ‘travel micro-moments’. It describes the time “when people turn to a device with intent to answer an immediate need” or a question related to a trip. These micro-moments shape preferences and ultimately affect the travel decision-making process.
According to Think with Google, there are four different types of these travel micro-moments:
- I-want-to-get-away moments: people are imagining their trip and exploring without set plans.
- Time-to-make-a-plan moments: the traveller is looking for the right dates, flight, accommodation and fun experiences.
- Let's-book-it-moments: the traveller is satisfied with their research and ready to book.
- Can't-wait-to-explore moments: the traveller is ready to enjoy their trip and share it with others.
As you can see, the micro-moments still reflect the original guest journey. But since they’re moments rather than phases, they can happen independently from one another, several times and in various orders.
How could this scattered journey look? Here’s an example:
You’ve had the idea of travelling to Greece for a while. Something you see on social media or TV inspires you to finally do it. You research to find out more about the top sights and best itineraries. Now you start seeing targeted ads whenever you surf. This gives you some new ideas to look into during future research. Finally, you book a flight. After more research, you outline your itinerary and book hotels. Time to share on social media that you’re finally going to take this amazing trip!
As you research activities, you keep finding new things to add to your trip before the date. Perhaps it’s service add-ons for your hotel stay or a fun local experience. Once you arrive, you post photos from paradise and tell all your friends about the great time you’re having. Soon after, you learn about a local cooking school that teaches traditional recipes and you go for a class. When it’s time to come home again, you put up one more social post and get ready to tell everyone about your fabulous holiday.
This idea of one trip consisting of many micro-moments goes along with Gusso and Hall’s Visitor Cycle report which states that up to 400 different touchpoints can be needed before someone makes a travel decision.
While this may sound overwhelming at first, it’s actually a great opportunity for your property.
How to adapt to the scattered guest journey at your hotel
According to the linear model, travellers get inspired, do research and then book. Hotels which work with this model only target people in the inspiration and research phase, then do nothing during the pre-arrival phase. Their thoughts are likely: “The guest already booked a room. There’s nothing else to say to them right now.” Unfortunately, you leave a lot of money and brownie points on the table with this approach.
A Cornell University study by Kumar, Killingsworth and Gilovich recently found that “waiting for an experience tends to be more pleasurable and exciting than waiting to receive a material good.” Apply that finding to the pre-arrival phase and you’ll understand that this is a time of active anticipation for your guests. Combine that with the idea of a scattered guest journey and it’s obvious that this is an extremely valuable time for your hotel. Having more touchpoints during this phase will further build your guests’ excitement and allow you to create more travel micro-moments.
You’ll get the best results here when you think beyond your guest’s room booking and start looking more at experiences, add-on services and value-adds.
One way to do that is by leveraging the latest in hotel tech in the following areas:
- Direct guest communication: Add a live chat to your website for guests going through research and booking moments. Implement direct messaging via WhatsApp, Messenger, etc. for guests who have booked or are in-house. This gives you the chance to answer all questions promptly, get to know your guest and share targeted information about your property, services and things to do in the area. There are plenty of integrations on Mews Marketplace.
- Pre-arrival and in-stay upselling: Guests are excited for their trip and want to make the most of it (especially now). Allow them to customize it with add-on services, upsells and cross-sells. This has several benefits for you. First, your guests enjoy their stay more because they get exactly what they want. Second, you drive ancillary revenue in departments other than rooms and boost your average guest spend. Finally, you can get creative with your offers and find ways to repurpose some of your inventory, services or lesser-used hotel facilities. Pre-arrival emails are a great way to boost upselling.
- Post-stay follow-up: Thank guests for their stay and invite them back. This already plants the seed for the inspiration phase for the next trip. Follow up with a targeted offer ahead of their birthday or other special occasions you know about (e.g. an anniversary). Always remember to ask for reviews as well. They’re a gold mine when it comes to learning where you can do better and inspiring others during their travel micro-moments.
While all these tech tools are immensely helpful in making the most of the scattered guest journey, they only work so well on their own. So, before you get started looking for and implementing new apps and platforms at your hotel, get a PMS that supports them all, so you get the maximum out of your systems without having to do additional grunt work.
A well-integrated set of tech solutions also has a big benefit for travellers. It makes their scattered guest journey smoother and much more enjoyable. And if you can be the one that takes some of the stress and hassle out of planning and booking a trip, you’ll likely be rewarded with more reservations and guests itching to come stay with you. Sounds like a win-win, right?
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