Let travelers “choose their adventure,” and be amazed at the stories they tell
If you ever enjoyed reading the Choose Your Own Adventure series of books, or played one of the many role-playing games on computers and consoles, then you know how much fun it can be to follow a character through exciting new places and guide him or her on an amazing quest.
Of course, not all those adventure stories have happy endings. Sometimes our hero ends up trapped in a dungeon, eaten by a grue, or something similarly nasty. Thank goodness, that's not how it has to be for travelers.
Forward-thinking brands are giving customers the tools and the power to customize their digital experiences and make the hotel shopping experience their own. When Sabre Hospitality Solutions teamed up with PSFK Labs to produce our new report, Future of Hotel Booking, one of the things we learned was that giving travelers control over the shopping experience builds trust and excitement, and drives more bookings.
Travel shopping site Peek, for instance, lets customers start with a choice of what city to visit, then offers an array of different scenarios. Click "What to Do at Night" in Washington, D.C. and you'll find dinner cruises, chauffeured city tours and private photography lesson packages. Switch cities to Las Vegas, and now you'll find sightseeing tours and shows on the Vegas Strip. Meanwhile, Virgin Hotels' Lucy app changes the game by providing a virtual travel partner who acts as a virtual guide from reservations to recommendations on what to see, where to eat and more. Lucy also allows guests to order room service, book amenities and even control the room's temperature from a mobile device.
Such digital interfaces make it possible to learn what your guests want, then offer them made-to-order experiences that speak to dreams, desires and life events. Brands such as Preferred Hotels & Resorts make experience-based booking a key part of the digital experience. Guests can choose categories such as Spa Stays and Family Travel, or select a special experience from ranges such as Celebrations, for weddings and showers, or the more individualized Retreat, billed as "a perfect personal escape that is close by, but a world away."
Customizing the hotel shopping journey means customizing the user experience – giving customers opportunities to share their preferences and opt in to receive news and promotions. The more hoteliers know about how customers travel and what interests them, the better the chance to match experiences to desires. Perhaps a mother traveling with daughters would be interested in The Benjamin's American Girl Place pajama sleepover package? A couple looking for a trip in the Great Outdoors might love the Viceroy Snowmass Mountain Summer hiking and cycling activities. From families vacationing together to friends bonding over golf or a girls' night out, these special experiences and "micro-moments" create lasting memories and opportunities to make these diverse travelers into lifelong guests of your hotel brand.
The key is to find organic ways of better understanding your customers, gathering actionable data that will feed algorithmic recommendations. Offering travelers tailored discounts and recommendations for destinations they might not have thought of are good ways to start. For hoteliers with loyalty programs, a dedicated tab populated with perks and discounts for the customer builds those long-term relationships.
But the key to long-term success is being able to understand the traveler types who are looking for the kind of experience you can provide – from the skyline of New York to the Las Vegas Strip, or anywhere else on the globe. The more you understand how your offerings appeal to customers, the better you'll be able to delight them, and the more revenue you're bound to see from upsells, packages and amenities.
Those fantasy role-playing games and adventure stories are favorites because they let people imagine an amazing world, full of excitement and discovery. The more opportunities you give your customers to discover new and exciting destinations, the more likely they'll be to keep coming back for new adventures in the future.
Along with best-in-class digital interfaces and apps, hotel customers expect instant service and a wide variety of options for making the travel shopping experience fun and easy. Click here to download your free copy of Sabre's Future of Hotel Booking report and learn about more ways to action on your data to offer the best guest experience.
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