Loyalty has “turned upside down” with hotels now having to gain the allegiance of customers rather than guests needing to commit to one brand to be rewarded.
So says SiteMinder, which believes technology has given hoteliers the means to do that by personalising experiences by tailor-making a guest’s stay.
Speaking at Travel Technology Europe, the channel manager’s vice president, sales, EMEA, James Bishop said he envisaged a future where technology helps hotels to free up staff for more human interaction, when guests want it.
Digital profiles of customers could also alert staff when guests prefer to be left to their own devices, he added.
“It’s ironic how loyalty programmes have become so topical in an age where customers aren’t really loyal to one brand,” said Bishop.
“It’s turned upside down. Customers used to have to show loyalty to hotels to be rewarded, now hotels must show loyalty to guests to gain their repeat business.”
He said customers are more likely to show their loyalty to a brand by posting on a review site or social media than booking the same brand again.
Feedback is often gleaned via third parties such as OTAs or review sites like TripAdvisor, Bishop said, but urged hotels to push to gather that data directly for better insights.
He also said a rise in travel agents and aggregators has meant brand loyalty for hotels has decreased.
In order to gain the loyalty from customers, he urged hotels not to fear new technologies, and to stay ahead of the curve by providing guests with access to the gadgets starting to emerge in homes.
He used voice recognition as an example and predicted many hotels will have such technology in rooms within five or ten years as they seek to emulate the rise in the software in everyday life.
“Consumers today demand more choice and personalisation,” he said. “And the technology to do that is readily available.”
Bishop also suggested virtual photo frames to give guests a taste of home while staying at hotels, or personalised playlists using programmes like Spotify could help with guest retention.
Artificial intelligence, he added, could be used to gather insights on what sort of personalisation customers want and this could be done during the booking process and in previous visits.
“Hotels need to offer more than what’s at home as well as what you expect to get at home. If you look back four or five years ago internet access was something you’d look for at a hotel, now it feels like a human right.
“I can see the same thing happening with voice technology, everyone will have and expect a digital butler.
“In the booking process, we have lost some of that human interaction,” he added. “But it’s going to go full circle with technology. It will help bring back that human interaction.”