As a travel agent and also a small business owner, you must remain abreast of hotel trends.
And what’s at the top of that list? Keeping up with the ever-changing habits of American travelers.
Staying on top of market trends sounds straightforward, but it’s rarely linear. The continuously shifting preferences of consumers change the shape of the industry in what seems like nanoseconds.
Consider this example.
Thirty or so years ago, Costa Rica was an agricultural nation whose primary industry was agriculture. The tiny country relied on exports of bananas and coffee to sustain the government. In the mid-1990s, they tapped into the then-new concept of eco-tourism. Today, it’s a hot spot destination that attracts a worldwide audience.
Those travel agents who tapped into this trend have carved out a niche in eco-tourism, leaving behind those who failed to capture that opportunity.
Knowledge is power, as they say, and especially so in the travel sector. Here are some of the trends that you should know about current trends across the hotel industry.
Hotel Loyalty Programs Aren’t What They Are Cracked Up to Be
First of all, let’s talk briefly about hotel loyalty programs. Despite the hotel industry’s belief that their programs keep their guests coming back for more, a study by Oracle in 2018 suggests otherwise.
Here is the truth.
Of the study participants, fewer people than the hotels would like to admit care about loyalty programs.
Probably much to the chagrin of hotel marketing departments, a little less than half 46 percent of American consumers sign up to relevant loyalty programs. Worse yet, approximately 30 percent of travelers don’t opt into any hotel loyalty rewards.
Customer Service Trumps All
When it comes time to book travel, customer service trumps all other considerations for Americans.
Customer feedback provided by Google suggests that earning the “loyalty” to customers of today is more than racking up some points or getting a discount off of a hotel stay. Indeed, it encompasses everything from how they are treated at the property to the physical amenities.
Understanding this, it underscores the need for you to deliver them the experiences they want when they travel.
In light of the most current marketing trends, like ChatBots and personalized email marketing, this next part comes as no surprise.
The Oracle study shares some eye-opening insights about customer preferences:
- 90% of participants enjoy it when hotel staff custom-tailor excursions based on their preferences.
- 87% of those who participated enjoy when a hotel offers a mobile app to help make their stay easier
- 86% of respondents don’t mind completing an online form to help the hotel (or travel agent) craft unique offerings for them.
- 65% are more inclined to take advantage of personalized offers based on their past bookings.
You’re a smart travel agent and a savvy business owner. You have been on-trend, creating those unique experiences for years. None of this probably surprises you. However, it does reinforce that you have been doing a great job with your clientele.
The Technology Wish List
What’s somewhat surprising on the Oracle survey is the clamor of the respondents for hotels to offer new technologies.
They aren’t talking about the standard WiFi in the room. That’s a given. Take a look at the technology wish list that Americans would love to see in their hotels:
- 88% wish for a mobile app that allows them to check-in and out without standing in the queue at the front desk.
- 87% would love to have Virtual Reality tours of a property or rooms on the booking sites.
- 83% would prefer hotel loyalty programs to reward them with experiences based on their social media preferences
- 77% would like to have wearable technology to enable them to unlock doors,
- 73% wish for voice technology, such as Siri or Alexa, to assist them with in-room climate control, lighting, and ordering food.
What Does This Mean to You, the Travel Agent?
So, that’s a lot of data. But what does it mean to you?
Let’s take these hotel insights and apply them to travel, in general. The same consumers who are booking hotels with you are also booking flights and excursions, so it’s not a giant leap.
Your travel agency clients want value!
While they demand value, they don’t necessarily care if they earn points in exchange for that perceived value. In fact, they assign their loyalty based on how well they are treated by staff and how easily they can book a room over rewards offers.
So how can you give them the value they crave?
As a small business owner, it is solely up to you to ensure that you are meeting their needs long before they pack up their suitcase.
Offer them the customer service they deserve by offering bookings on your website. And, be sure that your web pages load quickly, you respond to all inquiries, and you provide a safe and secure payment form. All of this is so they can conduct business at the time that’s most convenient for them.
Share your personalized recommendations
You are a travel expert. The guru. The go-to guy or gal.
Use your experience and your knowledge of your customers to craft a travel package that exceeds their every expectation.
You may be wondering how you can do that from an internet lead.
Remember the statistic that stated how 86 percent of travelers today don’t mind sharing their preferences before they book travel?
Ask them! Send out a business travel survey form that will help you tailor their dream vacation. Once you arm yourself with their feedback, you will be equipped to identify how you can give them the vacation of their dreams.
And, you now also know that they love recommendations for excursions so that you can add on some additional revenue to your pitch.
The Bottom Line
American travelers are spending their travel dollars on customer service and experiences now instead of trying to rack up points that they’ll forget to redeem.
Take advantage of the current trends. Don’t be afraid to ask your users to complete the online forms that can help you grab your share of the market and give your clients the trips they have always coveted.
You will book more business when you are up on the hotel trends, and you’ll win back repeat business. And that’s the formula to longevity in the travel industry.