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By Alan E. Young

A savvy hotelier knows that the difference between an engaged guest and a disengaged guest could mean the difference between meeting the bottom line and not.

Engaged guests feel loyalty to their hotel based on some sort of emotional connection. There are plenty of easy and cheap ways to create this connection, and doing so might mean a difference of $185 per customer per stay.

According to a recent study by Gallup, guests spent $457 on average per stay at their most frequently visited hotel over the course of 12 months, while engaged guests spent $588 per stay on average. Meanwhile, actively disengaged guests spent $403 per stay on average.

This means guest engagement could be an indicator of business growth. Yet, Gallup reports that a mere 22% of hotel customers on average are engaged with their most frequented hotel — meaning there’s ample opportunity for hotels to improve their guest engagement.

Investing in guest engagement will provide a return in the form of an increase in top line revenues.

Luckily, potential areas for investment are easy and affordable and hoteliers can get a jump on them instantly. Namely, social media and email/SMS notifications provide outlets for guest engagement at relatively little cost to the hotel.

Guest engagement starts before the customer even books their stay. Forbes reports that 23% of leisure travellers around the globe turn to social media to plan their hotel accommodations, with the majority turning to Facebook for guidance.

Optimizing search results and ensuring social media links are easy for customers to find is the first step; creating engaging and welcoming social media pages is the next. Both will help draw customers in, especially if the social media pages are enticing enough to secure a new “like” or follower.  However, it shouldn’t end there.

Once the guest is connected, it’s important to continue to build the relationship. Hoteliers can use social media pages to engage customers in conversation, launch surveys and contests, and promote campaigns.

Conversation, surveys, and contests can help hoteliers gain insight and information from their customers that can later be used for individually-tailored marketing, while campaigns can help hoteliers to target and better engage segments of their customer base that may be disengaged.

Hoteliers should also take advantage of more personalized communication, such as through email and SMS messages. As soon as a guest checks in, a personalized welcome email with information about the local area and events of interest will make a guest feel welcome.

Moreover, using information collected from customers, either through surveys, communication, or even something said to the concierge by the customer at checkout, hotels can better serve a customer during their stay. If a customer notes that they prefer rooms on the top floor for the view, for example, booking them a top-floor room in the future will build loyalty and satisfaction for the hotel.

Hoteliers can continue engaging guests after their stay with email and SMS messages relevant to the customers’ interests. If a particular customer is known to travel with family, sending family-oriented deals may lead to a more engaged, and therefore profitable, guest.

Guests who are engaged with their hotel will spend more, but more importantly, will care more about their hotel of choice. In the long run, engaged guests are the best guests if a hotel hopes for growth.

About Alan E. Young

Alan E. Young is the President of Puzzle Partner Ltd. and Co-founder of Next Big Thing Travel & Hospitality (nbtworld.com). Previously, Alan has held executive level positions with startup companies such as Newtrade Technologies, (acquired by Expedia), Hotel Booking Solutions (acquired by IBS Software) and TrustYou. Alan is past Chair of The Board of Directors of The OpenTravel Alliance, and been very involved with other industry associations most notably AHLA, HEDNA and HTNG. With over two decades of experience in the travel and hospitality technology world, Alan specializes in helping innovative companies achieve winning performance and dramatic growth.

Contact: Alan E. Young

alan@puzzlepartner.ca

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