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Digitalzation in the Hotel Industry - Opportunity or Risk?

There is no way around digitalization in hotels. But which measures are really useful for guest recruitment and on-site support and which hype turns out to be a blind shot? A look at trends and counter-trends helps to keep your feet on the ground.

First of all: the terms 'hotel industry' and 'guests' are known to describe an extremely heterogeneous conglomeration of accommodation providers and customers. From a simple campsite to an exclusive five-star hotel, from families on vacation to business travellers, the range of offers and types of guests is so wide that, of course, the demands on digital services also vary considerably. So what basic considerations help to identify digital opportunities?

BASIC PILLARS OF GUEST-ORIENTED PRODUCT DEFINITION

Long before the use of digital technologies is considered, a critical view of one's own offer is appropriate. Because if a product is not good, it can't be marketed, no matter how much digital power is used. The value of an offer is initially based on completely non-digital parameters, such as quality of infrastructure (rooms, restaurant, wellness area, etc.), orientation to the defined target group (child care, family or senior-friendly equipment, local services, etc.), recognizable added value (for example, inclusive services), price-performance ratio (theme packages) and flexibility in guest care are the cornerstones that make guests feel comfortable and enjoy coming back.

FOCUS ON CORE BUSINESS AND UNIQUE SELLING PROPOSITIONS

A hotelier who defines his products also defines his core business. The focus on being a very good host must never be lost. Commitment, the continual improvement of your own "hardware and software", genuine interest in guests and cordial friendliness cannot be replaced by digital services. The core business must be correct and coherent – everything else is gimmicks that only inspire when the basics are right. The development of unique selling points (e.g. location far away from the road or directly at the ski lift, all-weather indoor sports facilities, and so on) also belongs to the core business category. For the question of "Why should I spend my holidays with you?", the hotelier needs convincing answers. Otherwise, guests will get their answers from the competitor.

RECOMMENDATION AS BOOKING ENGINE

Anyone who is enthusiastic about a hotel is happy to pass it onto others. Not only among friends and acquaintances, but also on evaluation platforms on the Internet. The analysis of ratings on TripAdvisor & co has shown clearly that recommendations are even the most important moment for holiday bookings today. The maintenance of hotel presentations on evaluation platforms therefore has the highest priority – and there is no doubt whatsoever about that. It's not only about appealing photos and constantly keeping the content current, but also about communication with customers who have left reviews. Each review is a real (and free!) gift that provides confirmation or incentive for improvement. Furthermore, an evaluation is an invitation to communication that a hotelier should definitely use.

NOW YOU CAN ASSESS DIGITAL ADDED VALUE

It's quite clear that a modern website and presence on evaluation platforms is now part of the very basics of the hotel industry. But what about digital long hitters and trends that come and go? Do you really need your own, expensive hotel app, which hardly anyone downloads or uses? And whether in the future a robot will do the check-in, doors will be able opened via smartphone or Alexa as a permanently installed roommate will raise the level of enthusiasm among the guests depends very much – see above – on the product definition and the target group.

The question of the usefulness of Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms also arises when advertising a company. Those who only run token social media by posting a bad picture or banalities every three months can probably just leave it. Another classic: Your own blog, which is no longer maintained after the initial enthusiasm subsides and time is lacking. Before making use of the digital bag of tricks, one should also be sure that the selected tools are really used and support the operational goals.

DIGITAL IN TREND OR ON THE CONTRARY

However, if a hotelier can be sustainably enthusiastic about digital topics, the probability that he will be successful with digital offers is significantly higher. The offer and the target group can develop an exciting interplay of curiosity and attraction. The virtual reality glasses for holiday videos, the cute robot in the lobby and the smartphone app for controlling light, music and temperature in the hotel room will then arouse genuine enthusiasm and bring more guests into the house for whom trendy digital offers are real booking arguments. But there are also convincing arguments for the countertrend. Guests looking to escape the digital hustle and bustle and the permanent demands to which they are exposed in everyday life will be more than happy to accept WLAN and mobile phone free zones, or may even hand in their smartphone for the duration of their holiday right at the check-in desk.

SUMMARY: ORIENTATION IN THE DIGITAL JUNGLE

After weighing up of all considerations, it can be said that digitization in the hotel industry offers some really outstanding opportunities with a low level of risk. If you do your homework properly, you can play with additional digital offers and position yourself accordingly. However, there is immediate need to chase after every digital hype. My recommendations in a nutshell:

  • Concentration on the core business of "hosting"
  • Develop target group-oriented products
  • Commitment to cultivating guest communication
  • Identifying and presenting USPs
  • Not recklessly following every trend
  • Finding the digital tools that fit your offer
  • Being aware of the effects of advertising & guest enthusiasm
  • Positioning in digital trends or countertrends
  • Basics such as WiFi must work (free of charge)

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Stephan Kalinka Managing Partner

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5020 Salzburg
T: +43 (0)662 84925980-15
Email: s.kalinka@tourismusmarketing.com