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Customers Are Looking for an Experience, Not Just a Room

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June 01, 2012
Social Media & Marketing
Carol Verret - carol@carolverret.com

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Both leisure and corporate customers are looking for more than a hotel room. They are looking for value, not just how much they are paying, but in what they experience while on their trips. In a recent HotelNewsNow article, Peter Yesawich, chairman and CEO of Ypartnership, a marketing, advertising and public relations agency serving the travel, leisure, hospitality and entertainment industries wrote, “The overarching general trend is toward the pursuit of perceived value, based on individual tastes and preferences, rather than just rate."


Consumers are looking for experiences for themselves and their families, experiences that are attractive and focus on things of interest or something new.  “Consumers are craving authentic local experiences and an emotional connection, whether that be through food, art, fashion, events or people,” said  Jonathan Frolich, general manager of the Andaz 5th Avenue Hotel in New York. 
In a recent survey by USA Today on what customers look for in their social media interaction with hotels,  the top choice for 31 percent was, “…to obtain valuable, hard-to-get local information when talking to a Sheraton, Marriott, Hilton, Holiday Inn or other hotel social media account.  That could be a new hot bar, a restaurant considered a hidden gem or an event being held in the vicinity.”
Another telling statistic was that 26 percent of those surveyed wanted to see and share photos of the hotel, restaurant or pool.

It is a challenge to create the elusive guest experience to appeal to different kinds of customers whose visions of an experience can be divergent as well as different at different times. If, as Google estimates, a customer visits up to 22 different sites prior to making a travel decision, how is a hotel to convey those different experiences to the right customer at the right time?

The Renaissance® Hotels brand has taken on this challenge with a new ad campaign. One campaign will be targeted to leisure and the other to business travelers, each campaign portraying different experiences. While the business traveler was primarily interested in free Wi-Fi and breakfast, the Renaissance is betting that they want an experience as well. 

According to Renaissance’s Vice President of Marketing Dan Vinh, the hotel aims to offer a unique experience, “targeting travelers who are looking for more than a place to be productive or get work done. They are stimulated by their environment.” (NewYorkTimes, 4/19/12)   

The hotel concierge is a good start but a concierge typically goes beyond that to make reservations for dinner and other activities. Renaissance has initiated a program called Navigators, employees that are designated to provide local information to guests. The local information will be posted on Renaissance’s Facebook page and Twitter beginning May 3. This is a program that should not be difficult for all hotels as all hotel employees can be briefed on local events and cool places to eat.  The information can also be posted on the hotels’ Facebook page and other social media outlets. 

The question then becomes, if you are an independent or boutique hotel or resort, how do you market that experiential piece to your customers, assuming you don’t have a budget like the Renaissance?  At least part of the answer lies in social media which is a great equalizer between large and small.

Facebook.  Timeline offers many opportunities to not only post pictures but to include links to events or restaurants and bars. While some hotels don’t approve of posting anything but links or mentions of their own F&B outlets, this is shortsighted. Most hoteliers would like to think that they capture guests to their restaurant. In all likelihood, if the guest uses the dining room for dinner or afternoon lunch, it is doing well. Let them know about other options, such as what is there to do at night or on the weekends or local events in the area.

Links to an event page give the guest an opportunity to log on and see if the event fits the dates of his visit. Link exchanges with local art galleries, concert venues and other local attractions enhance the page as their posts will appear on the hotel’s Facebook page. Links to restaurants, coffee shops and bars will also attract the customer. Invite them to post coupons on your site for a value-added experience. Those coupons can be right next to any offers for the subject hotel’s restaurant or bar for a value-added experience. Ensure that you have a booking widget on the page so the customer can make a reservation without going to another site.

Pinterest. Pinterest is an optimal platform for creating an experience. As Pinterest users are predominately female and females normally gather information and pick destinations for summer travel, it is a great medium to stimulate Website traffic. 

What you pin on Pinterest should support and enhance your brand. Pinterest is all about envisioning an experience and that dovetails nicely with the emphasis of creating guest experiences. It also is purely visual, which eliminates the marketers’ adjectives in copy that the customer has long since stopped believing. Pinterest creates a sense of place and helps site visitors visualize experiences they may have at the hotel.

Make sure that your page has interesting pictures.  Include photos of experiences in your destination and don’t forget the kids. If you have a great kids offering or unique kids menu, take a picture and pin it. Pin a picture of a special appetizer or drink to promote happy hour. Serve a spectacular burger? Pin it.

Offering experiential options on your Website and social media sites allows a guest to tailor his or her own experience.  It creates value for the property not based on price alone. The key is to figure out what experiences various customer types are looking for and ensuring that you provide access to elements of that experience where the potential customer can locate them. 

Carol Verret and Associates Consulting and Training offers services in the areas of sales, revenue management and customer service. She can be reached at (303) 618-4065 or by e-mail at carol@carolverret.com.

©2012 Hospitality Upgrade
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