For hotels, 2020 felt like a seemingly endless year. Aside from declining room stays and a big hit to hoteliers' bottom lines, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the entire hospitality experience that customers have come to expect. In the new year, the resumption of operations then becomes an opportunity to rethink strategy and identify upcoming trends. In particular, the increase in long-term travelers is a trend that has shaped many facets of today's hospitality industry. With the ability to work remotely and the desire for new and engaging environments, a promising return on investment can be seen when focusing on long-term guests.
In this article, we share best practices hoteliers can use to drive hotel offerings to meet changing customer expectations and encourage new bookings among long-term travelers.
Keep comfort in mind
For many long-term guests, your hotel becomes a second home. The level of comfort and security they feel will be reflected in their satisfaction levels.
Keep comfort and the "stay at home" experience in mind when strategizing the reopening of your hotel. Consider open spaces with comfortable furnishings, appropriate lighting, personal touches in guest rooms and more. A cozy atmosphere not only creates a warm invitation for long-term guests, but consistent comfort and a friendly ambiance encourage length of stay.
Attentive and available staff
Employees play a prominent role in your guests' overall satisfaction – after all, they interact with your hotel guests every day.
If you are reopening with increased capacity, make sure you have enough staff to effectively handle the number of guest requests. Your staff should be enthusiastic about coming to work, available on multiple communication channels and equipped with the knowledge to answer guests' questions.
Long-term guests travel from abroad in most cases. Therefore, it is important that employees acclimate seamlessly to their new environment. Be proactive and have your staff offer information such as z. The nearest bus stop, proximity to grocery stores, parking, remote work options and more.
Also, be prepared to answer questions on a variety of channels. WhatsApp, for example, is the largest messaging app in the world and is preferred by the majority of international travelers. Having staff available on WhatsApp can make it easier to connect, whether on or off property.
Offer a functional experience
It is obvious that the needs of a short stay guest are quite different from those of a long stay guest. While a short-term guest might prefer a swimming pool or excursion tips, long-term guests will look for more practical features in their accommodation. Functional features such as a kitchenette in the room, a desk to work at, parking, pet-friendly accommodations and ample electrical outlets should be considered.
In addition to general characteristics, consider the average guest and the things they would be looking for. For example, if students make up the majority of your long-term travelers, offer accessible Wi-Fi . If your long-term guests consist of workers, offer free coffee in the morning or accessible outlets throughout the building. It's important to remember that while long-term travelers are nice to have the latest and greatest, long-term travelers prefer simple qualities that make the experience functional for their daily lives.
Customer-focused and long-term advocacy
Ultimately, running a successful hotel requires a customer-centric mindset.
Get to know the customer and understand the preferences that may affect or detract from the experience.
Especially at the height of COVID-19, it is critical to be more aware of policies and make changes to certain hotel policies. For example, a recent study reported that "working travelers, including remote workers, expressed strong preferences for what they want, [including] flexible cancellation options, the ability to extend their stay, and offering flexible 24-hour /7 check-in".
While we highlight flexible policies as a primary consideration, your individual lodging will also have more specific guest preferences. To find out what you should offer or change, talk to guests regularly, ask for feedback and send surveys to understand specific needs. When you understand the guest, you can focus on the features that enhance the experience, such as. Day passes to a nearby coworking space for working professionals, discounted bus passes for students, free childcare for families, and discounts on excursions.
Providing co-working accommodations
Since the majority of long-term travelers are the result of flexible work environments, the implementation of co-working spaces or shared lounges should be looked at critically. This can be as simple as remodeling existing rooms in your hotel with desks or as complex as renovating an entire space.
In addition, gestures like offering comfortable desks with power outlets, swiveling TV monitors, rentable office space, free pens and paper stacks, printing services and more can make all the difference in guest satisfaction.
Customer conscious amenities
Even before the pandemic, amenities always played a critical role in hotel selection and guest satisfaction. For both short-stay and long-term guests, it's important to gain a full understanding of what customers are looking for and what can influence their bookings.
An obvious but very important amenity includes a strong WiFi connection. According to eHotelier, "Wi-Fi is one of the main factors in choosing a property". Most long-term travelers work from their room or meet with family and friends frequently, so it's important that your Wi-Fi supports video calls.
Health and wellness continues to be a growing trend in the present and post-COVID era. Consider elevating your gym and making sure it's maintained. Encourage usage with free passes, a coupon for a smoothie at a local store, or classes that keep customers engaged.
Last but not least, free breakfast and parking have always been top amenities to influence a guest booking. However, you can still go the extra mile. Ask your guests what breakfast dishes they prefer, and alternate between preferences. Offer visitor parking for friends and colleagues or share popular restaurants and cafes nearby. Adding a personal touch improves satisfaction and increases the likelihood of repeat visits.
COVID-19 has undoubtedly shaped the world of hospitality as we know it. Change customer preferences, provoke more effective operations and promote more modern and health-friendly technologies.
And as more people seek a change of scenery, the desire for more long-term accommodations will persist. Catering to this cohort then becomes an essential part of driving new bookings and increasing profits.
As you navigate the movements of the post-pandemic world, remember to consider the customer experience. Re-evaluating and changing hotel strategies are part of the process, helping you evolve for a more sustainable future.