Five Fresh Hospitality Reads for the Week

This week, as many begin to focus on budget planning and creating strategic plans, I'm reading more about how the hospitality industry continues to evolve in the social media era. Here are five fresh hospitality reads:

The Future of Travel: Eight Things You Need to Know | Marketing Magazine
Great piece on the critical importance of innovation in the hospitality industry.

STUDY: 44% of Luxury Guests Choose Hotels through Word of Mouth
You know it. I know it. And yet… it continues to be overlooked. For all that you are doing through sales, marketing and PR, the most critical component of hospitality remains guest service.

How Luxury Hotels Mine Social Data in the name of Comfort
Great reminder that (a) there is so much information available online about each of us and (b) some hoteliers are using that public data about their guests. I think there's a lesson in this piece about the importance of balancing hospitality/privacy.

Airlines testing new ways to Board Planes
All aboard (faster!) Also… 100 times YES!

How TripAdvisor wants to own the Travel Cycle
TripAdvisor has evolved from a review site to an efficient booking engine. Now the TripAdvisor teams wants to be the provider of choice for local area information and concierge service. I will be interested to see if crowdsourced hospitality data can ever truly scale.

Another clear indicator of how important it is to know your audience and to continue to refine your message to each guest.

For more hospitality trendspotting, follow me on Twitter.

The One Problem that Costs Hotels the Most Customers

If you consider the number of problems that can befall hotel customers during a stay, it can be a bit overwhelming.

Angry Hotel CustomersBroken remote controls. Plumbing problems. Noise from adjoining guestrooms. Incorrect orders from room service. Room key issues. HVAC issues. Kids running in the halls. Not enough chairs at the pool. Slow service in restaurants. Incorrect room type at check-in.

And the list goes on and on.

Studies show that product problems account for nearly sixty percent of all guest complaints.

But there is one problem – over and above all others – that causes not only dissatisfaction, but a complete break in a hotel customer's trust.

What could negatively impact hotel customer loyalty so greatly? According to data-analysis firm Market Metrix, staff-related problems in hotels can lead to a whopping 26.2% drop in guest loyalty Click to Tweet.

Service problems, on the other hand, make up a much smaller portion of reported problems, but have a much more dramatic impact on guest loyalty. Just look at staff-related problems in the table below. They are only 4.7% of reported problems. But staff problems punch way above their weight causing loyalty to plummet by over 26 points when they do occur.

On the other hand, the nearly 60% of hotel customer complaints COMBINED only account for a 12% drop in hotel customer loyalty.

This study begs the question: With such a large number of guest product complaints, how much time is your hotel spending to fix staff problems?

Television remotes can be replaced, but a disengaged hotel customer may be lost forever.

 

3 Great Sales & Customer Service Reads for the Week

Here are three short, compelling reads regarding customer service and sales. I found each of these very poignant for guest service and hotel sales in our industry:

For more customer service and hospitality sales insights, please follow me on Twitter: @mrkevindonahue.

New Study Shows Hotel Reviews Drive Rate & RevPar

A new study from the Cornell School of Hotel Administration details that hotel reviews posted on social travel websites, such as TripAdvisor and Travelocity, positively impact a guest's willingness to book reservations at a premium rate for a reviewed hotel.

"The Impact of Social Media on Lodging Performance," by Chris K. Anderson found that the number of reviews as well as the willingness of consumers to assign credibility to hotel reviews has increased over time. Anderson also found that a 1-point increase on Travelocity's review scale – such as increasing a hotel's review from 3.3 stars to 4.3 stars – drives an 11.2 percent premium in a hotel's rate, while still maintaining occupancy and market share.

Given these results, it's increasingly clear that hoteliers must dedicate resources to monitoring their social reputation, actively review online hotel reviews and invest further in guest experiences on-property to create engaged guests. (Read more on who writes hotel reviews)

Beyond Travelocity, Anderson determined through regression analysis that a 1-percent gain in a hotel's social media reputation is worth 0.89% in average rate lift and a 1.42 percent increase in RevPar. Click to Tweet

The full social media impact study is available online from the Cornell School of Hotel Administration.

Insights: Why Multigenerational Travel is THE Emerging Trend

A recent presentation by Peter Yesawich, vice chairman of MMGY Global, highlighted a number of trends and insights for the hospitality market in the near term. While there was definitely a lot of beneficial information presented, one key insight may emerge as the number on trend in hospitality: multigenerational travel.

"Multigenerational travel" or "mutligen travel" most commonly refers to grandparents traveling with grandchildren, but can reflect any number of generations traveling together.

According to MMGY Global, more than 20% of travelers are grandparents. Of those, 40% have taken a trip with a grandchild during the past year. And eight out of 10 times that a grandchild comes along, so does a parent.

As you can see, the market is already well developed. As more affluent baby-boomers retire and begin traveling alongside children and grandchildren, this market will will just continue to mature (pardon the pun!)

Several elements are key to capturing this target market, but most important among them is a well-developed recreation program that meets the needs of these guests collectively. Broadly inclusive cooking classes, walking tours, and lower-impact activities that can be enjoyed by all age groups are key.

For the hospitality market, multigenerational travel represents one of the few demographics that shows extensive growth potential domestically. Beyond just welcoming family guests, multigen represents a new gateway for luxury hoteliers. Traveling alongside affluent parents and grandparents, economically stretched GenX and GenY consumers are discovering brands that can serve them for decades to come as their affluence grows, making this a significant play for the luxury market.

Who writes hotel reviews?

Travelers today are innundated with resources to assist in planning trips. Among the tools are first-hand "unbiased" published on the major booking sites, including TripAdvisor, Booking.com, Expedia and others. 

But, have you ever wondered, "Who writes these reviews, anyway?"

Olery, a reputation management company, has taken a stab at answering that question and the answers are pretty interesting. 

Generally speaking, Olery found that hotels receive about 300+ reviews per year on average and that 46% of travelers post hotel reviews. Reviewer demographics skew slightly towards female guests, with a plurality of reviews being written by 35-49 year-old guests.

Interestingly, guests on vacation and leisure travel – those who are spending their own money – write the majority of hotel reviews. 

 

The hidden opportunity behind "low hotel occupancy" in China

As hotel companies continue the unprecedented rush to develop properties in China, new analysis shows that the hotel occupancy rate in China to be among the lowest in Asia.

“Hotels in some markets of China are clearly oversupplied in the next three to five years, and they won’t be generating good returns,” said Nigel Summers, Hong Kong-based director at Horwath Asia Pacific, which tracks the hospitality industry. “China has had a very strong demand. The question is whether the increase in demand is going to be big enough to handle all the new hotels.”

Sixty-one percent occupancy is not a strong indicator, however it is must be taken in context. 

According to USA Today, China had 14,100 recognized hotels (those with at least one-star rating) in 2008, nearly double the 7,400 recognized hotels in 2001. By the end of 2012, the number of recognized hotels in China is expected to top 18,000. 

Given the rapid supply expansion and downward economic indicators, it's quite remarkable that the country was able to maintain its 61% occupancy rate so far in 2011 – flat to the previous year.

And therein lies the hidden opportunity behind the "low" hotel occupancy numbers in China.

Hoteliers were able to expand supply at a pace roughly equal to the increase in demand. In other words, expansion in China has done nothing to dilute the market. To the contrary, international brands are reporting 23% growth in RevPAR, with continued upward pressure on both occupancy and rate.

Despite the shock value of "low occupancy" headlining the Bloomberg News report, this RevPAR growth speaks volumes to the hidden opportunity presented by both international and domestic travel in China and why so many are bullish on China. 

 

 

 

 

The Unparalleled Importance of a Crisis Management Plan

As the stories of the Casa Monica Hotel firing an employee for wearing a US flag pin began to break this weekend, I was struck by just how unprepared the hotel and Kessler Collection were for the public relations firestorm which erupted in response to the media coverage. 

(DISCLOSURE: I once worked in Sales & Marketing for the Kessler Collection and, as I said on Twitter this weekend, it was troubling to see former colleagues in such a position.) 

Instead of arguing the merits of uniform policy versus patriotism versus two-year history of wearing the pin, it's important for hoteliers (and businesses in general) to take note of how this incident escalated from a policy decision to an immeasurable public relations incident.

Buoyed by (literally) tens of thousands of tweets, facebook posts, and hotel reviews through social media channels, the story grew from a local Jacksonville story on Thursday into a top five feature on nearly every broadcast and cable news channel in just two days time.

As this groundswell grew against the Casa Monica Hotel's decision, the Kessler Collection was notably silent on the issue. Neither the hotel nor the company responded to requests for comment by the local and national media. Neither the company nor the hotel made any posts to their official websites or social media pages to address the questions. In fact, the only tangible response the company seemed to undertake was to attempt to delete a number of strongly worded posts and comments from the hotel's Facebook page.

The Casa Monica Hotel finds itself at the center of a textbook public relations crisis – albeit one that it should have reasonably anticipated and managed – that threatens to damage its brand. The lack of preparedness and response beg the question: Does the hotel or company have a crisis management plan? 

Crisis management is not and never should be an extemporaneous endeavor. It involves forethought, resources, planning and practice. There are thousands of books, blogs, degree programs, etc to pull from but to briefly summarize, there are three active stages in a crisis – all of which need management:

  1. Before all hell breaks loose
  2. All hell breaks loose
  3. After the crisis

Before all hell breaks loose is the "simple" phase, although it is the one that requires the most work. The "voice" of the company must to be defined. Rules around when different members of the organization will be made available to the media must be written. Responses to reasonably anticipated situations (accidents, acts of God, etc) should be drafted. The channels by which the responses will be routed should be tested. And – most importantly – the entire act of responding to a crisis must be simulated and practiced by the entire organization. 

Once all hell breaks loose, which is where the Casa Monica currently finds itself, the work investing in stage one will begin to bear fruit. The most critical elements are the seemingly contradictory goals of speed and calm. Timely statements and media responses must be effectively managed to turn (and eventually tame) the crisis. 

After the crisis, there are two parallel, urgent paths – reputation management and response review. The company must review the root cause of the crisis and how it was responded to by the public relations team. Efforts must be undertaken to repair the brand's image both internally and externally. 

 

For those of us who are not involved in the Casa Monica / Flag Pin debate, it's important that use this opportunity to learn the unparalleled importance of having an effective crisis management plan. The inability to deliver timely statements and respond to requests for comment can do immeasurable harm to your business.

We will all have crises to face. The key is to remember the old Boy Scout motto: "Be Prepared."

 

 

Guests for Life: It's how you make them feel

The one fundamental truth in providing a luxury travel experience is best summarized by Dr. Maya Angelou's famous quote:

"People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."

In creating guests for life, our overarching mission must be to ensure that guests have an experience that captures their emotions and stays with them long after they have checked-out.

In the end, it's how you make them feel. 

 

The State of the Chinese Luxury Market

Affinity China has unveiled some amazing statistics in a recent study of the Chinese luxury consumer that point to not just the growth of the luxury sector in China, but also the global reach of the affluent Chinese. 

Among them:

  • The average age of the Chinese luxury consumer is 20 years younger than consumers in the US or Japan
  • In 2010 there were over 1 million millionaires in China, up from just 300,000 just four years before
  • In 2010, Chinese travelers made 57 million trips abroad. That number is expected to be 100 million by 2015
  • More than 50% of the luxury goods purchased by Chinese are bought while they are traveling overseas
  • On average, Chinese travelers spend $7,000 each when traveling

There are more fascinating factoids contained in this short video overview of the Chinese market. 

 

 

For more on Chinese luxury travel market, including how to target and host this growing demographic at your hotel, please read my previous post "Travel Trends for Chinese Millionaires".