In the ever-changing landscape of luxury hospitality, a new year brings a rush of new trends – particularly in the way that guests are booking travel.
Booking in 2018 is set up to be more dynamic and user-friendly than ever before, from the continued growth of mobile to reservations made within Facebook Messenger. (Yes, in the same way that you can order a Lyft without exiting the group chat, you can now confirm your hotel stay with a few simple words.)
Here are our top booking trends to watch in 2018:
The Rise of Voice Bookings
Laptops and smartphones have had voice capabilities for years, but only recently has voice search really surged in popularity, strengthened by the widespread use of devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home. Simple and hands-free, the technology allows users to both search for and reserve hotels – all without touching a keypad.
Last July, Kayak became the first online travel player to let guests book hotels through Amazon Echo, and today reservations through voice search are only becoming more mainstream. To keep up with the new conversational nature of voice search, luxury hotels need to rethink their SEO strategies (think: focusing more on long-tail keywords) to rank well.
From initial research to reservation to on-property experiences, today’s travelers have high expectations for mobile-friendly travel. While in the past, smartphones were used more for gathering information than making payments, guests now want to use their devices for core functions and hotels are increasingly prioritizing mobile over desktop.
A more optimized experience has led to increases in mobile bookings both for hotels and travel companies with mobile apps, which saw 60% of bookings take place on mobile in the last three months of 2017 – up from 41% during the same period in 2016.
Loyal Guests Book Direct
In an effort to obtain more direct bookings, hotel brands like Marriott and Hilton are taking on OTAs by appealing to guest loyalty. (Among the many benefits of direct bookings for hotels is increased revenue, with OTAs typically charging a commission between 15 and 30%.) After launching direct-booking campaigns with incentives like loyalty points and discounted room rates, both groups had more consumers than ever before choose to book direct.
But enticing guests to book on your website isn’t just about discounts. By controlling the entire guest experience with a responsive website, perks like mobile check-in or room keys, and content that highlights on- and off-property experiences, hotels can attract even travelers that may not be frequent guests. In 2018, we expect to see more pushes for direct bookings from leaders in luxury travel.
With messenger apps surpassing social media apps in user time, chatbots offer an incredible opportunity to connect with guests. Often powered by artificial intelligence to understand various languages, the technology allows users to message your brand through platforms like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Slack, and WeChat.
Marriott’s AI-powered chatbots allow rewards members to research destinations, make reservations, and adjust existing reservations through Facebook Messenger and Slack, while brands like Aloft are going even further with chatbots like ChatBotlr for on-property room service and concierge requests. In a world where consumers want information as quickly as possible, chatbots (and voice search) are faster than a traditional online search or navigating a seemingly endless phone tree.
AZDS creates custom, integrated SynXis booking engines for a seamless user experience. If you would like to see a 47% lift in your conversion rate (without changing your CRS), contact Jeremy Laufer.