If asked just about six months ago, what would you imagine being your biggest challenge? Keeping up with new technology trends? Understanding guests expectations? Competing with the properties nearby? Or maybe surviving the crash of tour operators?
Boy, were we wrong! Just like in boxing - it's not the punch we see coming that knocks us down!
What about social distancing? Minimal human contact? And the urge to possibly transform the whole essence of the industry?
Little did we know, COVID19 will strike us straight into our core - forcibly tearing the roots of what has made us to be US for decades. Can something, which has been the essence of our business, be taken away? And can we preserve the “hospitality”, when everything that defines it, seems to be suggested to avoid?
I choose to believe, we can! With accepting this challenge of “the new world" and proving that hospitality is more than physical interactions. It has always been.
The big HOW?
So how do we provide tailored, individual experience that will leave guests feeling valued and unique, with so little or even no actual interaction? How do we create personal touch within a distance?
It might be time to go back to the basics. Understand that hospitality is about building connection and this can be done without standing in front of the guest.
Think communication big time! From your own website, sales channels or review sites to social media & direct communication - communicate with the guests, answer their questions, reply to their feedback and engage personally where possible. That is your chance not only to inform the guests and market yourself, but also manage their expectations and provide that human touch. It is still astonishing how little hotels (and other hospitality businesses) are fully present online, exploring all the possibilities it provides. Use internet, especially social media channels, to build connection with guests, which will be a great base for the second point -
the role change. If until now it was enough to be a hotel - an accommodation experience provider or a place to eat & meet - now you will need to act as an educator, inspirator & even - a friend. Just because you are not able to entertain the guests in the old way during the stay; host face to face meetings for helping them with holiday itinerary or provide regular services they are used to, does not mean you should not do it at all! Now you just need to focus on growing your community, engaging and building relationship with guests in advance. Again - social media is a great tool to do so. Show them behind the scenes, use your property’s facilities and staff skills to teach them things, help them decide on what to do when visiting and engage in a dialog. Become an influencer for your own tribe and let them feel there is more about you that the place to stay. So that when they finally decide to come - they don’t need you psychically to be “at home” - they already have everything they need to have an experience to remember.
Personal attention. We might be leaving in-room service orders outside the door now & handing things from the distance, but that doesn’t mean we should leave guests on their own. Personal welcome and follow ups during the stay need to be done just like before. This however, could take a new - virtual - form. Need to minimise in-room items, such as paper welcome cards, for hygiene reasons? No problem! You can always welcome the guests via the video call! Texting, voice messages and video meetings can ensure your guests get the attention they need. So either using a simple phone (just keep GDPR in mind!), other solutions implemented in the rooms or hotel mobile applications - explore the technology offering and ensure staff is confident in using it. Because being on the other end of the line is only impersonal when done poorly.
Individual needs. And just like in every distance relationship, the love and understanding define how well they last. Yes, demonstrating the care and making guests feel special will be more important than ever! That’s where, for example, the importance of wowing reaches new levels. Actively listen to the guests, research and get to know their dreams and preferences. Then use that information for giving them something they can remember. Find the way to compensate for the feeling of warmth and connection, that your guests are used to get from the charming Maria or that funny George!
Is that possible? Of course it is! Will that require change and preparation? Yes it will.
Training your staff, adapting processes, changing ways of working and employing your creativity.
But then, just like this, the feeling of hospitality might be somewhat different, but no worse or less magical!