Travel in the 21st century is constantly evolving. Gone are the days when people took one big holiday a year, planning their travel months in advance and loyally staying at one preferred hotel of choice.
The future (of travel) is now
New technologies are disrupting the market, and the increasing variety and volume of accommodation on offer means that hotels need to do much more to differentiate themselves.
Next-generation travelers demand flexibility, personalisation, and new experiences. To secure brand loyalty, hotels need to go beyond the usual hotel-level perks such as early check-in or complimentary night’s stay.
Making loyalty members feel like royalty
Hotel brands will begin to go beyond by creating experiences in a number of ways, such as offering guests access to prestigious events in their hometown.
To do this, hotels will enter into strategic partnership with complementary brands and co-host events. Their key elite guests will enjoy the ambiance and socialise with their fellow members – creating memories, adding value to their loyalty, and strengthening their bond with the brand.
Digital but still H2H (human to human)
To have real appeal to the next-generation traveler, hotels need to use technology to improve both the travel experience and communication with their customers.
Customers still crave personal interaction, even if these interactions no longer take place face to face. This trend will become more pervasive in 2016 as hotels make better use of digital communication channels to reassure customers that their opinions are heard and valued.
Your holiday, your points, your way
Personalisation will become very important as hotels discard the one size fits all approach and begin to offer flexibility and customisation.
There will be more points-sharing schemes offering flexibility for guests to transfer and receive points among family and friends.
Another trend is what we like to call glocalisation. While guests want the comforts of home, they also want an authentic experience that truly reflects the region they are visiting. It applies to global hotel rewards schemes too, which need to be tailored to suit local preferences.
The new rules: Elevating engagement and experiences
At Marriott International, I’m constantly seeking ways to ensure our Members enjoy the full benefits of our products and services – on their terms.
For example, we offered elite members the opportunity to attend The Economist’s World in 2016 gala dinner in Hong Kong and exclusive access to NBA games in Shanghai and Shenzhen.
We are also augmenting our engagement tactics so Members can chat directly with hotel staff from 48 hours ahead of their stay to 24 hours after check-out.
It’s clear that the changing nature of travel is driving the evolution of the hotel industry, particularly in terms of capturing and retaining customer loyalty. The exciting news is that the industry is swiftly responding and will continue to be a leader in the changing landscape of customer loyalty.
The writer is Anka Twum-Baah, VP customer loyalty & content of Asia Pacific at Marriott International.