- 11th March 2019
- David Barton, Regional Business Development Director, Guestline
To thrive and grow, hotels need a distinctive customer proposition. Technology helps them develop and deliver something special and relevant for today’s guests.
There are thousands of hotel properties in the UK. Most of these businesses tick along year-to-year, generating varied results. The ones that grow and improve their profitability have something in common: they regularly invest in their product, ensuring it maintains a distinctive presence in the competitive marketplace. These are properties with personality: hotels that have focused on cultivating their character, and making sure guests (and prospective guests) understand what makes them different.
There’s no single template for a property with character. In our experience, hotels are unique in their own way. Some might focus on developing a signature customer experience that’s based on homeliness and traditional comforts. Some may want to offer a grand luxury experience; others, something that’s high-tech and even futuristic. Whatever their unique selling point (USP), properties with personality work hard to build and maintain their differentiation – even as the market changes - and they understand how technology can enable them to bring their vision to life.
Our independent hotel clients often have very individual personalities but each of them comes to us to help them use technology to underpin their differentiation. Here, I would like to analyse two properties to look at what they are doing to invest in their differentiation. In both cases, these properties have an eye on the future, and are thinking about how they can keep pace ahead of continually shifting consumer expectations, particularly in the ways guests use personal technology.
Modern luxury in a traditional setting
Swinton Park, North Yorkshire, is every inch the luxury country destination. The main hotel is based in a turreted castle, surrounded by beautiful parkland.
Traditionally, a property like Swinton Park would have gone to market as a luxury leisure break in a grand country house, but here the management are doing something more ambitious. They are broadening their offer to appeal to new generations of guests. The hotel is adding non-traditional accommodation – like yurts and glamping – and introducing refreshing outdoor alternatives like reindeer estate tours and falconry, as well as more traditional activities like spa visits and afternoon tea. Acknowledging the millennials’ love for social media, Swinton Park encourages guests to record and share their experiences on Instagram.
Technology has played an important role in enabling Swinton Park to modernise its luxury offer. A Property Management System (PMS) sits at the heart of hotel operations, automating and simplifying many of its daily tasks, which frees the staff from routine operational activities, allowing them to engage face-to-face with customers and encourage them to try new activities and get the most from their stay. Perhaps paradoxically, technology means the property can offer a “high contact” and enhanced human level experience. Likewise, their online booking platform is providing a simpler, easier and more intuitive booking experience for their guests, which will help drive direct conversions.
Empowering the tech-savvy guest
Another client, The Best Western Premier Mount Pleasant in Doncaster is an independent hotel that takes a slightly different approach. In many respects, the Mount Pleasant is a traditional luxury hotel with the high level of amenities and service that guests would expect. Here, technology plays a key background role, ensuring the smooth running of operations. Technology also helps the hotel streamline event management and expand its distribution network.
Intriguingly, management are also looking at how to foreground technology as part of the luxury guest experience. Specifically, they are very keen to let guests use their personal devices to control their experience. For example, they see their mobile phone or tablet as the perfect platform to communicate during the stay. The ability to order room service from your device is one feature that is attractive for guests who are used to using their phone as a remote control for their lives. Another idea that could appeal to this tech-savvy guest is to have their electronic room key sent to their phone in advance of check-in.
Both Swinton Park and the Mount Pleasant have asked how they can give their offer a distinctive personality that stands out from the crowd. These properties have taken different routes – but both have the same objective of creating a proposition that the guest can connect with. Both have been very smart in how they have invested in technology to achieve this.
To succeed, any business needs to be able to engage with its customers by developing a unique market presence. But it’s particularly important for independent hotels to forge a strong and recognisable character, and be ready to evolve this personality to keep pace with changing guest tastes. In a crowded hospitality marketplace, this is the key to retaining current guests and getting noticed by new ones.
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