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Provide surprise and delight in the hotel booking journey

Time is a precious commodity – whether you are on the company clock or wanting to relax and enjoy ‘me’ time.

No-one wants to spend more effort than necessary on finding that perfect holiday or conference hotel with  a scrumptious buffet line – in an ideal world the process would be flipped and the suggestions for perfect accommodation would be presented to customers before they had barely begun to search.

The customer journey for travel is complex, especially for hotels, where emotion plays a big role alongside ticking off important factors including location, price and amenities. Customers used to check an estimated 22 sites for accommodation to see if they were getting a good deal but the rise of aggregators is reducing this number.

If travellers can spare themselves a huge internet trawl, why wouldn’t they? Half of respondents in a Tripadvisor study agreed that hotel price-comparison sites save time and help find the right price for their chosen hotel.

However, the customer journey has become complex in another way, as travellers jump between screens for research and purchase – 94% of leisure travellers switch between devices as they plan or book a trip[1]. This presents a technical challenge as customers want to be recognized each time they re-engage with a TMC or agent without the need to repeat the authentication process.

When they begin thinking about a trip, travellers are very open to the choice of hotel; 82% of leisure travellers have no preconceived accommodation provider at the start of their research[2]. By the time they are about to book travellers will probably have settled on the brand and location or will be searching with the narrow criteria [brand name] + [criteria].

The majority of bookings still take place on desktop but there is growing confidence in using mobile, with 31% of leisure travellers and 53% of business travellers saying they have booked via smartphone. IHG reports that during the past year mobile accounted for more than 50% of its traffic[3].

The use of smartphones is also leading to more last-minute bookings – 85% of non-branded hotel searches on smartphone using Google include ‘today’ or ‘tonight’.

What does this all mean for the agent? By now, being optimised for mobile should be a no-brainer given that many business travellers, especially millennials, will be using their own devices to book. Once optimised, TMCs can then use data management technology to provide inspiring information to travellers relevant to the different stages in their planning and researching. For example, if a traveller has booked a room with a sea view previously, it’s likely to be an important personal preference and this data should be surfaced.

Availability of rich media content, such as hotel or resort videos or photos, will be important in making effective recommendations.

A TMC will differentiate itself by making the research and booking process a great experience and help the customer find the best choice. By doing this, a TMC earns the right to be involved in the traveller’s trip right across the value chain. As we know, travellers become customers of many stakeholders during a trip, from the airport to the taxi to the hotel – but there is no reason a TMC cannot play a larger and more valuable role in the end to end experience with the right strategic technology partner.

Click here to find out more about the content hotel travellers are looking for.

[1] How Micro-Moments Are Reshaping the Travel Customer Journey: Google July 2016

[2] https://think.storage.googleapis.com/docs/micro-moments-reshaping-travel-customer-journey-b.pdf

[3] https://www.tnooz.com/article/ihg-results-earnings-2016/