The Future of Customer Experience in Travel & Hospitality Tech
- Which types of travel and hospitality tech functionality guests are beginning to expect
- How travel and hospitality software can meet those demands and increase their M&A prospects
Saturation in the vacation rental space is driving property owners to utilize technology to meet increasingly sophisticated customer expectations and to differentiate themselves from competitors. Millennials and Gen Z, who grew up with smartphones and modern technology, are the biggest representation of that burgeoning buying power with digital expectations, and they travel more than their predecessors.
Since the introduction of Airbnb, how do hotels compete with lower-priced rental properties? For that matter, how does one Airbnb host compete with another? Hotels want to replicate some of that private home rental experience, including low-touch or no-contact check-in and access, a locals-only perspective about things to do, and unique personalization.
Other property managers want to stand out from their neighboring properties by adopting guest experience software that will attract travelers who are used to the seamless processes of Uber or Amazon, where nobody has to take out a credit card, and everything is available 24/7.
How can travel and hospitality software company owners leverage these trends to gain market share? Offer solutions to some of these customer demands, and you can capitalize on the sense of urgency that property owners already feel. Let’s take a closer look at some of the software capabilities that travelers and property managers want to adopt.
Contactless Check-in, Check-out, and Payment
According to a survey of 600 hoteliers and 5,000 consumers by Oracle Hospitality and Skift, contactless check-in, check-out, and payments are the top technologies popularized during the pandemic that travelers would like to see permanently adopted over the next three years. Over 34% of hoteliers have already invested in this technology, while another 26% have recently started.
Automation and self-service tech will help hotels with staffing shortages while streamlining the experience of arriving and departing for guests. It also frees up time for staff to give a more personal touch when needed to assist guests. Utilizing apps to make check-in and payment easy and mobile is a way to meet the customer where they’re at, right along with the rest of their digitized lives.
Localized Guest Recommendations
The brochure rack at a hotel is a relic that offers no personalization, assuming that everyone wants to do the most well-known things. Contrast that to a property owner leaving iPads with local restaurant and activity recommendations at their rental or digital guidebooks at hotels that link directly to attractions and reservations. Better yet, consider a solution which integrates curated local activities, attractions, tours, and destination guides with vacation property listings.
Allowing customers to book their activities at the same time as their accommodation makes the vacation planning easier and adds value to the property. If you’re a software solution offering these types of curated activities or area intelligence, then you’re in good company for high M&A valuations.
Another interesting area for software companies is to assist properties in personalizing beyond the segment level by offering guest experience software that builds guest profiles with CRM technology, middleware to integrate disparate data sources, or AI-based services. Customers are interested in this sort of personalization as long as they understand the technology and have the choice to opt-in.
Examples of hyper-personalization can span the range from delivering personalized marketing with relevant upsells like a spa or golf package, to knowing a customer’s flight and ground transportation schedule, and even things like dietary restrictions to recommend appropriate menu items or restaurants. It can extend to room personalization like temperature controls, access to personal streaming accounts, and virtual room keys on smartphones.
While the three trends above are probably most relevant to software founders in the travel and hospitality space, we’re just scratching the surface. There are many other ways to use technology to provide guests with smooth experiences, such as:
- Smart Self-Serve Meeting Rooms with easy-to-use media and conferencing
- VR or Augmented Reality for room or property tours
- Omnichannel Communication with guests including chatbots, Whatsapp, texting, or other messengers
- Smart Reserved Parking using sensors and apps so guests can have assigned parking on arrival
- Predictive Maintenance
The M&A Outlook
From a market perspective, capital continues to be raised and mergers and acquisitions are keeping pace in a rapidly maturing market. Key technologies are emerging and gaining market share in the hotel and vacation space, indicating which trends are currently in demand from customers and which software providers will likely continue gaining interest from potential buyers or investors.
In addition to the expectations listed above, some of these trends include:
- Platforms that offer a property management system, channel management, a booking engine, revenue and payment management, as well as guest engagement tools and digital marketing.
- Hospitality tech with front and back office operations, a marketplace of apps and integrations, business intelligence, connected guest experiences, and flexible payments from anywhere in a customer’s journey whether it’s front desk, at booking, at a kiosk, or during online checkout.
- Vacation rental software that offer property managers practical tools that let them sync their listings and calendars from multiple channels, automate communications, and manage payments and revenue sharing.
If you’re a founder with software that offers hotels and vacation rental owners a comprehensive suite of tools like the above, then you’re on the right track to meet urgent needs for a vertical that’s digitizing at breakneck speed. Even if it’s not an all-encompassing tool but something that can work in tandem with other systems to advance personalization, localize service, or match practical tasks to a customer’s preference for high, low, or no-contact, then your company should attract purchasers and investments.
To find out more about selling in a growth phase, read our article about this entrepreneurial dilemma.
This material and the opinions voiced are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual or entity.