How Technology Impacts The Entire Guest Journey – Part I: The Pre-Stay Phase

Remember “The Jetsons”, that old cartoon about people living in space? If you do, you’ll know just how far away that whole storyline seemed to be back then.Now… not so much. Technology innovations are bringing us closer to what used to be perceived as a science-fiction type of future.
Hospitality is deeply impacted by rising technologies, that constantly change travel, hotel operations, and the guest experience. In our most recent eBook, The Hotelier’s Tech Stack Guide: Must-Have Technologies That Impact The Guest Journey, we broke down those specific technologies and software that modern hoteliers absolutely need in order to have a successful business, while working on a better reputation and more revenue.

Whether you are a firm believer in the gods of technology or you still struggle to fully embrace it, one thing’s for sure: when it comes to providing an excellent hotel experience, not being tech-savvy is no longer an option. So how exactly does technology fall into every step of the guest journey?

First of all, you have to acknowledge that every single phase of the journey – from the pre-stay one, to the on-site experience and the post-stay feedback and revenue calculation -, is inevitably dependent of a certain software or system. These are all meant to ease and speed operation, save time and money and also, enable a more comfortable and seamless experience, to both the hotel staff and the guests. Automated operations are usually faster and less prone to human mistakes and, although every system comes as an investment in the beginning, they do pay off in the long run.

It’s still a common misconception that the guest journey begins the moment a traveler checks into a hotel, however, the very first phase starts with the search and booking process

In our recent eBook, we followed the natural course of the hotel guest experience. It’s still a common misconception that the guest journey begins the moment a traveler checks into a hotel, however, the very first phase starts with the search and booking process. This is the part that we are examining a little more in this blog.
Starting with the basis, as a hotelier, you have to make sure that your hotel website is properly optimized, in order to rank as high as possible on the search engine. This ensures that travelers see your hotel while browsing the internet.
Afterwards, an internet booking engine (IBE) needs to be set in place, in order to properly sell your rooms in the online space. The IBE helps drive more direct bookings, which, for hoteliers, come as a big win; not paying commission to third parties such as OTAs contributes to a better revenue. When you have a good IBE integrated into your hotel website, travelers don’t feel the need to leave the webpage and go to a different one. A great IBE is generally cloud-based, for easy access and more secure operations. Also, this system needs to be optimized for different devices and user-friendly, to encourage direct bookings and avoid lost opportunities. Modern IBEs safely store travelers’ data, while processing payments and offering a quick, seamless online experience.

A good IBE should enable a seamless experience to encourage travelers to book direct

Among a vast number of IBE providers, we highly recommend trying the systems developed by FASTBOOKING, Hotelchamp, and IBC.

Moving forward, another crucial software that you need in the pre-stay phase of the guest journey is a channel manager. By using a channel manager, you can constantly and efficiently manage all of the different online distribution channels through which the hotel sells rooms. This software basically sends up-to-date rates and a pooled inventory to the booking channels (to the IBE, on the hotel website, and to OTAs), in order to make sure that overbooking is never an issue. A great, efficient channel manager represents an easy, automated way of efficiently managing room rates, availability and restrictions across all connected online distribution sites. A modern channel manager grants hoteliers the chance to boost their bookings and revenue, through better room rates, seamless distribution, and complete automation.

A great channel manager paves the way for more online bookings and a higher revenue

Both eRevMax and SiteMinder provide modern channel managers, that focus on optimizing the room distribution and on the real-time management of availability, rates, and restrictions across all connected OTAs.

Still on the topic of hotel bookings and reservations, the central reservation system (CRS) is another vital part of the overall hotel tech puzzle. A reservation system is somehow of a base for the IBE. Meaning that a CRS stores data regarding hotel information, room inventory, availability, and rates, with the end goal of managing reservations. The data is linked (back to) to the IBE, allowing it to further sell rooms and encourage bookings. At a revenue level, a CRS also comes in hand, given its capability to easily adjust the prices corresponding to demand for multiple distribution channels and platforms at the same time. This means that you can control rates and inventory in order to ensure constant, reliable prices.

Last, but not least, to make sure that you win at the pre-stay phase of the guest journey, it is safe to say that in this modern era, a live chat tool is rather necessary. Providing constant support, in an easy and quick way, can make the difference between a gained booking and a lost one. Live chat is now more popular than ever, studies have shown that it has the highest satisfaction levels of any customer service channel. A live chat has the unique trait which allows the exchange of information on a hotel’s website, on the spot. This means that, during the search and booking phase, travelers can request extra details about an accommodation in an easy, quick, and highly effective way.

Live chat is a smart and effective way to provide around the clock support

Our own Guest Messaging solution integrates a live chat tool, with a multitude of useful features, so we highly recommend looking into this new and smart way of providing quality customer support.

All of these systems put together, work like pieces of a puzzle. They are crucial for a successful pre-stay experience, gained bookings and properly optimized automated operations. They basically open the way to a satisfactory hotel stay and they influence the initial opinion that a traveler forms even before stepping foot into the actual hotel.
Stay tuned next week, for the next part of this blog series. We’ll be breaking down the on-site stage and the technologies and software that are needed in that particular phase, to ensure that you provide the best possible experience, both for your hotel staff and for your guests.

Meanwhile, if you want more insights into the hotelier’s tech stack guide, you can download the free eBook here.