Let’s start with a simple question: When does someone researching for a trip become a guest? Though it seems like a simple question, when you consider it for a moment, it really isn’t. Does that transformative moment take place when a consumer makes a reservation? Or is it when a consumer steps onto the hotel property? And the same types of questions can be asked at the end of a hotel stay. When is it exactly that a guest ceases to be a guest? Is it when they leave the property, or after they have left an online review?
Below, we’ll explore the entire hotel guest cycle, find answers to these questions and fully explain why it is so important for hoteliers to understand.
At the end of this post, you will understand how to tailor your hotel’s guest cycle to your target market, create a better overall guest experience and drive more revenue.
Now, let’s dive in.
What Is the Hotel Guest Cycle?
In short, the hotel guest cycle describes the stages people go through when planning and embarking on their travels. It includes everything from the moment a consumer has the idea for a trip all the way through to the post-departure period.
Every hotel department is involved in the guest cycle at some point. And some departments will be engaged during the hotel guest cycle more than once.
For example, sales, marketing and revenue management get the guests through the door. They create value-packed offers at good rates, promote them to convince people to book a room and collect and manage revenue. These team members will, generally, only be engaged at the beginning of the hotel guest cycle. Post-sale, they generally are not as engaged (if at all) with hotel guests directly as other departments.
However, the front office has a high number of touchpoints with the hotel guest cycle — generally, the most of any department. It’s the first and last point of in-person contact for most travelers and it’s also the most likely place people will go with questions, requests or complaints throughout their entire guest journey.
Of course, there’s also F&B, housekeeping, the spa, recreation, etc. These departments play an important role while guests are in-house because their services create a well-rounded, unique and memorable experience, and they may have intermittent touches with the hotel guest cycle.
When looking at ways to optimize the guest cycle, look for opportunities in every department. Get the concerned teams involved as they have the best input on how to further improve your offerings and service.
Why Understanding the Hotel Guest Cycle Matters
An in-depth comprehension of guest behavior throughout the hotel guest cycle enables property management teams to do two important things:
Market your hotel more effectively: To ensure rooms never go unoccupied, you need to be able to reach potential guests with the right content or offer at exactly the right time. This creates high buyer intent and ensures the greatest chance of making sales.
Create a smoother guest experience and generate more revenue: Identifying and examining the individual stages of the hotel guest cycle enables hoteliers to optimize current revenue generation efforts and find new opportunities. It also enables you to think about how guests move from one stage to another and what actions staff members should undertake to create the most seamless experience possible at each transition. A more streamlined, guest-friendly experience means higher reviews.
The 7 Stages of the Hotel Guest Cycle
Let’s look at the main stages of the hotel guest cycle. Below, you’ll discover the characteristics of each one and see which departments are the most involved at every step.
Also known as the inspiration phase, this is when people gather ideas for their trip. They explore various destinations, accommodation options and activities. At this time, they narrow down the choices for their upcoming trip but they’re not making decisions yet. Here, it’s your marketing team’s job to draw in your target audience with engaging content and offers.
After researching, travelers will compare their shortlisted destinations and hotels to pick what best matches their needs. This is also where they check the prices on your website or OTA profiles to find the best deal.
Ensuring a smooth reservation process on your website is crucial because it increases your chances of getting direct bookings. That includes using a solid booking engine and offering the best prices and conditions possible directly on your website. A complicated booking experience or rate disparity will drive people to OTAs or, worse yet, competitor property websites. Work with your reservations and revenue management department to optimize this stage of the guest cycle.
The pre-arrival phase gets overlooked most often. But it has a lot of potential for delighting guests and driving extra revenue. After booking major elements like hotels and transport, travelers finalize details like activities or extra services. As the anticipation for their trip grows, they grow more keen to book relevant extras. Work with the front office and reservations teams to offer add-ons that your guests will love at this stage in the cycle.
When guests arrive at the hotel, they get a first impression of the property. Be sure to win them over with a quick, smooth check-in process. You also have another chance to promote extra services such as F&B and the spa. Alternatively, you can offer online check-in and mobile keys, which allow guests to skip reception and head straight to their rooms. Check with front office and housekeeping departments to see if or how you could implement this type of solution.
While guests are in-house, they can finally use your facilities and services. Keep them posted about your offering, so they don’t miss deals from the F&B, housekeeping or recreations departments. Work with all of these teams cross-functionally to come up with and promote exciting add-ons that can be offered at this point in the cycle.
When it comes time for guests to settle the bill, check out and leave the hotel, hoteliers should use this phase to thank guests for their business, ask for feedback and invite them back. Again, you can speed things up with an online check-out option.
Just because they’ve left, doesn’t mean your guests are gone forever. Reach out after their stay to thank them again for booking with you, request feedback and reviews. Add travelers to your mailing list to stay in touch. Then share updates and exclusive offers to encourage repeat business. Your reservations and marketing teams can work together on this.
How To Deploy Technology Solutions Throughout the Hotel Guest Cycle To Drive More Revenue & Higher Guest Satisfaction
Today, the hotel guest cycle is no longer as linear as the list above may make it look. Research by Google shows that the research/inspiration phase can stretch over the entire cycle. This means guests are more flexible and open to booking extras that add value at any time during their trip.
Forward-thinking hoteliers would be wise to leverage technology to make the most of these opportunities and delight guests, while increasing the average revenue per room.
Here are some technology solutions to consider at every stage of the hotel guest cycle:
Research (Inspiration): A chatbot on your hotel website can automatically answer all hotel- and booking-related questions. This saves your team time and can significantly increase direct bookings.
Pre-arrival: Use a digital upselling tool to build excitement for people’s upcoming stay and allow them to easily book extra services that can make their trip even better. Leverage segmentation to personalize this outreach and promote only relevant add-ons.
Arrival and departure: Modern contactless check-in and check-out solutions can go a long way towards streamlining the guest journey and increasing engagement with your property.
In-house: Automatically check how your guests’ stay is going, address issues and offer relevant extras via a guest messaging system that works with SMS, WhatsApp and other common messaging apps.
Post-stay: Let your CRM handle post-stay communication to generate reviews, build your online reputation and lay a foundation for repeat business.
The modern hotel guest cycle is more complex and demands more attention than in the past, but this is extremely good news. A more complex and holistic understanding of the hotel guest cycle creates many new opportunities for hoteliers to reach their target audiences, drive more revenue and improve satisfaction scores.
Doing so manually takes a lot of time and still might not yield the desired results. But with the right contactless, guest-facing technology solutions, you can augment every part of the hotel guest cycle to minimize the workload for your staff and maximize your top line.
14 Easy Ways to Personalize the Hotel Guest Experience
Personalizing your guest experience is a sure way to delight guests, encourage positive reviews, and bring them back again and again. Personalization doesn’t have to be difficult. It just needs to be done right.