The evolution of guest preferences, a hotel’s financial needs, and the middle ground between the two
Anyone who hasn’t been living in a cave during the past two-and-a-half years should be well aware of the challenges the industry has faced during that time. From pandemic-induced lockdowns to evolving guest preferences and much more, day-do-day operations look vastly different than they did in 2019. But that doesn’t mean we’re all flying blind.
For example, the evolution of guest preferences mostly has tracked in tandem with changes in available technology. Guests increasingly have appreciated the ability to check in and access their room key using their smartphone – even more so during the pandemic. This streamlines the check-in process, reduces front desk friction, and allows front-desk employees to spend more time assisting guests – all of which leads to a more personalized guest experience.
But there’s always a tradeoff, and addressing changing guest preferences sometimes can negatively impact a hotel’s bottom line. So, how should hoteliers address the balance between guest wants and profitability?
Well, every guest loves a free upgrade, and you can offer it when the room type is available on a slow night. Late checkouts or early check-ins are always appreciated. Offering bottled water to guests on hot days or hot cocoa on cold days helps to provide a better guest service experience, and you use items already available at breakfast. These all are simple ways to build guest loyalty by demonstrating that your hotel team values their business – and the cost is negligible. There are many other ways to wow your guest with things already built into the cost per room that they might not have even known existed. It all adds up to happier customers, stronger guest survey scores, and more profit. And your management team can engage online too. Reviews are very important these days and a simple response to each one tells travelers that you care.
During a time when predicting business trends is more difficult than ever, it can be tempting to throw our hands up in defeat, but there are tools and practices we all can follow to ensure our businesses are best positioned for growth.
At Wealth Hospitality, we do that by simply focusing on customer needs. And we leverage traditional tools such as STR reports to find latent demand, particularly in high RevPar markets where the economics of higher construction costs can still work. We also look to find new sectors off the beaten path. For example, one of our newest hotels is located in an outdoors-driven market, catering to guests that want to escape busy cities and experience nature. In this way, we sell the guest more than just a room. We provide a personal experience – a locale to breathe in fresh air and enjoy activities that inspire them. Other projects on our drawing board will likewise deliver unique guest experiences, such as romantic getaways for couples that are within their reach. No passport required.
MEMBERSHIP HAS ITS PRIVILEGES
Not incidentally, being an AAHOA Member has greatly helped in our growth, both logistically and strategically. And that involvement has shaped our outlook on the industry as well as our overall approach to day-to-day business. The organization provides valuable information related to market trends, and its importance as an advocate for the hotel industry cannot be overstated. AAHOA also has helped by providing hundreds of professional development opportunities, whether digital or in person. The exclusive Vendor Partner deals and discounts from many of the top brands help to keep cost low while providing the best quality products and services to our guests. The weekly updates from the AAHOA Industry Partners regarding their latest offers gives our company ideas of even more ways to save.
We acquired six properties in the first quarter of 2022 and look forward to closing several more later this year. Even though our focus has primarily been on ground-up development, our acquisition pace has picked up sustainably. A key factor was purchasing properties at value pricing post-COVID, with a healthy pipeline of 36 projects during the next 2-3 years. Since the Merger of Fusion and Heritage Hospitality, the combined company, Wealth Hospitality, has become a premier hotel development company in the nation. While many hoteliers are sitting on their development plans due to high construction costs, we at Wealth have decided to move forward aggressively with our development plans in select markets. One of our key advantages at Wealth is that we are our own general contractor, which helps bridge the high costs versus our competitors.