Wasn’t too long ago most travellers were happy with a clean room and complimentary soap and hair shampoo. Times are rapidly changing though.At the heart of it all, Hospitality is about service and experience, which continues to dominate the expectation set of today’s travellers. However, subtle but significant shifts in expectations of travellers are being shaped by a few change forces in our societal ecosystem.
Change Forces Driving Shift in Expectations
We live increasingly in the fast lane where expectations of new age travellers are being shaped primarily by 3 fundamental change forces, all emerging from a common war cry -
“Yeh Dil Maange More!”
1. Paucity of Time – The need to get more done in less time
We’re all in a hurry to get more done in less time and this has a significant bearing on the expectations of today’s traveller in the way everything from bookings to travel and the numerous services are consumed – all in a jiffy!
2. Value for Money – The desire to get more value for our money
We all want more from our money spend. More centrally placed locations, more amenities, more service and much more…
3. Improved Overall Travel Experience
People travel for a reason. For business, for leisure, sightseeing, shopping or for an important social event. Whatever the reason, travellers expect significantly improved travel experiences – greater productivity, greater ease of interactions and a greater end to end experiences.
The above three ground forces shape and define the substance of the modern traveller’s expectations from a Hotel today.
Top 5 Traveller Expectations
The list of expectations is long but today’s traveller typically has five major expectations from a Hotel (Illustration 1). These range from “Must Have” expectations to “Great to Have” expectations, going from the base of the pyramid to the top.
These comprise the minimum level expectations from a Hotel today – Cleanliness, Safety, Free Wi-Fi and Centrally placed, convenient locations. More perceived as hygiene factors, nearly every traveller expects a Hotel to have these to qualify for consideration. Clean rooms, public places, washrooms is a must have. Staying connected through phones & the internet, while on the move is extremely important. Free Wi-Fi is probably as necessary as the free air we breathe as is the need to stay at a centrally based geo location.
Above the ‘Base’ level, this forms the next higher level of expectations. Access to functional, on demand services any time of the day or night, is essential for travellers on the move with the objective of getting something done. Whether it accesses to a meeting space at short notice, to a business centre for a quick printout, audio/video conferencing services to conduct an offsite meeting or a quick meal at odd hours, 24/7 availability of functional services and spaces that allows guests to accomplish their work productively at the hotel defines this key expectation.
Travellers today want to personalize their travel and stay experience much ahead of their actual travel and pick a hotel that best addresses their needs. Travellers expect to be presented with choices and offers that are personalized to their needs, age and location. The modern age traveller is more information savvy and consumes a lot of information via travel blogs, review sites and friends. He expects tech friendly options that can be operated on his own. Most travellers prefer to use online platforms that allow them to choose hotels that offer versatile and customizable features instead of a ‘one room fits all’ offering. They expect to ‘see’ descriptions and visuals of the hotel, current offers, its amenities and options so as to pre-configure and personalize their stay experience instead of being taken by surprise after checking in. These could range from choosing discount offers, specific meals, choice of rooms, early check-in, late check-out, airport pickup & drop and a host of other options.
Today’s traveller does not expect a hotel to just provide a room for rent. Travellers expect Hotels to provide end to end services by scaling across the travel experience. A family booking a hotel stay for a leisure trip expects the hotel’s website to provide information on local sightseeing, shopping and other related services. Traveller’s expect and appreciate Hotels having integrated relationships with tour operators, shopping centres and other travel partners that come together to provide an integrated travel experience for the entire trip going beyond the hotel simply offering just a room.
While splashy amenities can certainly up to the wow factor, travellers still expect authentic hospitality from the heart which makes the most difference in their overall experience. Small things genuinely expressing care leave the deepest impressions that keep the guests coming back again and again. Bottled water, soundproof rooms that deliver a good night’s sleep, choice of extra power outlets and network ports for multiple devices, attentive phone answering, prompt service are a few examples of such small gestures that travellers expect and greatly appreciate in today’s times.
All said, delivering hospitality from the heart occupies the highest value and expectation for a traveller and works like a dual edged sword. Delivering high-quality experiences multiplies the goodwill of the hotel while messing up on this one factor alone destroys all the other benefits the hotel offers.