To stand out from the crowd, hotels need a distinctive customer proposition. Technology helps them develop and deliver something special and relevant for today’s guests. Most properties tick along year-to-year, generating varied results.
The ones that improve their profitability by being more appealing as venues have something in common: they regularly invest in their product, ensuring it maintains a distinctive presence in the competitive marketplace. These are properties with personality: hotels that have focused on cultivating their character, making sure event organisers understand what makes them different.
There’s no single template for a property with character. In our experience, hotels are unique in their own way. Some might focus on developing a signature customer experience that’s based on homeliness and traditional comforts. Some may want to offer a grand luxury experience; others, something that’s high-tech and even futuristic. Whatever their unique selling point (USP), properties with personality work hard to build and maintain their differentiation – even as the market changes - and they understand how technology can enable them to bring their vision to life.
Our independent hotel clients often have very individual personalities but each of them comes to us to help them use technology to underpin their differentiation.
I would like to examine what two different properties are doing to invest in their differentiation. In both cases, these properties have an eye on the future and are thinking about how they can keep ahead of continually shifting consumer expectations, particularly in the way guests use personal technology.
Modern luxury in a traditional setting
Swinton Park, North Yorkshire, is every inch the luxury country destination. The main hotel is based in a turreted castle, surrounded by beautiful parkland.
Traditionally, a property like Swinton Park would have gone to market as a luxury leisure break in a grand country house, but here the management is doing something more ambitious. It is broadening its offer to appeal to new generations of guests. The hotel is adding non-traditional accommodation – like yurts and glamping – and introducing refreshing outdoor alternatives, such as reindeer estate tours and falconry, as well as more conventional activities like spa visits and afternoon tea. Acknowledging the millennials’ love for social media, Swinton Park encourages guests to record and share their experiences on Instagram.
Technology has played an important role in enabling Swinton Park to modernise its luxury offer. A Property Management System (PMS) sits at the heart of hotel operations, automating and simplifying many of its daily tasks, which frees the staff from routine operational activities, allowing them to engage face-to-face with customers and encourage them to try new activities and get the most from their stay. Perhaps paradoxically, technology means the property can offer a ‘high contact’ and enhanced human level experience.
Empowering tech-savvy guests
Another client, The Best Western Premier Mount Pleasant in Doncaster, is an independent hotel that takes a slightly different approach. In many respects, the Mount Pleasant is a traditional luxury hotel with the high level of amenities and service that guests would expect. Here, technology plays a key background role, ensuring the smooth running of operations. Technology also helps the hotel streamline event management and expand its distribution network.
Intriguingly, management is also looking at how to foreground technology as part of the luxury guest experience. Specifically, they are very keen to let guests use their personal devices to control their experience. For example, they see their mobile phone or tablet as the perfect platform to communicate during the stay. The ability to order room service from your device is one feature that is attractive for guests. Another idea that could appeal to tech-savvy guests is to have their electronic room keys sent to their phones in advance of check-in.
Both Swinton Park and the Mount Pleasant have asked how they can give their offer a distinctive personality that stands out from the crowd. These properties have taken different routes – but both have been very smart in how they have invested in technology to achieve this.
To succeed, any business needs to be able to engage with its customers by developing a unique market presence. But it’s particularly important for independent hotels to forge a strong and recognisable character in a crowded marketplace. This can be the key to attracting and retaining the business of group organisers.
Guestline provides property management, channel distribution and digital marketing solutions to the hospitality industry. Based in the UK, it is currently working in 20 countries across five continents