Retailing experiences is finally a reality for hotels

  1. Insight

Can’t manage, can’t sell - how hoteliers can finally offer guests a complete menu of experiences and open up a whole new world of revenue.

Luxury hotels are more than just bedrooms: they provide an experience, a treasured moment, a memory. On-site hoteliers provide an exceptional experience, but today’s guests expect personalised, accessible experiences and itineraries confirmed before they arrive.

A recent trip with my wife to a luxury hotel left me hovering around a cabana, awaiting its availability. I felt like a holidaymaker up at dawn to secure a sun lounger with my towel.

We’re all accustomed to efficient digital experiences, be it arranging an Uber, ordering a next-day Amazon delivery, or paying bills through a banking app. So why do we make it so difficult for guests to book - and ourselves to manage - ancillary services, amenities and activities?

The industry has made a huge shift to remove guest service friction points: front desk queues replaced with digital check in; service challenges eased with self-ordering and QR codes; and reservation pressures solved with chatbots and apps. But these solutions simply solve administrative burdens rather than deliver true guest experiences. 

A step above service

Hoteliers live and breathe the Experience Economy; service is at the very heart of the art of hospitality in our industry. It is second nature for luxury hoteliers to connect with consumers' values by delivering experiences which supersede ‘good service’.

For a long time, brands have focused on creating unique experiences to differentiate themselves from competitors and resonate with customers on a deeper level. Hoteliers are in a unique position to surprise and delight guests, creating special moments which make memories. After all, it’s why travellers choose luxury hotel experiences over other types of accommodation.

Crafting an exceptional experience adds to the sentiment and reputation of a hotel. And as a technology provider, it's up to us to be more creative in enabling hotels to create, manage and sell these experiences.

Technology evolution is a must

Hotel technology can be clumsy and clunky, causing more administration than invoking excitement and opportunity amongst team members. Thankfully, swift developments in system performance and connectivity is bringing about a new breed of software, opening the market quicker than ever before.

Hotel technology has centred around room bookings and the Property Management System (PMS), with nearly every new system, solution and application focused on this infrastructure. But greater profit lies in the ability to sell more and optimise revenue from every guest.

Experience Management System (EMS)

Luxury hotels have a wealth of facilities, amenities and services to personalise any stay. Until now, these experiences have been siloed by departments, managed through spreadsheets or the even more outdated paper and pen approach. ‘Post-it note’ operations causes administrative strain for hotel staff and damages or prohibits the potential augmentation of the guest experience. 

A simple example of this affecting the guest experience: a colleague spent a family weekend at a hotel in the Cotswolds. Before arriving he made three phone calls and wrote two emails to book, confirm and reconfirm the hiring of four bikes. The result? Just three bikes were waiting.

There is an absolute need to centrally manage all experience inventory in order to relieve hotel staff of these mishaps and administrative burdens.

An Experience Management System (EMS) is a breakthrough for hoteliers otherwise accustomed to managing multiple systems simultaneously across their operations. Spa, golf, memberships, leisure activities (the likes of yoga classes, art workshops, and cooking experiences) and facilities (including bike rentals, tennis court hire, and hot tub bookings) can be managed in a single solution, integrated with a hotel’s Property Management System (PMS). This connection not only builds a profile for each guest reservation but provides hotel teams with complete visibility of the guest’s stay in one itinerary.

An Experience Management System manages all experiences on-site; everything but the room.

Richer guest experience and improved operations

The advancement of intuitive and accessible digital technology, twinned with evolving team skills and experience, is enabling the industry to harness this more than ever, surfacing unique products and services through an authentic retail experience to sell more and drive total profitability.

With a seamless integration between the EMS and PMS, hotels can improve team efficiencies by reducing silos and process duplication, to not only better serve the guest but also boost staff satisfaction.

At the heart of this new commercial potential is a digital connectivity that provides guests with a complete journey rather than independent transactional relationships.

Truly retail to the guest

Much like how the airline industry leverages wider products to capture, own and keep the customer, hospitality has the opportunity to do the same - presenting a range of products and services which match the values and brand of the property.

Hotels have a wealth of existing products ripe for managing through the EMS and - by developing the right collaborations and partnerships - have the potential to extend this further through local suppliers. Direct connections with the EMS will allow hotels to retail all products -, including the likes of events, theatre tickets, and concerts - pretty much anything that is bookable - into a single one-stop-shop shopping cart.

Retail reality is here

The notion of the Experience Economy is nothing new, but in the last few years hoteliers have upped their game by providing more holistic value-driven experiences to their guests which go beyond commodity-steered sales based purely on rooms.

This needs to be represented digitally to counteract the commoditisation of the hotel room. OTAs and comparison sites have steadily driven down the value of a luxury hotel to just the room rate. When the reality of the luxury offer is so much more.

With an EMS, hotels can be the true centrepiece to a traveller’s entire trip, taking back control and delivering all aspects of the guest’s itinerary to open a whole new world of revenue. Hoteliers have the opportunity to be experience-makers. Are you ready to offer your guests more?

Simon Bullingham

Founder and CEO

Our founder and CEO, Simon, has been growing our business since 2012. He’s a key player in increasing ROI for international hotels, but when he finds a spare minute, he’ll be playing pool or looking for new places to eat.

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