Why today’s searches could be tomorrow’s reviews
A topic that few are talking about right now is the inter-dependency of employee engagement, guest satisfaction and revenue growth. A hotel’s commercial strategy can only come to life by putting the guest in the centre and aggregating all the data points across the journey, from initial web search, through booking to post-stay guest satisfaction, and then back to the beginning again.
The guest journey often begins with research and shopping on a hotel’s website. This is not showing any signs of pulling back despite pressure from macroeconomic forces that tie into guest behaviour. For example, brand.com consumer searches in May for stay dates in July increased 12 per cent month-over-month across property websites in the EMEA region, according to data from the latest Duetto Pulse Report.
Middle East hospitality remained resilient for stays in May. Occupancy levels exceeded pre-pandemic levels for the second time in the past three months. Looking ahead, committed occupancy (transient reservations plus group block), is pacing ahead of 2021 throughout the balance of 2022 and even exceeds the comparable 2019 levels in November and December to end 2022 on a strong note.
The region also continues to see a shifting distribution landscape. While group business, or large blocks of room inventory for weddings or conferences, for example, continues to ebb and flow back to its pre-pandemic level, the trends across transient distribution channels vary significantly.
- Online travel agent (OTA) share has dropped across the Middle East due to consumers moving towards direct channels.
- Booking windows are lengthening.
- Fencing, such as advance purchase restrictions or non-refundable rates, are returning.
One of the hospitality industry’s shifting landscapes pertains to the diverging trajectory of guest satisfaction and revenue recovery trends. Lodging demand and pricing power are moving in a positive direction while guest review scores are sequentially declining due to numerous operating headwinds.
Middle East guest satisfaction was very favorable and nearing 90% on average before the pandemic. Today, we see scores hovering just north of 80%. These scores were sequentially improving up until occupancy levels started rebounding over the past three months. The reality is customer expectations are returning while hospitality owners and operators seek to best compete in the “new” normal.
"It’s not a complicated formula: employee engagement + guest satisfaction = revenue growth"
It is no secret that satisfied employees lead to great guest experiences and, in turn, stronger revenue growth. A connected commercial strategy starts with how well team members are treated. On-property staff take care of the customers who boost revenues. It’s not a complicated formula: employee engagement + guest satisfaction = revenue growth.
But, in today’s uncertain labour market and soaring inflationary costs, properties are experiencing operational difficulties without levying sizable price increases. Thus, the customer service experience may remain challenged.
Making employee lives easier is critical to success and provides a commercial advantage. Hospitality owners and operators are reacting by keeping a pulse on culture and creating cross-functional operations planning and commercial strategy teams consisting of finance, revenue management, sales and marketing, and investing in integrated technology that creates a shared view of the customer.
There is an old saying in the hospitality industry: ‘today’s booking pace is tomorrow’s RevPAR result’. While still true today, this broadens to a refreshed industry adage that: ‘today’s consumer searches are tomorrow’s guest reviews.’
* The writer is Director of Product Marketing, Duetto
By Lloyd Biddle