Contributed by Paula Perrin, Sr. Market Analyst, SHR
It can take years for emerging trends to fully reach the core consciousness of any field of business, and the mainstream hotel market is no exception. The bleisure traveler, for instance, a guest who blends business trips with their own personal leisure experience, has been in the news and existed for several years, but only now is understood as a real market. The emergence of Airbnb is another. But arguably more important than any other segment trend is the goal of attracting today’s global traveler, particularly the vast Asian and European markets. Why? Because the global market overshadows all other trends, for it touches all other trends.
Meeting such vast international needs, though, might sound overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be. Remember, though you are dealing with a huge audience in number, your real task is appealing to what is referred to today as the “audience of one.” Therefore, understanding what matters most to the individual “one” traveler is key. How do you then physically provide what matters? By having a CRS, booking engine, and provider support that can deal in diverse multiples; languages, currencies, payment gateways, and social review sites.
Do You Speak My Language?
There are over 660 million internet users in China alone, and in the European Union, about 430 million. Therefore, it’s only logical to have a strong online presence to attract potential world guests to your hotel. But it’s not just about looks. Ideally, you want to build your hotel website to appeal to multiple senses of aesthetics and cultural propriety—visually and verbally. This means that you need to speak your guest’s language to make them feel truly expected and understood. This is where your hotel software can make or break your efforts. Does your booking engine technology and its provider support multiple languages, and the localization of those languages for your hotel content? Does it allow for creating highly customized guest packages and promotions? Remember, though, your technology can only work with what you feed into it, so investing in high-quality photos and videos to emphasize the “story” of your hotel is a smart move, as is presenting content about your services that is relevant to the particular visitor you are trying to attract, providing special amenities geared just to them.
For your live call center and at the hotel, try to have key employees on call who speak multiple languages, especially those of the travelers you are most wanting to capture. A cheerful welcome note in a home language at check-in is a nice touch as well, and can make all the difference between a satisfactory visit and a memorable one.
Adding It Up—Multiple Currencies and Payment Gateways
If your system is unable to incorporate multi-currency functionality, introducing your hotel offerings to a wider market can become fairly impossible, no matter how good your hotel may look or sound online. Maximizing your hotel’s global growth potential, therefore, requires a CRS platform that can smoothly manage currency, local taxes, and exchange rates. In addition, since today’s international travelers are very mobile, they also need to be able to access all of this on multiple devices. This means having a responsive booking engine that can provide flawless mobility.
When it comes time to pay for that booking, as well as everything else, your global guests will be expecting access to secure payment gateways, so make sure your hotel software can deliver. These gateways operate like many other eWallet services, where you add payment methods (cards or bank accounts) to your chosen provider, and can then process secure purchases using them. In the U.S. there is MerchantLink, serving more than 500,000 hotel, restaurant, and retail locations. With 520 million users and counting, Alipay is a popular and reliable way of paying for virtually anything the world over, but particularly popular in Asia. For Europe, there is Adyen, and rGuest Pay covers the U.S., UK, and Asia-Pacific. And if there is any doubt that payment gateways are the wave of the future, the existence of the popular Pesapal puts that idea to rest. The Africa-only app, offering both online and POS payment options, has displaced cash to become the payment method of choice from local village to big city, due to its security and ease of use.
Sharing the International Joy
We all want to feel we are making good choices, especially when we’re online. International travelers are no different. Testimonials from other satisfied guests are huge for hotels, and easing fears about traveling abroad is just smart business. So, making sure you are using booking technology that is geared toward multiple, popular review sites is a must-have when building your international hotel brand. Often referred to as an “app for everything” with 980 million monthly active users, WeChat is the major review site in Asia. Originating out of the UK, and available in over 60 countries in 30 languages, Reevoo is geared to helping travelers make better buying decisions about virtually everything, including travel items. And of course, the ever-popular and powerful site that started it all, TripAdvisor, is everywhere travelers are or might want to be one day.
As for the mainstream social sites, Facebook and Twitter are still in the running, but Instagram and Snapchat are taking center stage the world over now. Why? Because they are more video and image-based than any other platforms, and Millennials, GenXers, and even Baby Boomers are choosing them to leverage their own personal stories. Vacations and bleisure trips make excellent opportunities to generate highly coveted loves and likes, plus plenty of sharing. Because of this, it’s not surprising that hospitality companies own some of the most popular pages, with TripAdvisor boasting 1.4 million Instagram followers and counting. In the very near future, you will even be able to book a trip directly from a business’s social account. How can your hotel get in on the fun and business-building now? By cultivating a presence on social media, then making sure to create those post-worthy experiences that all start with providing content that “speaks” to each person and culture.
The Bottom Line
By employing technology that allows you to provide your guests with content that speaks to them, in languages they understand, and easy payment methods that make them feel secure, you will be taking giant steps toward expanding not only your reach and revenues, but your brand as well.