Guests expect more out of businesses today and the hospitality industry is among the most affected. Consumers have high expectations for how they want to experience travel both on and off the property. If you work in hospitality, you probably don’t go a day without hearing the words “authentic” and “experience” and how you’re supposed to provide the perfect mix to guests. We buy into buzzwords, because if it’s said enough, that means people are paying enough attention to care. An authentic experience is when a guest gets to live, eat, and things like the locals.
A large number of businesses have caught on to the authentic experiences trend, according to Skift‘s recent article. Hotels need to build strong relationships with their guests, whether they are hanging out in the lobby or out exploring the town. But, the struggle to actually create authentic experiences remains. Of course brands like Hilton and Four Seasons can afford to create unforgettable experiences, they have the money and labor to create large-scale projects. However, there are many smaller properties doing a good job of providing experiences. You don’t need a hefty marketing budget and extra staff to provide authentic experiences.
You have the most influence over a guest when they’re on the property. Your rooms, amenities, and staff likely have a large impact on how a guest’s stay goes. But everything else your guests experience at your destination also affects their trip. When properties facilitate what guests see and do off the property, you strengthen the relationship.
Providing custom experiences yourself, partnering with local tour companies, and other methods don’t have to be expensive.
Creating your own tours and activities with your own local experts is a straightforward way to provide authentic experiences. Having a concierge is helpful, but offering to take people out and guide them is even better.
Our friends over at International Travelers House hostel provide daily activities to their guests and at no extra cost. They offer a variety of daily activities including beach hangouts, beach tours, boat parties, and hikes. They also offer nighttime activities including pub crawls, beach bonfires, karaoke, and more.
ITH offers these activities to enhance the guest experience and also help travelers meet one another. Because they’re a hostel, they attract a lot of single travelers who want to meet people along the way. Offering free activities is a selling point for many travelers and helps differentiate themselves from competitors.
Hosting your own activities allows you to create a personal and deeper connection with your guests. You’ll learn more about them and increase your face-time.
You can implement something similar at your hotel and capitalize on your local destination’s most popular attractions. As you can see from ITH’s activities, they don’t require an obscene amount of money even though they provide a great service to their guests.
Your property likely has relationships with local tour operators already. You can create a joint venture and co-promote one another. If you cannot hire people to take your guests on tours, working with existing companies could be a beneficial solution.
Another Cloudbeds featured customer, Hostel 76, partners with local tour companies to take their guests on various excursions. They offer tours of the Waterfalls of Iguaçu, Itaipu Binational, Macuco, and more.
A tour company partnership still allows your property to build a personal relationship with your guests. One idea is to negotiate activities that are offered exclusively to your guests, either through personalized activities or special discounts. Attaching your property’s name and face to the experience helps strengthen the relationship.
Remember to create activities based on your property’s target market. You want to provide experiences that are in-line with your brand.
City guides are great for attracting guests and entertaining them after they arrive. As local experts, you can provide sample itineraries, local recommendations, and maps of the area. Self-guided content can also be used in conjunction with the tours and partnerships above. Not all travelers like to take part in group activities, and self-guided tours give people more freedom.
Use your local expertise, as well as your team to create guides that will help your guests get around on time. One idea, if your property is located in a walking city, is to take a map and create a path for guests to take around city. Include personal tidbits about why a particular attraction, restaurant, or store has meaning to you or your property. Staff recommendations will help provide your guests with a more authentic experience.
Keep your content up-to-date and you will win over guests. Oftentimes, online information and travel books are out-of-date. You have the opportunity to provide fresh recommendations for each guest who walks through your door.
In my personal opinion, it’s always best to travel with a local’s perspective. Many travelers want to experience the more human side of a destination alongside all the popular destinations. They want to support local businesses, peek into the culture, and experience it for themselves. Now more than ever, properties are expected to offer the local expertise to fit these new travel trends. When properties can deliver on guests’ high expectations, they have the opportunity to build strong relationships and offer a truly great experience.