Last week, we caught up with Spencer Spellman, a well-known travel blogger to hear about his travel philosophy and emerging hospitality trends. Spencer has a unique background working with all different types of hospitality companies such as Expedia to independent hotels, all while building his own blog. His multifaceted approach to travel and digital marketing made for great conversation and offered great insights. Read on to get the highlights.
From a young age, Spencer had the opportunity to travel with his sister who was a flight attendant. His early travels sparked an interest that would turn into a passionate career. For the past eight years, he has documented his journey on his blog. Spencer writes about travel, food, drink and more on his blog Whiskey Tango Globetrot.
In the past, Spencer was the Editor and Chief for Expedia where he helped launch their twitter and content initiatives. Today, that content strategy is alive and well at viewfinder.expedia.com and the Twitter chat, #ExpediaChat, he started still happens today.
He started creating content when blogging was a brand new idea and Twitter was in its infancy. While many slept on the idea of creating content, Spencer hit the ground running and has certainly benefited from it.
Spencer focuses his blogs on how travel and a destination can affect you as a person. Most travel blogs are step-by-step guides, go here, see this, do that. And while he finds a lot of value in those blogs, he takes a different angle. He is more interested in the growing trend of experiential travel, reporting on what he saw and how he felt in a particular place.
“Travel goes beyond just the seeing of sights and goes deep into who you are and affecting what it does to your psyche and how you view the world and other cultures.”
While he enjoys seeing the typical tourist destinations, he loves to start his trip at neighborhood bar and talk to locals for recommendations. He believes that the most memorable travel moments are bred in spontaneity. When he makes travel plans, he tries to leave the first and last day unplanned in order to allow for unplanned moments.
In his travels, he has stayed at all types of different properties, from hostels to independent hotels to chains. He feels that independent properties are best at offering personal touches and extra perks. He stayed at once such independent hotel where the mini bar was completely free AND was restocked overnight (sounds like a dream to me!). That same hotel also offered a laundry service that let you wash two items a night. Also crazy.
“When you stay at an independent property a lot of the times it’s more personalized customized experience and you don’t always know what you’re getting. But I mean that in a good way.”
Independent hotels, in his opinion, go the extra mile to get to know him on a personal level. They take the time to understand what he’s interested in and deliver on it. While he has had good experiences at hostels and chain hotels, it’s the independents who stand out the most.
When asked about new trends he sees happening right now, luxury hostels were top of mind. His friend and colleague who runs a budget traveler blog reported on this trend many years ago as it emerged. As Cloudbeds reported in our luxury hostels blog a few weeks back, there’s a whole new genre of hostels brewing out there. But, what makes or break any type of property for Spencer? WiFi. Free, strong WiFi. He believes millennial travelers have come to expect certain amenities, WiFi being at the top of the list. The extras make a huge impact and that’s why he gravitates towards properties willing to supply just a little more.
“I don’t mind spending $10 extra to stay somewhere that offers the mini bar or laundry service. It’s worth it”
He sees a disconnect in the hospitality space right now. You will see 2-star hotels for $60 that offer free WiFi and then you’ll see a 5-star hotel for $600 a night that doesn’t offer free WiFi. Hotels aren’t always in tune with what their guests really want.
How to Capitalize on New Trends
Start listening. That’s Spencer’s message to hoteliers. He is baffled (and so am I) as to how brands don’t capitalize on social media. Social media is often the first means of communication for potential and current guests. They have questions and will direct them to your social channels and if there’s no one waiting to answer them, you’re at risk. If travelers don’t directly ask your property questions, there are definitley people seeking information about your destination. If your brand can interject in a meaningful way, you have the opportunity to build relationships. For example, if you are a San Diego hotel, search Twitter for people looking for San Diego lodging recommendations and instantly offer value to a potential guest. Spencer has seen Instagram blow up over the past few years and sees a huge opportunity for hotels to join. As a content creator and blogger himself, Spencer understands the value of reaching out to influential people. Maybe reaching out to bloggers and popular social media users is out of reach right now, but you can definitely find ways to interject your property into conversations already happening online. Which begged the question, who does Spencer think is killing it on social media? Four Seasons. He told an anecdote where guests at the Beverley Wilshire were desperate for some grilled cheese during their stay, but the hotel restaurant simply didn’t serve it. The guests mentioned their dilemma via social media and 20 minutes later, the hotel delivered a plate full of grilled cheese. The hotel caught a valuable social moment and executed in a meaningful way. The guests were thrilled and shared the experience via their personal social channels. The hotel received a lot of positive feedback and a few websites even picked it up. It’s small moments like this that can have a huge impact both online and offline.
Hotels should also produce their own content. No matter your property’s size, content can offer valuable information to your guests. New cocktail menu at the bar? Blog it. Fun story from your hostel’s outing to the local waterfall? Blog it. There are so many opportunities for your property to offer helpful content to your potential, existing, and past guests. Creating content will help your property get ahead of the curve.
And lastly, Spencer thinks you should empower your employees to contribute to your social media channels. Give a few people the login credentials for your Twitter and Instagram and let them post what’s happening in and around your property. You don’t need a social media manager when you have digitally savvy employees. Obviously you should set posting parameters, but use your staff’s skills to your advantage.
Spencer had so many great things to share and we packed it all in, so here is a quick recap of everything he shared:
- Be spontaneous and leave room for experiential moments
- Listen to figure out what your customers want
- Offer free WiFi
- Technology is transforming travel, embrace it
- Get on social media and be opportunistic
- Invest in digital marketing trends, content is a great way to attract guests
- Empower your employees
- A huge thank you to Spencer for taking the time to chat with us and offer key insights in the hospitality space. Be sure to check out his blog at http://whiskeytangoglobetrot.com/ and follow him on his social channels. Warning: you might get a little jealous.
Know a hotelier who could benefit from all these social trends? Share it!
We’d love to hear your feedback in the comments.
Watch the full interview below