3 Trends Transforming Hotel Guest Loyalty Today

Guest loyalty is a valuable predictor of long-term success in the hotel business. Loyal guests mean recurring revenue, positive feedback, great word-of-mouth, more positive online reviews, and more recommendations.

However, many hotels today report having a guest loyalty problem. In an era where travelers have virtually unlimited options, why should they choose your hotel over a similar competitor or book directly rather than with an OTA? Traditional, points-collecting loyalty programs are quickly becoming passé with modern guests, who expect tailored, memorable experiences out of a hotel stay—not just a free room or upgrade.

In other words, guest loyalty hasn’t disappeared—it’s just harder to measure and grow, especially if your property isn’t harnessing the power of location-based data. Consider these three trends to create emotional connections through personalization, meaningful engagements, and unique customer experiences.

1. Personalization: Knowing your guests better than they know themselves

The easiest way to make a guest feel positive is with personalized interactions. The Marriott Cancun Collection team actively engages with guests on a personal level while they’re staying at the hotel. Whether it’s celebrating a couple’s anniversary or simply joining the conversation with thoughtful comments, guests are delighted when their social posts are noticed by the hotel.

After posting about her birthday on Instagram (above), this guest was surprised to find the hotel staff discovered her post and decorated her room for her birthday (below). She was so impressed, she even made an entirely new post about this experience, thanking the staff and saying everything exceeded her expectations. The JW Marriott Cancun discovered the post by using HYP3R’s filters.

Karina may have been satisfied with a 10% room discount or a birthday upgrade, but she’ll remember this extra-personal birthday experience for years to come. In response to evolving customer expectations, the hospitality industry is getting personal. Hotel marketers must invest in technological solutions that will tailor guest experiences and make them feel emotionally invested.


2. Meaningful engagements: Making guests feel special

An engaged guest will experience a more intimate, emotional connection to your hotel than a disengaged one. In addition, research from Gallup reveals engaged customers are more loyal (and therefore more valuable) than others. The link between customer engagement and business outcomes is so strong, that fully engaged hotel guests spend 46% more per year than disengaged ones.

One great example of a brand creating meaningful engagements on-location using data is the St. Regis in Mexico City. When a guest posted his meal from the St. Regis restaurant on Instagram, the hotel’s marketing team responded by encouraging him to visit their mixologist and learn more about the special waygu beef dish directly from the chef himself. Friendly, unobtrusive and timely, the tactic resulted in an upsell—and a thrilled guest.

What makes a guest feel welcome and special—a discounted room rate or an invitation to meet with a restaurant’s head chef after a spectacular meal? Which one will inspire a guest to gush to their friends and family? Economic incentives are nice, but they don’t create long-term, meaningful emotional connections as personalized engagements do. Thankfully, the rise of location-based marketing has made creating an emotional connection by listening to and interacting with your guests easier than ever.


3. One-of-a-kind experiences: Stories they’ll remember

Points, savings and upgrades are easily forgettable, but a one-of-a-kind experience sticks in your memory and cements loyalty. That’s why Joe Pine, management advisor to Fortune 500 companies and entrepreneurial startups, insists experiences need to be the focus of your hotel’s marketing efforts: “Businesses must orchestrate memorable events for their customers, and that memory itself becomes the product.”

W Hotel Koh Samui has taken the business of unforgettable experiences to new heights. They orchestrate a scenic dinner private dinner (or other meal) program on the beach called Dining Under the Stars. Typically used for special occasions, like birthdays and proposals, the top package includes a drone video shoot to capture the magical evening.

In November 2018, HYP3R helped W identify a top influencer for this program, whose boyfriend booked for a dinner for the two of them. The drone, however, was in Bangkok for cleaning when the program was booked, so W offered to substitute the drone shoot with additional offerings, and the guest agreed.

The morning of their Dining Under the Stars, the drone was returned from Bangkok, and W flew it for the couple that night, free of charge and as a partial surprise (the boyfriend knew). The guests were so pleased with the shooting they posted two of the clips W sent them on their Instagram page, which resulted in more than 100,000 combined views. (The influencer has more than 3.3 million followers.)

When it comes to purchasing decisions, experience matters: 73% of consumers rate it as important when deciding where to spend their money and 65% report that a positive brand experience is more influential than great advertising. That’s why the best marketers aren’t just focused on customer experience; they’re competing over it.

How guest loyalty drives revenue

Creating personal, tailor-made engagements and experiences for your guests is easy with the right data. By geofencing an area using a location-based marketing platform like HYP3R, you can capture snapshots of guest behaviors as they’re happening on-location. Stories and themes begin to emerge. You can find out who your guests really are, which is data often hidden by OTA booking sites, and gain rich insights into what your guests value and choose to share.

“We partnered early with HYP3R and have seen incredible results,” said Craig Smith, president, and managing director of Marriott International, Asia Pacific. “They not only enable us to engage seamlessly with our guests but also deliver valuable insights into what guests are thinking and care about. Our partnership with HYP3R has helped us enhance loyalty and increase market share.”

Harnessing location-based insights means creative marketers can bridge the gap between the physical and digital worlds, boost customer loyalty, and ultimately, drive revenue. Now that’s an experience worth sharing.

Author Joseph Lage