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The future of guest experience

The best list of all has to be one that includes no ‘to do’ items or tick boxes. 2021 was a busy old year that we couldn’t possibly capture in brief, but we do have some reflections on what we’ve learned about the future of guest experience and what we expect to see more of in 2022.

Guest experience trends – keep your eyes peeled for more of this:

1. People still make the world go round (whether Meta exists or not!) – the human touch is keeping its head above the automation parapet when it comes to delivering guest experience. And if you want to hear what a difference it really can make to guest loyalty, check out this summary of Tyann’s Magic Fairy Dust talk she delivered at VRMA International and the Vacation Rental Women’s Summit.

2. Video is a truly useful route out of the pandemic in guest experience terms, it’s not just what makes Tik Tok tick. Lorraine from Wigwam Holidays Wigtown told us how she introduced it to make her guest information more accessible and found it helped reduce guest questions too. Does video feature in the delivery of your guest experience?

3. Even the dull stuff is part of the experience – travel insurance included. I discovered that Tyann communicates with her guests about travel insurance twice between booking and arrival. What often comes automatically included with your credit card package, is worth checking if it covers the full extent of every trip, or your experience of that trip will be tainted disproportionately in the wrong direction. Deb and Dave from PlanetD told us how their fastidiousness about travel insurance turned a nightmare slip into a story worth sharing with the world.

4. Climate change is not only influencing how we travel but also the experiences we present to guests. And sometimes, the most effective way to get the message across is to show, rather than tell. Guests may not want the climate crisis forced in their face while on holiday but it can be a subliminal and/or immersive part of their experience that they’ll love as part of their stay. We have a leading light on this stage in one of our customers, Bob Garner. He influenced the new Making a Difference topic for our guidebooks so that you can share your environmental efforts, and social causes, and generally encourage travellers to be more considerate of their carbon footprint and of other communities when travelling.

5. Experiences are there to be learned from – yours and those of others. And nobody has to go it alone making their accommodation offering a success – as owners, hosts, managers and software providers, we’re all learning from each other every day. The Touch Stay Rock Stars Facebook group now has more than 1,400 members who ask for hosting hacks and marketing tips as well as guidebook user support from the community. Half of our product updates this year have been prompted by user requests.

6. Upselling is an acceptable and enhancing element of guest experience. Truly! Offering add-ons to guests between booking and arrival builds relationships and delivers unique experiences amongst back to back bookings. Nancy McAleer inspired us with how she’s automated upselling to guests resulting in increased revenues and guests that are happier than ever. While Nick Ellis left us spellbound with the creativity of his team to personalise a guest’s stay.

7. The QR code renaissance is now a habitual part of delivering guest experience. They have the ability to connect people through tech, not just share information. Functional as they are, used creatively a QR code can transform guests’ experience – imagine one on your guest welcome letter that opens a video message (in your digital guidebook) welcoming them to your place. QR codes are increasingly expected (think mass adoption by restaurants doing away with paper menus) and surprisingly adored by consumers; it’s time to get creative with yours! In the meantime check out these templates we have created for you to adapt and use at your place.

8. Souvenirs are still a thing – we just don’t call them that anymore. Their relationship to the future of guest experience? How they enable guests to hold on the experience itself. Alissa Cincotta kicked off episode 1 of our podcast with tales of private cave tours and the bottle of limoncello that shall remain unopened forever! When people have a particularly good time somewhere and connect objects or produce with memories made, souvenirs are what they hold on to as the physical remains of ephemeral trips.

9. It can take time to change old ways – the guest information folder/binder still exists in some holiday properties – despite the pandemic. I spotted one during my summer break in Devon. I just had to hope the cleaners had given it a wipe down… BUT 1.3 million people accessed guest information via a Touch Stay digital guest welcome book this year – some three times more than in 2020 – and with both eyes on the future of guest experience that’s definitely worth celebrating!

10. Everyone’s now talking about guest experience. Finally! The penny has dropped across the industry. From PMS and channel managers to cleaning companies and OTAs, everyone has had something to say about guest experience at industry events this year. What does that mean for actual guests? We hope it’ll mean slicker, sweeter travel: from easier discovery and smoother booking journeys, to neater check-ins and an overall hike in average review ratings. Oh, and many more much happier guests! Here are more thoughts on a guest-first strategy – it’s THE way forward (if you’re not already along for the ride with us).

The future of guest experience relies on operators making it a priority. I promise you it’s a sustainable investment when done well.