Below are five new year business resolutions you should keep in 2016 to create a more successful business.
Sell the Experience
In a world where we are all inundated with data, products and promotions, the last thing your customers want is another sales pitch. No customer really wants to know about your product. They want to hear about how your product will make them feel. Especially, when it comes to picking where they will spend their most precious and most valued time, their time off. They want to purchase the experience of being at your hotel, on your island, in the Caribbean. Consumption has changed and if you want to sell things, you must first sell the experience. The hoteliers who understand this mindset will be the ones racking up sales.
When it comes to selling cultural experiences, Cuba is a shining example. Cuba has been a popular Caribbean destination for many years thanks to the allure the island poses to those wanting to live a “time capsule” experience. Visitors want to walk the streets of Havana, see the classic cars, listen to an authentic rumba, have a real Cuban mojito and be immersed in a frozen place in time. This mystique, more so than the beaches and the accommodations, is what draws visitors to its shores.
In October during the CHIEF conference, presenters and participants agreed that sharing the authentic Caribbean experience is key to not only promoting a property or destination, but the region as a whole. What makes your island unique? What is it about your property that captures that unique beauty?
Keep it Mobile
According to eMarketer, 2016 is the year we will continue to see the shift from desktop bookings to mobile bookings with over half of online bookings coming from mobile. If your website and booking engine is not optimized for mobile, you will lose at the marketing game. Customers can get irritated by having to laboriously enter information into a site that is not meant to be used on a smartphone. Make your customer’s path to purchase easily, across all platforms.
Mobile offers a degree of engagement with customers that is impossible to achieve through other media. Marketing messages delivered by SMS are sent via text message to a consumer’s mobile phone and are highly effective. According to the Direct Marketing Association, brand recall via mobile is very high – with survey results as high as 51%, with 96% remembering the call-to-action from the message.
A mobile phone is the one screen that accompanies your guest throughout their entire stay. Hotels can use a customer’s smartphone GPS to send out location-specific messages to reach consumers who want to book at the last minute or ask current guest to “Check-in” using their favorite social platform.
The Millennial or Generation Y demographic will become the core customer within the hospitality and travel industries over the next five to 10 years. The future of hospitality marketing lies within this demographic. According to Nielsen, YouTube reaches more U.S. adults ages 18 to 34 than any cable network in existence. Video marketing is key to attracting the attention of hospitality’s biggest audience and driving guests to make bookings.
Video conveys visual and emotional touch points which are present in almost every travel offering, which is what drives bookings. Today’s Internet user has a limited attention span and videos are an excellent hook to keep your visitor on the site for a longer period of time. It also helps travelers “see themselves there” before making a reservation. Both Google and YouTube offer tools such as “Google Trends” and “YouTube Videos Keyword Tool” to help hoteliers identify keywords to use in video titles, and a “Google Keyword Planner” which enables hoteliers to plug in a video title to determine effectiveness.
Using video on multiple social platforms is also a great awareness booster and traffic draw for your website. Adding “travel inspiring” videos to your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts will give you more visibility. The most important part about video on social platforms is that informal, unpolished videos that look like your customers took them themselves, also known as UGC (User Generated Content), outperform professional promotional videos. Also asking your customers to take video and post it on your various social platforms provides your brand a great deal of “social proof”. According to a study conducted by Ipsos, millennials trust UGC just as much as they trust professional reviews and is 20% more influential than any other media type.
Another growing trend in 2016 is live streaming video on platforms such as Periscope and Meerkat. By using either app, anyone with a smartphone can now broadcast live video from their mobile device and anyone watching can leave comments in your video, in real-time. The comments appear on the screen, overlaid on your video, and are visible to everyone who is watching. User comments become part of the video stream – a live conversation around your content that unfurls in real-time.
Hotel staff has the greatest impact, more than any other aspect, on overall customer satisfaction. Your team is the face your business presents to the world on a daily basis and neglecting their importance will clearly be reflected in the bottom line. In a world of AirBnb, Uber and automated self-service, excellent customer service shines bright and is a clear differentiator for traditional travel accommodations.
The hospitality and tourism industry tends to employ a significantly high percentage of transient workers (e.g. students and migrants), consequently a level of turnover is unavoidable. However, employees tend to leave their employer when they are not satisfied with their job or working conditions. Retention is then directly related to job satisfaction and training. According to the 2015 People First Report, job satisfaction is perceived to be more important than monetary compensation, but directly linked with being perceived as valuable at work.
Intrinsic rewards can be provided to employees through training and development – either training managers to develop their management skills so that the level of satisfaction among staff will be improved, or providing training opportunities to staff to develop their skills so that they can do their jobs well. In 2016, consider putting more efforts on developing your managers and staff by providing more training opportunities, hiring external training specialists, and sending selected staff and managers to CHTA events. CHTA will offer a variety of continuous educational opportunities at Caribbean Travel Marketplace, Taste of the Caribbean and of course, CHIEF. We will also provide virtual trainings via online webinars and workshops.
Food is much more than just a meal. More than sustenance, food is a cultural expression of who we are, a way to express our beliefs and heritage. Food has also become a passion of many travelers, hungry to experience a taste of a new land for themselves. Culinary aficionados, foodies, are the kind of traveler that starts each meal by taking a perfect photo of their dish to post on social media. They are the kind of traveler who will shamelessly brag about a sumptuous meal and will pick a vacation hot spot based on the appetizers.
Catering to the culinary and culturally conscious traveler will continue to be a growing trend in 2016, and it is clear to see why. Food festivals and culinary competitions of all kinds are great ways to draw in this very lucrative and awareness raising customer. Cooking classes and expeditions are also growing in popularity, where you pick your ingredients yourself, and prepare and eat your meal in the place where it grows: an authentic culinary experience.
What is the one dish that is most mentioned in your Yelp or TripAdvisor review? Does your chef have a particular standout recipe? Make a star out of one of your entrees and foodies will flock to satiate their curiosity. Hyper local cuisine is of great interest to this demographic. Local and fresh ingredients not only make your meals more culturally authentic they keep your costs down. It also tells the customer a story about what it means to live on your island.