Past economic downturns have seen a reduction in travel, and a squeezing of the market. The latest economic squeeze comes on the back of the pandemic, compounding stresses already felt by the travel market.
But it’s business travel that isn’t rebounding as hard as before, according to business and wellness expert Sonal Uberoi of Spa Balance, and savvy hotels can still make the most of buoyant leisure travel market committed to ‘only living once.’
Here are her top tips on how to future proof your hotel and ride out the recession.
Sell an experience
People buy more than just a bed to sleep in. They buy an experience. When we put the emotional, psychological and experiential aspect of wellness front and centre of a hotel, customers are drawn in on a deeper level, and have a connection with your space and place that goes beyond the functional.
Make your space a retreat
A retreat doesn’t have to be yoga sessions and smoothies. It’s about providing a welcome break. Cost of living and financial worries for consumers in the UK and US will be causing people to be worried and stressed at home – and so want to feel something entirely different through wellness. Convey through your communications how staying with you will be an escape. A great example is Birch Community, where guests can work, sleep, eat and retreat. Birch bills itself as as a place to find mojo and magic.
Ask yourself what makes you different – and don’t make it price. In fact if you’re offering something of value it’s ok to charge accordingly. Instead differentiate yourself on value of the experience- your guests don’t care about the list of traits, features, history, services, and characteristics of your hotel or resort; they care about your values, your purpose, how you interact with your community and local environment, and how you have threaded wellness into the fabric of this ecosystem of wellbeing. Think about how they can feel part of your tribe.
Build a community
A great hotel experience doesn’t stand alone. Cconnect with other suppliers in area – local food, wineries, running tours – and make people feel that by coming to you they get more than just a bed. This helps you create bundled wellness packages so you don’t have to reduce rates but can in fact up them through this process known as rate obscuring. One resort Spa Balance worked with tripled its average daily rate (ADR) and daily spend, doubled its occupancy rate, and is consistently voted one of the best hotels in the Iberian Peninsula, by fully building a wellness brand.
“Innovators future-proof their hotels by diversifying their reach and considering the defining key moments – from before their guests arrive to when they have left – and they explore non-traditional revenue streams to continue to engage with their guests and sell more.” says Sonal.
Find your people
Customer loyalty goes a long way – ask yourself who are your most valuable customers and find out what it is that makes them tick. Through values-based messaging, invest in creating that tribe of guests who want to be part of your brand. Look at the data and gather feedback – and act on it.
Invest in your teams
The travel industry is currently facing a staff shortage. Great people were laid off during the pandemic – and now don’t want to return. The wellness of your teams is so important, as it’s only happy and healthy people who can create an experience where guests also feel happy and healthy. Consider how each person fits into your model for wellness, invest in their training and support, and build a culture where wellness is embedded in everything you do.
Baby boomers love to travel, and young people want to get away. We are actively catering to multiple generations, so a cookie cutter approach won’t work. And people want to feel unique, special, like their experience is one of a kind. Through wellness hotels can use their tools that help us cater to the diverse wellbeing goals and lifestyles of guests.
Think beyond international
Make yourself a go to destination for local people who need a break, as well as international tourists. Success comes from broadening your audience profile, without diluting your brand. There will be people in your city, county, country who want to experience what you have to offer, so tailor your marketing to them.
Think circular to be better
We need to be giving back – to people and places. It’s more than just being sustainable. Think about how to reduce waste in operations, design, redesign, and how you can give back to people, community, environment and guests by considering wellbeing at every stage of the journey.
Sonal Uberoi says: “This won’t be the last recession, and hotels need to invest now to the make next one easier. And what they need to invest in is wellness. That underlying and sometimes seemingly ephemeral concept that infuses everything that you do, from brand strategy to hotel architecture to service offering. It’s not ephemeral, but with very tangible steps, every hotel can be a place of wellness. ”