The travel and tourism industry has seen significant growth in the past few years. There has been a hike of over 7.6 trillion U.S. dollars in 2016. A number of countries, like France and the United States, have been working towards expanding their tourism.
Tourism can induce the local government to improve the infrastructure, giving rise to many small businesses and organizations. All of this can improve the quality of life for residents as well as facilitate tourism.
With the rise of tourism and the economic benefits linked to tourism, small hotel businesses are also arising. Let’s touch upon the evolution of the hotel industry and how AI tools for automation have been playing a significant role in it!
The Hotel Industry and Automation
Ever since tourism arose in the market, the hotel business has been booming with new, innovative ways of automating several tasks, such as bookings, finding the location, customer support, broadcast messages, promotions, and marketing. One such ideal tool for automation for hoteliers are chatbots!
Chatbots were one of 2017’s most important trends. These small pieces of software with pre-programmed interactions enable you to communicate naturally with them and simulate a human being’s behavior in a conversational environment. It can be integrated across various channels, like the hotel website, social media or mobile apps, allowing the hotel industry to ‘humanize’ their brand, access to a wider audience and elevate the customer experience (CX) to their benefit.
Abandoned Bookings at Hotels
One persistent problem every hotelier faces- abandoned bookings. A recent survey ‘ Why do guests leave their reservations? ‘ highlights the main reasons why direct bookings have been abandoned:
1. 39 percent of visitors wanted to investigate further.
2. 21 percent needed to check with others before booking.
3. 37 percent thought the price was too high or they wanted to spend time scouting for better deals.
4. 13 percent found the booking process too complicated and were put-off.
5. 9 percent faced a technical problem when booking.
6. 10 percent of bookings were lost because they asked too many details.
If you’ve ever been in the hotel industry, you will remember the Hilton hotels ad campaign ‘ Stop Clicking Around ‘ running in February 2016. It was a bold initiative from Hilton, encouraging the guests directly browse, select and book hotel rooms and services from their mobile app and hotel website.
Slowly, that emerged to a trend where every large-scale hotel chain started using websites and apps for marketing and to expand their online presence. Websites became the common tool to get in touch with the hotel for information, customer support, room bookings and entertainment like images, videos, blogs, etc.
While big brands have the capital and resources to undertake such initiatives, most of the small-scale hotels end up losing traffic and bookings to OTAs.
There is an ongoing effort in the industry to reverse this trend, although it needs to cover a lot of ground. Some of the hoteliers say they prioritize their guest-facing digital assets to deliver more while maintaining pocket-friendly marketing efforts. Much of their focus remains on websites, social media and messaging, a crossroad where agile technologies such as chatbots take shape.
A majority of the hotel websites under-deliver these days, discouraging a majority of the visitors from converting into customers. To catch hold of booking, a hotel has to overcome a few challenges.
The competition from the neighborhood hotels should be one, and fulfilling the guests’ requirements would be second, including- price, brand, location, food & drinks, technology, speedy wi-fi, activities, user reviews, etc.
The Decline of Potential Leads – Common Complaints the Customers have with Hotels:
1. Websites take longer to upload.
2. Very few communication options with the hotel.
3. Too many details required to complete a booking.
4. Complicated booking UI and UX.
5. A website not optimized for mobiles and other screen types.
A robust technology stack contributes to an effective website, transforming the user experience. The main factors being:
The Channel Manager
A channel manager is a system that links the PMS to other online booking sites, such as Airbnb, Booking.com or Expedia. This helps owners to change prices, availability of calendars and bookings simultaneously across a number of platforms.
The Booking Engine
A hotel booking engine is an application on hotel websites used to securely process online bookings. The purpose of a hotel booking engine is to allow bookings to be made: directly on the hotel’s own website; and third-party websites such as Facebook, on which your hotel is listed.
The Property Management System (PMS)
A property management system (PMS) is a software application for hospitality and commercial residential property rental operations. PMS is also used in manufacturing, local government, and many other industries. PMS provides a centralized computer system for organizing, scheduling and carrying out the day-to-day functions and transactions involved in hosting businesses.
How Do Chatbots Help in the Hotel Industry for Bookings?
Due to conventional technology, the methods small-scale industries use aren’t reaching their objectives. Hence, pushing the use of chatbot technology in the right direction. Think about it, chatbots are – great conversationalists leveraging NLP technology, available 24×7, automate a large set of queries simultaneously, generate leads, engages customers, etc. So it’s definitely a smart move to throw them in the mix!
Chatbot Integration System
A chatbot can integrate with different systems and act as direct communication with guests. They can also be easily integrated across various channels, like hotel websites, messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Messenger, Telegram, Slack, Kik, etc, and social media channels such as Facebook. This allows the hotels to build a strong online occupancy and reach out to a multitude of target audience easily.
Accessibility and Direct Booking
Not only can chatbots be prepared to showcase hotel features, services, amenities, and local attractions, they can also seamlessly push visitors to the website and down the booking path. Besides, the transactions are one-to-one, so the hotels may take advantage of this opportunity to offer the best online room rate available with smart reward marketing such as a continuous promotion or special deals to drive direct booking. The chatbot can facilitate online check-in once the guest has the booking reference number and help them avoid the queues at the reception desk.
Text and Voice Chatbots Engage In-House Guests
Integrating a chatbot to PMS requires less manual interventions. This enables the customers to have a seamless experience during their stay at the hotel. They can access information by texting or directly talking to the chatbot and it will assist them in any way they need. Okay, probably not ANY. But most of the common queries and requests. If unable to help, a chatbot will directly connect you to the hotel representatives for further support.
Post-stay: Chatbots are packaging the ability to complete the circuit – hotels can now stay connected during their journey with their guests. Hotels will keep the guest engagement alive with automatic reviews and messages even after their stay which contributes to building a loyal customer fanbase.
Bringing Back Customers Post-Checkout:
Personalized travel-based rebooking deals will keep guests in the booking funnel even when they are not a part of the hotel’s loyalty management system. For example, for the next trip, a package deal can be given to a guest to keep them interested in activities around the hotel.
Chatbots with Machine Learning not only continue to develop responses but also to better characterize the visitors. The right technology will keep the interaction going, making the chatbots with time more stable. The OTAs also mastered the art of optimizing the booking experience to simplify the process.
To Sum It Up
The use of chatbots in the hotel industry is still evolving, but it currently includes a wide range of services, ranging from hotel reservations and customer service inquiries to pre-stay and post-stay inquiries and general travel advice.
One successful implementation of chatbots in the hotel industry comes from the hotel booking bot by Engati. It’s a simple bot that allows the customers to book hotel rooms and services directly from the chatbot and can be integrated on various mediums.
If you haven’t considered a chatbot for your hotel business yet, you could start now!
For more information, here are a few blogs.
Thanks for reading!