How important is the latest in technology to a traveler’s decision to stay in a hotel? Obviously, good (and ideally free) Wi-Fi is a given — but how much stock do hoteliers put in marketing their tech abilities? Marketers for tech-forward hotels place a priority on promoting it, but with qualifications because while everyone might appreciate and understand a great bed or restaurant, technology is more complex.
Paul Sauceda, director of sales and marketing for The Godfrey Boston, says, "We don't want to utilize technology for the sake of technology. We use it as a tool to further two of our biggest goals: creating a better and easier experience for our guest and facilitating a sense of connection. And we strive to make sure our marketing is just an extension of that.”
Hotels have learned over time that they can make technology too, well, technical. It’s best to show what that whiz-bang stuff actually does for the guest experience. As a result, says Sauceda, “We don't list all of the features of InnSpire (a technology tool) in our marketing, but we do talk about specific features, such as the ability to stream web-based programming like Netflix. Our thinking is that for many travelers, particularly business travelers, there is a sense of being a little out of place ... different city, different method of catching taxis, different bed, etc.
“We crave some familiarity, some connection to our normal life,” he says. “When you're in your room in the evening missing your family, your friends, your own couch, at least you can have the familiarity of watching the TV show you would at home. If your Monday night routine is to sit on the couch and watch Game of Thrones, you still can do that and feel that connection to home.
“But, convenience in the guest experience is also very important,” says Sauceda. “The OpenKey technology which allows guests to check-in, even select specific rooms, before arrival, then use their smartphone as a key is extremely convenient, but we don't see it as a leading marketing tool. So we market the option prior to arrival, but very little prior to the purchase decision. If it is going to make your life easier, then we want you to use it. And a lot of people do. But for others who still want to have the experience of checking in at the front desk, that's available as well.”
Kirk Pederson, president of Kokua Hospitality, a hotel management company that manages The Axiom Hotel in San Francisco, says of its ahead-of-the-curve tech amenities, “We market these items through our public relations and marketing efforts, via our social media channels, our website, and our newsletters to ensure the world knows about the tech-forward Axiom Hotel. We also highlight our tech offerings when speaking at industry events, and when marketing to group and corporate travel clients. We ensure our vendors are well-informed as well, so we have advocates out there speaking on our behalves and educating potential new clients."
But any hotelier will tell you that hospitality will always be people-based. As Sauceda says, “Personally, I hope that people never stop using the front desk altogether. Some hotels are doing away with the desk, installing check-in kiosks, but I think that takes away a little of the magic and the fun of a hotel. Imagine if Disney World stopped having characters walking around greeting children ... it just wouldn't be the same. Technology should enhance the overall experience, not replace it.”
When it comes to technology, the key to marketing it is the same as the technology itself. It should be simple, easy to understand and make guests understand what’s in it for them.