09 Mar Next Stop, No Stress. The New Amenity Helping Hotels Compete
I’m the oldest of four siblings, which means family travel has always been a bit hectic. Every year, my mother, myself and my sisters head to Nashville, Tennessee to visit my youngest sister where she’s building a career in the music business. And every year, my mother insists we stay at the same exact hotel – even though my sister has lived in three different apartments all various distances from that hotel. It’s certainly not the most lavish or most convenient spot, yet there’s never any question as to where we’ll end up.
Why? Because my mom likes the complimentary shuttle service offered by the hotel. She likes that she can get a free ride anywhere she wants to go. She likes that she doesn’t have to remember how to use a ride hailing service or find a place to park near the bustling Broadway drag. She feels appreciated as a guest, that the hotel has thoughtfully offered this consistent service each and every time she comes to stay. She even remembers her shuttle drivers’ names and personal stories.
The Exception and the Rule
Like my mom, many travelers choose their hotel based on amenities that make their trip more convenient – like a courtesy shuttle. Unlike my mom, most road-weary travelers have higher expectations when it comes to how they judge their experience with a courtesy shuttle offering the them a ride from the airport to the front desk.
Unfortunately, it’s easy to forget about how great that free shuttle ride can be when you find yourself tired, hungry and at the curb outside the airport with no clue when to expect the next shuttle to appear. Especially with ride sharing service options offer that high-visibility experience and more for a relatively low cost. For many, the cost of a paid service is worth the convenience of knowing exactly when their ride will arrive. The same is true of people traveling from their hotel to an event or back to the airport; for many, it’s anxiety-inducing to sit in the hotel lobby straining to catch a glimpse of the shuttle pulling into the pickup zone.
Today’s travelers are savvy enough to pick and choose their favorite travel amenities from multiple hospitality vendors, a-la-cart style. In fact, despite how common they seem to be, 60 percent of guests don’t even belong to hotel loyalty programs.
Hospitality brands aren’t just competing with each other anymore – they’re competing with tertiary services.
A Familiar Amenity Gets a Makeover
Hospitality brands ranging from hotel chains to rental agencies are beginning to offer real-time shuttle trackers to their guests and customers, powered by real-time location sharing services.
Imagine how much more convenient and valuable that shuttle experience can be if the person can watch the shuttle live on a map as it makes its stops and travels its route on its way to where they’re waiting. Even more, imagine that live view comes with a down-to-the-minute ETA countdown- and that the whole experience is available on any smartphone via a simple link, no password or app required.
For my mom, that’s the difference between enjoying more time with her kids in her favorite Nashville honkytonk instead of traipsing to the dedicated shuttle pickup spot to wait for a ride.
There’s many technology platforms available to help deliver a connected travel experience once the guest arrives at their hotel, but it’s not truly a connected experience unless hospitality providers take the extra step to engage with customers from the minute they first arrive at their destination city. For many, that moment is when they first step of the airplane.
Beyond driving engaging shuttle trackers, of course, location services technology can also drive better connected guest experiences once the shuttle ride is over. For example, if hotel staff are aware of a guest’s precise arrival time, they can automate check in and even take extra steps to ensure the guest’s room is prepared to their exact preferences and specifications the minute they walk through the door – perhaps even build experiences that bypass traditional check in completely.
Have you added real-time tracking to help guests connect with their complimentary ride? How else are you using location data to create end-to-end guest experiences?