The travel industry market requirements are changing at a significantly high rate, due to the shift in traveler preferences especially for a fulfilling hotel booking experience. Industry players seem to have taken the initiative to meet these high customer demands, in an effort to drive forward the global hotel sector whose revenue is focused to reach approximately US$550 billion; by the end of this year, 2016. Whether booking a hotel directly or through an online travel agent (OTA), there are trends that have undeniably dominated the process including the use of mobile devices and applications, which enable seamless and personalized services; adding a plus to hotels that offer these options.
The increase of millennial travelers has also largely contributed to the rise of preferences such as the use of online hotel reviews to decide on the hotel they wish to book, as compared to the traditional method of word of mouth; it is important to note however that a lot of people still trust a word of mouth review from people who have previously been to the hotel. According to Yared Kifle, the Head of Revenue Management for Jumia Travel East Africa, approximately 50% of potential guests will go through online reviews before booking a hotel.
Hotels that appreciate this trend and its importance to customer retention go a step further in following up with the reviews, providing timely feedback to queries, commending good ones and correcting areas that have been badly reviewed, to ensure better service delivery. Facilities on online platforms such as Jumia Travel also have an upper hand in offering potential customers a chance to compare information, images and amenities with other options in order to make informed decisions. This further gives them more online visibility, increasing their chances of getting bookings.
Whatever the type of travel, be it business or leisure, it is patent that there are common hotel amenities most preferred by guests such as free Wi-Fi, in-room chargers for their devices for either business or leisure undertakings, airport pickup services to avoid transport hassles and provision of breakfast as most of the guests will be out and about during the day.
Interesting to note is that despite the notion that a higher percentage of travelers would prefer staying in 5 star hotels, statistics by Africa’s leading online booking platform Jumia Travel show that 36% of travelers prefer 3 star hotels, as compared to 20% who would go for the 4 stars and only 3% for the 5 star hotels. The average price per room in a 5 star spent by customers dropped from 191 Euros in 2015 to 183 Euros this year, while the average price per room in a 3 star spent by customers increased from 60 Euros in 2015 to 61 Euros this year.
Payment option is also a key factor for guests looking to book any hotel. It is vital for hotels to provide for both prepaid and postpaid facilities to cater for the diverse markets. For instance; 60% of hotels on Jumia Travel offer guests the flexibility to either pay at the time of their booking, or pay at the hotel. This enables customers to enjoy a seamless service through booking, payments and post-stay review. Another major factor to consider is the model of payment and accepted channels. Mobile money is quite popular across the region; with the advent of Mpesa and Tigo Pesa, presented by 60% of customers who prefer to pay via mobile money platforms. It’s worth of note that card payments still command favor from travelers beyond the region, possibly due to their unrivaled global penetration.
In every aspect, the most important guest preference of all time is treatment, from loyalty programs to customer discounts and above all the respect accorded to him/her. Always remember, there is only one boss; the CUSTOMER.
Credit: Josephine Wawira, Jumia Travel