Thursday, November 23, 2017

Gulf travellers 'go digital to enhance hotel experience'

Travellers in the GCC are embracing digital solutions to enhance their hotel experience, according to a new survey from Avaya.

About 89 per cent use hotel mobile apps to perform tasks such as tracking bill changes and communicating with staff via chat, the survey said.

More than a quarter also book their rooms through a hotel app, while respondents said having an easy-to-use app ranked only behind a smooth and fast check-in as the most important factor in evaluating their stay. 

The Customer Experience in Hospitality Survey, conducted with YouGov, queried more than 1,200 individuals across the GCC to better understand consumer expectations in the digital age.  Travellers would prefer to book their room online, with 39 per cent choosing to use an online travel agent, followed by 37 per cent using the hotel’s website, and 27 per cent the hotel’s mobile app. One in five respondents (20 per cent) still call the hotel’s contact centre, with the same percentage e-mailing the hotel directly, emphasising the importance of supporting multi-channel communications. 

When selecting the top factors in evaluating their stay, 31 per cent cited a smooth and fast check-in, with 15 per cent citing an easy-to-use app – ahead of access to facilities, such as gym, pool, restaurants and children’s areas. 

The GCC’s tourism industry is expected to play a vital role in helping the oil-dependent states diversify their economies.  Regional strategists advise the industry to focus more on the high expectations of today’s digital consumers or risk being beaten out by competition. GCC states provide the top source markets for tourism from the Middle East region, making their citizens attractive as consumers both regionally and on a global scale.

Getting the customer experience right is vital, with 44 per cent of respondents saying they wouldn’t give a hotel a second chance in the event of bad service, and 34 per cent saying they would write a negative review on a site such as TripAdvisor. More than a third, 37 per cent, would complain to the hotel directly, with the same number saying they would tell friends and family about any issues. 

While mobile apps are overwhelmingly used by GCC travelers, the in-room phone is still central to the hotel experience – 63 per cent of respondents said the in-room phone was important to them, with only 3 per cent saying they don’t use it. More than half (53 per cent) of respondents cited limited functionality and confusing layout as key factors that limit their use of in-room phones. 

While the majority, 57 per cent, said the in-room phone was most useful for contacting the front desk and other hotel services, 42 per cent said they would want to be able to control in-room amenities such as entertainment, lighting and temperature from the phone. More than a third (36 per cent) of respondents would like to be able to use it to engage hotel staff via chat and messaging apps. 

“In today’s highly competitive GCC travel market, hotels need to be able to meet their guests’ expectations, regardless of the method they use to contact them. Travelers also want a range of options available to them when it comes to accessing services during their stay. Delivering a superior customer experience really comes down to how simple it is to access services and information—whether in the booking process or during your stay,” says Frederick Sabty, Vice President of Hospitality Solutions at Avaya. 

“As we increasingly adopt technology in our daily lives, hotels are being pressured to meet that expectation through smarter, connected devices and services that bridge the gap between the digital and physical guest experience.”  - TradeArabia News Service

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