Internet penetration has affected no other industry as much as the Travel industry. Gone are the days of the mute price taker who was helpless when unsatisfied with the actual experience. There was little one could do except go and bad mouth the property among a group of friends. Even the contrary was true – a small hotel offering great service but not having the budget to market itself among travel agents sitting in far off feeder markets used to face a long gestation period to stabilize financially.
However, things have changed most dramatically in the hotel industry. Every single traveler is important and powerful and the internet has everything to do with it. The open and democratic framework of the internet through devoted review websites like tripadvisor and the review sections on online travel portals has ensured that everyone has a voice and keeping up one’s best appearance is important for every hotel day in and day out.
A travel agent commission driven downward spiral of the bygone days
In the old days the hegemony of large travel agents who used to break down hotel prices to extract the highest margin for themselves had set in motion a global trend where the number one point of discussion between agents and hotels used to be price. All hotel experiences had started looking alike and every hotel has started looking like a xerox copy of another. Service standards had taken a back seat. The focus was moving away from one of guest satisfaction to one of major complaint avoidance. Only a small percentage of the hotel’s margins was finding its way back into service enhancement and most of it was going back into maintaining expensive marketing teams, attending expensive travel festivals and above-the-line marketing campaigns in the print or outdoor media. The fine traveler looking for a unique experience at an affordable price point was not even a thriving category. All this changed with the advent of the internet.
The internet inspired renewed guest focus
The biggest game changer in the travel industry has been the discoverability of small hotels. It is easier than ever today for a back packer sitting in Chile to find, compare and book small hotels offering a yoga experience in a remote town in India after reading about it on tripadvisor. More visibility has lead to more eyeballs for the small hotels, thus leading to higher revenues for them. From a situation where a small hotel or inn had absolutely no international visibility to one where they are being compared with the top hotel chains in the their areas and in many cases managing to rank higher than them, the world is a much more even playing field now. The most important output of this radical shift has been the fact that money is now finding its way to the right businesses who are in turn managing to take their experiences a few notches higher.
The internet has set in motion a trend which has brought back into vogue the dying art of making your guest extremely happy. No longer is Good Service an ‘also-have’ in a hotel’s list of features…it is now the only thing that matters.