On-line technology does the hefty lifting for hospitality sales...
Artificial Intelligence is big news, dominating social media tweets and posts around the world. AI comes as no surprise for the holiday destination sector where automated technology has long been embedded in the hospitality experience. From booking a destination through promoting on-site spend to sealing timely confirmation of return accommodation, the convenience of automated, easy-to-access, digital systems needs no explanation.
Zonal is a UK-based, family-owned, connected technology provider offering innovative solutions to more than 16,000 businesses of all shapes and sizes across the hospitality sector. Zonal provided detailed figures to partners, CGA, enabling them to produce an exclusive GO Technology survey of 5,000 nationally representative British consumers earlier this year.
That report reveals consumers’ latest attitudes to using technology within hospitality, and how venues can strike the right balance between digital solutions and personal interaction. Having an online, direct booking system in place, that is easy to use, will help operators drive footfall and increase overall revenues this summer and beyond.
In food and beverage outlets, online booking systems can be set up to prompt guests to opt for up-selling options such as pre-dinner cocktails or a bottle of fizz on arrival. What’s more, enabling guests to reserve a table will reduce queues and improve the guest experience. Key to this, will be simple things such as ensuring WIFI is available.
The research shows that only 53% of people consider WIFI in holiday parks to be good or excellent whilst 64% say that these tech solutions will improve the quality of their stay. With this in mind, making sure WIFI works and connects well can reduce guest frustration and make it easier for them to make impulse bookings and purchases.
Booking technology can also alleviate pressure on staff particularly if it is integrated with other tech in outlets and across the park. For example, an integrated bookings and table management system will save staff time by relieving them of the task of manually re-inputting information and reduces the risk of error.
Personalisation is a key consumer trend and enabling guests to tailor their holiday to their preferences improves guests’ overall experience and drives revenues. Tech systems help here by giving control to guests. A fully integrated booking system can enable guests to prebook activities, preselect tables, pre-order food and even order food and drink to be delivered to their accommodation.
Over half of holiday park guests (56%) find the idea of having breakfast delivered to their accommodation appealing. By making it as easy as possible to browse and book holiday park experiences, guests will be prompted to opt for on-site options and less inclined to look for alternative options off-site.
“The role of technology in hospitality is clearly growing – in a post-pandemic market, not only are customers used to seeing technology in-venue, but a lot of customers expect it to be present,” points out Olivia FitzGerald, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer for Zonal. “However, we cannot afford to underestimate the importance of human connection, Olivia continues.
“Hospitality is a sector that is brilliant because of its people, and it is important that technology enhances that by working in the background, doing the heavy-lifting and alleviating staff pressure so they can focus on delivering exceptional service to their guests.”
Digital booking systems also enable operators to capture important customer data. This can then be used to encourage repeat visits – boosting business by helping marketing teams reach more prospects in more channels with less budget. Whilst holiday parks can expect park members to return time and time again, operators cannot rest on their laurels.
Ensuring members are kept engaged, as well as ensuring there are guest visits increasing year on year will be vital. To help drive this, guests should be contacted post-stay with offers of promotions, discounts and other bounceback schemes. If a booking system is linked to all other tech and integrates with one central hub, such as an EPoS, operators can take this one step further, using customer spend data from across the holiday park to create bespoke and tailored on-site offers and promotions based on those likes and dislikes.
This not only encourages spend and repeat visits but gives guests a more personalised and bespoke experience. Figures in the report indicate that 81% of people are planning to stay in a UK destination - so there has never been a better time for park owners to ensure their booking systems are fit for purpose.
As operational costs continue to soar it is vital that holiday parks are able to drive spend per head across all parts of the business and booking technology can support this by opening up opportunities to encourage up-selling and add-on sales. Approaches to interactions via tech and human contact have become neatly split: between their tasks outside a restaurant or pub; and steps they take while inside (see box).
For example, nearly half (47%) would prefer to make table bookings via technology, while even more want to be able to cancel bookings (51%) or get reminders without having to contact someone (60%).
Once they are through the doors, it’s a different story, as nearly three in five consumers want to place food orders, settle bills and leave tips in person. In practice, the division of preferences isn’t quite so straightforward. Many people still want to complete pre-visit tasks offline, like general enquiries (33%) and booking tables (25%). Likewise, a minority prefer to use technology to place orders or pay bills.
“Wherever technology is deployed, choice and flexibility are key. It can be a superb enabler for hospitality for guests and operators alike, giving consumers the speed and convenience they want and freeing up teams to focus on what they do best,” notes Karl Chessell, CGA Director - hospitality operators and food, EMEA. “In such a competitive and challenging market, brands that make the smartest use of tech, without compromising human elements, have a crucial advantage.”
This highlights the importance of choice. Going too far in either direction—whether by withdrawing human interaction completely or failing to offer enough alternative options— risks alienating sizeable proportions of potential guests. Understanding the breakdowns of consumers who prefer technology and human interaction is the first step towards meeting their needs, and this GO Technology research pinpoints their key demographics.
The key takeaway is that technophiles tend to be heavy spenders. They spend an average of £24 a month more on eating and drinking out than those who prefer human interaction, and their household income is £10,100 higher. On top of that, more than half (53%) live in city or town centres, where hospitality venues are more heavily concentrated and people eat out more often.
Of course, consumers who typically choose human contact over digital interaction are just as valuable, and operators need to carefully retain their loyalty. But this data shows the enormous value of technology users in hospitality and makes a strong case for sustained investment in digital solutions that satisfy them. To download the full report, contact firstname.lastname@example.org