Raising Expectations – A Hotel Innovation

by Braden Kelley

People used to take it for granted that when it came to airlines and hotels that you bought an anonymous seat or room, and you bought site unseen. Then the traditional airlines came along and introduced seat picking applications that allowed you to pick exactly the seat you wanted or see how full a flight was (helpful if you’re on the fence).

Now Homewood Suites has introduced the same concept to the hotel industry and taken it a step further by showing you photos of the room you might be choosing and how close it is to the ice machine or the elevator.

Some people may find room picking to be an incremental improvement, but I would like to make a case for this to be seen as an industry innovation, and here’s why:

  1. It changes the conversation – It’s no longer “is a room available”, it’s “what are my choices”
  2. It improves the customer experience – now the customer feels in control
  3. It improves transparency
  4. It increases the perceived value of the hotel’s web site versus those of aggregators like Expedia or Hotwire
  5. Further enhancements could swing the industry balance of power towards hotels and away from airlines

So what do all of these things mean together?

Providing a customer with choices and transparency inspires trust, and increases follow-through. Customers who perceive that a hotel web site provides choices an aggregator does not are more likely to start and finish their purchasing journey on a hotel web site.

If customers start to place more emphasis on getting the hotel room they want first, then airlines might have to start advertising on hotel sites instead of the other way around. That would be a huge sea change, and boost the profitability of the hotels at the expense of the airlines.

Resort or view hotels should be looking at this development and pushing the envelope in this area. Imagine a video with all the boring bits cut out that showed the experience of driving up to the hotel, walking into the hotel lobby, to the room, into the room, looking around, checking out the view, and then relaxing. This could be quite compelling when shopping for a vacation or something a little special for your business trip.

Homewood Suites’ efforts are a first step, who will take the next step?

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