Trends in Traveler Preferences in Hotel Booking
The market demands of the travel industry are changing at a drastically high rate, due to changing traveler preferences, especially for a satisfying hotel booking experience. Industry players seem to have taken the initiative to respond to these strong customer demands, with the aim of advancing the global hotel sector whose revenues aim to reach around 550 billion US dollars; by the end of this year 2016. Whether booking a hotel directly or through an online travel agency (OTA), certain trends have undeniably dominated the process, including the use mobile devices and apps, which enable seamless and personalized services; adding a plus to hotels that offer these options.
The increase in the number of millennial travelers has also contributed significantly to the increase in preferences such as using online hotel reviews to decide which hotel they want to book, compared to the method traditional word of mouth; it is important to note however that many people still rely on word of mouth from people who have previously stayed at the hotel. According to Yared Kifle, Head of Revenue Management for Jumia Travel East Africa, around 50% of potential customers will go through online reviews before booking a hotel.
Hotels that appreciate this trend and its importance to guest retention are going the extra mile to track reviews, providing timely feedback to queries, praising good ones, and fixing areas that have been misreviewed, in order to ensure better service delivery. Facilities on online platforms such as Jumia Travel also have an advantage by providing potential customers with the ability to compare information, images and amenities with other options in order to make informed decisions. This gives them even more visibility online, increasing their chances of getting bookings.
Regardless of the type of travel, be it business or leisure, it’s obvious that there are common hotel amenities that guests prefer, such as free Wi-Fi, in-room chargers for their devices for business or leisure, airport pick-up services to take the hassle out of transportation and the provision of breakfast as most guests will be on the go during the day.
Interestingly, despite the idea that a higher percentage of travelers would prefer to stay in 5-star hotels, statistics from Africa’s leading online booking platform, Jumia Travel, show that 36% of travelers prefer 3-star hotels, compared to 20% who would go for 4-star hotels and only 3% for 5-star hotels. The average price per room in a 5-star hotel spent by customers has gone from 191 euros in 2015 to 183 euros this year, while the average price per room in a 3-star hotel spent by customers has gone from 60 euros in 2015 to 61 euro this year.
The payment option is also a key factor for customers who want to book a hotel. It is vital for hotels to provide both prepaid and postpaid facilities to cater to diverse markets. For example; 60% of hotels on Jumia Travel offer customers the option to pay at the time of booking or pay at the hotel. This allows guests to enjoy seamless service through booking, payments, and post-stay review. Another important factor to consider is the payment model and accepted channels. Mobile money is very popular in the region; with the advent of Mpesa and Tigo Pesa, introduced by 60% of customers who prefer to pay via mobile money platforms. It should be noted that card payments are still attracting favor from travelers beyond the region, perhaps due to their unparalleled global penetration.
In all aspects, the most important preference of customers of all time is the treatment, from loyalty programs to customer discounts and above all the respect given to it. Always remember that there is only one boss; the consumer.