Jan 22

2020: The Year of the Empowered Guest

Understanding the most important hotel guest expectations and what it takes to keep them coming back

Mobility has empowered customers in ways that have disrupted all industries, especially hospitality. Travelers today are different from the travelers of yesterday, and it’s those brands that anticipate and respond to the needs of their guests that are best positioned to succeed in 2020.

Who is this modern and empowered traveler? What do they want from their hotel experiences, and what inspires their loyalty? What influences their booking and purchase decisions? How do the preferences of millennial travelers differ from the generations before them? Is it mobility? Enhanced convenience? Personalization? Or perhaps, all the above? Undeniably, modern hoteliers have their work cut out for them.

With this in mind, we’ve developed a comprehensive perspective of the newly empowered guest; what makes them ‘tick’ and, more importantly, what keeps them coming back.

A garden variety of guests

First, let’s take a look at the various types of guests who may come through your doors:
The Digital-Savvy Millennial
Likes: Innovative technology and amenities, mobile functionality (native apps and app-based check-in/room entry), convenience, and hyper-personalization. Mobility is especially integral for this demographic.

The Bleisure Traveler
Likes: Hyper-connectivity, packages, and amenities created with work and pleasure in mind, resources dedicated to local attractions and entertainment, personalized incentives, offers, and loyalty programs.

The Adventure Seeker
Likes: The ‘wow’ factor and shareable, memorable moments, local and unique experiences, and word of mouth recommendations.

The Digital Detoxer/Wellness Traveler
Likes: Wellness-inspired packages and amenities that encourage the act of ‘unplugging’ from digital distractions, healthy dining options, hotels with sustainable practices and eco-conscious programs, and all-inclusive packages that include accommodation, treatments, meals, and activities.

The Traveling Family
Likes: Desktop booking, a variety of package options and amenities suitable for both parents and children, all-inclusive pricing and loyalty programs, family-friendly environment, and free Wi-Fi.
The Baby Boomer
Likes: Desktop/traditional booking methods, domestic travel, spring and summer trips, urban destinations, travel ‘deals,’ and high-touch service.

The Weekend Warrior
Likes: Last-minute booking incentives, mobile booking, hotels that offer weekend packages and incentives for short-term, action-packed getaways.

Balancing High Touch and High Tech

Millennial travelers, especially, have been a vested point of interest for hospitality leaders as they continue to demonstrate impressive buying power and influence across the industry. Born between 1981 and 1999, the average millennial is planning to take three (or more) trips over the next year. They are even expected to surpass baby boomers in population in 2019, and according to a UBS Group study, millennials will hold a collective annual buying power of $24 trillion by 2020. Not only that, but 57% of millennials state “travel and seeing the world” as their ultimate aspiration. With this in mind, hoteliers are always searching for new ways to connect with and appeal to millennial travelers – a group of empowered guests that have notably specific travel preferences and expectations.

First and foremost, it’s essential to consider the millennial demand for hyper-connectivity. As a generation that grew up with uninhibited access to emerging technology, millennial travelers are increasingly tech-savvy and accustomed to digital connection. As such, they have high expectations of those hotels they frequent in the realm of guest-centric technology and progressive amenities. Hotels that have resisted adopting a mobile PMS system (apps, mobile check-in/out, keyless entry, mobile concierge, self-service kiosks) are less likely to appeal to this segment. Instead, millennial travelers crave the perfect blend of online and offline interaction with the availability of self-service technology (apps, kiosks, etc.) as well as highly personalized, high-touch experiences with staff.

It is this balance between high-touch and high-tech that allows hotels to appeal to travelers across all segments. Those modern travelers (millennials, weekend warriors, wellness, and bleisure travelers) will have access to the convenience, self-service, and tech-savvy offerings they crave, while families, baby boomers, and digital detoxers are still empowered with a high-touch, traditional service experience. The inclusion of mobile, self-service functionality implores guests with enhanced autonomy over their preferred service model, which becomes increasingly important as guests continue to demonstrate varied preferences and tendencies.

The implementation of advanced hotel platforms should not be viewed as a shift away from the more traditional, high-touch service model, but rather, as an opportunity to empower it. As guest expectations continue to evolve, hoteliers face higher stakes than ever before while shaping their guest service model. By shifting away from legacy systems and moving toward insight-driven solutions, hoteliers can finally empower their staff to provide the level of personalized, effective service that has become the industry standard.

What Guests Want

Now that we’ve identified the modern guest segments and the on-going, millennial-influenced demand for digital connection and enhanced personalization, let’s get into some specific trends and expectations hoteliers will face:


98% of travelers expect high-speed Wi-Fiand88% expect device charging ports

79% are concerned they’ll be victims of online fraud, and a quarter of millennials have curtailed consumer relationships because of companies’ inability to protect data

– Guests crave the comforts of home while traveling. This can include technology they are used to, such as streaming video services, like Netflix, in-room smart controls or digital voice assistants

– As far as hotel apps, 74% of respondents overwhelmingly stated they would prefer to use this digital channel

– The opportunity to check-in via an app and access their hotel room via a digital door key was warmly received with 58% likely or very likely to want this technology

68% of respondents cited it as unacceptable to queue at reception for longer than five minutes

Privacy and Personalization:

–  57% of travelers feel that brands should tailor their information based on personal preferences or past behaviors

 If a travel brand adapted its information and overall trip experience based on personal preferences or past behavior, 36% would be likely to pay more for their services

– In a 2017 survey, more than half of the travelers interviewed said they were happy to provide personal information if it meant getting relevant deals, discounts, and personalized service.

– However, a recent report from Salesforce shows that, overwhelmingly, what customers want from companies is simply transparencyandcontrol over their data

– Survey respondents said that increasing the level of trust would make them more likely to recommend the company, spend more money, and share their experiences

Self-Service and Mobile: found that 80% of customers prefer to self-serve to get the information they need

– Over 70% of U.S. travelers agree that they “always” use their smartphones when traveling

– By the end of 2019, mobile search will generate 27.8 billion more queries than desktop search.

Key Take-Aways

The empowered guest comes in many forms, from bleisure to digital detoxers, family travelers, and beyond. However, we find ourselves arriving back to a collective demand for a more personalized and frictionless service model. Regardless of travel motivation or demographics, today’s guest expects enhanced autonomy over their stay, while also seeking out those hotels which offer more convenience, data transparency, technology, and seamless service.

Shifting away from the legacy PMS technology mindset, more and more hospitality leaders are moving towards next-gen, guest-centric systems that maximize operations, efficiency, revenue, and service at every touchpoint. This is – and will continue to be –  the trending evolution for 2020 and beyond.

About the Author

Nicole Dehler, Vice President of Product Management

StayNTouch, A Shiji Group Brand

Nicole spent more than 12 years in the Regional Divisions of MICROS Systems, divided between Product and Project Management of Property, Sales Force and Central Reservations Systems. She led the Enterprise Team in Asia Pacific as Director of Operations, looking after large scale software implementations as well as managing the regional launch of E-Commerce products and Smartphone applications. Nicole joined StayNTouch in early 2013, spearheading the PMS development, strategy, innovation and growth from the very beginning.