One thing has been clear in the fight between hotels and online travel agents: OTAs are out-spending hotels in the race for guest attention. This isn't a big surprise: Expedia spent an estimated $3.38 billion on marketing in 2015, more than all the brands combined.
It's a number hotels can't hope to compete with, but operators are instead scaling back their focus to the property level. Hyatt, Hilton and Marriott's loyalty-based rate reductions are the focus of many a headline these days, but little is being said about some of the other offerings that come with these loyalty programs, including text-based communication directly with the hotel.
Today's mobile-focused world loves text-based communication, as evidenced by delivery services such as Postmates, which has been copied by companies including Uber (which has found success in some areas and fallen flat in others), allowing guests to order food without verbally communicating with anyone. Hotel guests have more needs than just food, however, and so the benefits of offering text-based interaction may not be understood by many but they are there.
It's not a new service by any means (the boutique Arrive hotel in Palm Springs communicates primarily with guests through text, and every brand is talking directly with their guests on social media), but by fencing off the option behind a loyalty program hotels are ensuring everyone's most sought-after segment -- millennials -- are sure to sign on.
Amy Thomas, director of marketing communications at OpenMarket, told BizReport that a recent poll found 75 percent of millennials would rather give up the option to talk over texting on their phones, which gives a strong indication as to where communicating with guests could be heading in the future.
"Millennials want to communicate with businesses in the same ways they interact with their family and friends, Thomas said. "They prefer texting because they can get relevant information exactly when they need it."
Most importantly, millennials aren't the only people who share these sensibilities. It's all about communicating with guests on their own terms.