As editor emeritus of Resort News I have spent the first two years of my retirement visiting all the places I desire strictly for enjoyment.
The best bit is that I get to do it as a guest rather than an industry insider. The erstwhile editor of Resort News, Rosie Clarke, thought it would be helpful if I reflected on those visits.
As a septuagenarian, my needs are somewhat different to those of a millennial but, in talking to many fellow travellers of all ages, I have found what is regularly desired in accommodation seems to apply to all ages.
It’s all about personalisation
Once a month at least, my wife and I go somewhere different. Totally independently.I always book with the property direct and, as a result, I usually get the best available room for a generally very good rate and usually end up with a few perks on the side. Wherever I stay, there are a few basic expectations: breakky on-site (preferably included in the rate), free parking, a balcony and a view (not of another building!).
The variety of properties has ranged from five-star resorts, metropolitan hotels, strata title apartments, B&Bs, boutiques, ecolodges, motels and holiday parks. Other than two-out-of-four holiday parks that were certainly substandard, I have been disappointed only once and that was at a historic boutique in Toowoomba that certainly did not live up to the “luxurious” boasts on its website and was rather let down by the lacking people skills of its owner.
As a traveller, I classify an accommodation house into one of two categories: one that provides a night’s sleep and you spend as little possible time in; and one that becomes part of the destination itself and is as enjoyable as all other parts of the trip. I have learned to avoid the former, as for the few extra bucks you can turn the egalitarian into an evocative experience.
The booking process
Avoiding booking through an OTA is not an easy experience. For most hotel/resort websites are swamped by half-a-dozen booking agencies with enticing come-ons (based on cost) about the very property you wish to stay at. Care needs to be taken that you actually do get through to the property’s own page.
As a general rule, when you finally arrive at the web page, you are confronted immediately with check in/out dates. Great for the hotel but not for the potential guest. The first things a looker needs to know are: what types of accommodation does the hotel offer; at what rate; and what are the facilities.
Accommodation providers first need to sell their properties. Then (you hope) the looker becomes a booker. The first page needs to overwhelm the looker into dreams of ecstasy about what your property promises.
But, beware, ensure what you promise is what you deliver. Many times, for example, I have wondered how the view on the website was arrived at as only a drone could have taken that image.
Make the booking process easy – too often the looker has to go back and forward to find out details about the room (you might know what your ‘superior suite’ offers but the looker has no idea). Or a superb bed cover with heaps of cushions, neatly crossed rolled up towels, a flower and after-dinner mints… only to find just a normal bed and duvet! And the use of that word luxury.
Ensure any confirmation is instant and followed up by a welcoming email that can also provide an opportunity for gentle upselling. The more personalised these communications are, the more likely they will have the desired effect and response.
Direct phone bookings are important. Many questions potential guests have are not answered or easily found on websites. Yet in many cases, accommodation provider websites don’t show (or hide) email addresses or phone numbers. Those that do answer phone or email inquiries need to be clued up on the property and the destination. This is one area that small hotels/resorts do seem to prevail over chains.
One aspect that most accommodation providers overlook is what incentive is there to book direct. I do it out of respect for the provider’s bottom-line, but I could often get it for less $ from an OTA, albeit acknowledging I could get a lesser room.