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Guest First: Time for Hotels to Organize Around the Guest Journey

18 April 2024
In the traditional hotel management organization, operations are distinctly compartmentalized, with each department—from front desk to housekeeping, from food & beverage to revenue management—functioning as a separate entity. This siloed approach often leads to guests being passed from one department to another throughout their stay, creating a fragmented experience where the continuity of service can sometimes falter. Each handover represents a potential point of friction, a moment where misunderstandings can occur and guest satisfaction can wane.
As guest expectations evolve and the demand for personalized, seamless experiences grows, the hospitality industry must rethink traditional models and pivot towards a structure that revolves wholly around the guest journey. In this guest-centric model, every interaction and service is designed with the guest’s perspective and preferences, eliminating the disjointed handovers. Here, guests are not just passive recipients of services but are active directors of their own experience, choosing how, when, and where they interact with various hotel services.

Benefits of Organizing Around the Guest Journey

Adopting an organizational framework oriented around the guest journey offers substantial benefits in today’s competitive market. It enhances guest satisfaction by providing a seamless experience, increases operational efficiency, and drives revenue growth. By aligning all services and interactions to the natural flow of the guest’s needs and expectations, hotels can create more meaningful engagements and foster loyalty that extends beyond a single stay. This approach is not just about keeping up with industry trends; it's about setting new standards in guest service and establishing a sustainable competitive advantage.

Enhancing Guest Satisfaction Through Seamless Experiences

By reorienting operations around the guest journey, hotels can significantly enhance guest satisfaction. This approach eliminates the disjointed handovers, ensuring that the guest experience is smooth and uninterrupted. For example, if the guest preferences collected at the booking stage are accessible to all service areas, personalized touches can seamlessly integrate into their entire stay. Such synchronization reduces the chance of service failures and enriches the guest experience, making each interaction feel thoughtful and well-coordinated.

Increasing Revenue from Cross-Selling Opportunities

Organizing around the guest journey also unlocks new revenue opportunities. With a unified view of the guest's preferences and behaviors, each department is better equipped to offer tailored services and products. For instance, knowing a guest’s preference for wellness could prompt proactive offers from the spa and healthy dining options from the F&B department. Moreover, this model encourages a more collaborative approach to service delivery, where packages and specials are designed across departments, enhancing the guest's stay and boosting hotel revenue through up-sells and cross-sells.

Building Stronger Guest Loyalty

The cumulative effect of a seamless experience and personalized service is stronger guest loyalty. Guests who feel understood and valued are likelier to recommend the hotel to others and potentially return. In the guest-centric model, every interaction is an opportunity to build a relationship beyond the current stay. This approach enhances the hotel’s reputation as a brand that prioritizes guest satisfaction.

Viewing the Guest Journey From the Guest's Perspective

Understanding the guest journey from the guests' perspective provides invaluable insights into how hotels can optimize each interaction to enhance satisfaction and loyalty. Here’s a detailed look at each step of the guest journey from the guest’s point of view, highlighting potential pain points and opportunities for hotels to improve the experience:

1. Finding a Place to Stay

  • Guest Needs: "I need a convenient and comfortable place to spend the night. How do I find a hotel that meets my needs?"
  • Hotel Opportunity: At this stage of the guest journey, the guest does not know which hotels are available at the destination. It is unlikely that the guest will search for anything other than "hotel + destination" or go directly to their favorite OTA to get an overview of hotels. There is not much to win in having a robust SEO strategy since OTAs, and others will appear in the search results. The natural way for the guest is probably to start with Google Maps and search for hotels or start with an OTA and search for hotels at the destination. From there, some potential guests will visit the hotel website for more information, so maintaining an informative, user-friendly website has become even more critical. All generations now use mobile devices, so hotels must ensure an excellent mobile experience. If the hotel has an exceptional reputation, the guest might know the hotel's name and search for the hotel's website. However, searching for the hotel name is highly unusual since the reputation must be exceptional, and the guest needs to remember the hotel's name. It indeed is difficult to get into the selection process.

2. Evaluating Offerings

  • Guest Needs: "What unique experiences or packages do these hotels offer that cater to my reason for travel and my preferences?"
  • Hotel Opportunity: Guests will likely first look at reviews regardless of offerings and discounts. Hotels with good reviews will stay in the selection process. Communicate unique selling propositions and packages tailored to the different guest types you would like to host at your hotel. People talk a lot about targeted marketing, but since the hotel has no idea who is traveling to the destination, it isn't easy to use targeted marketing to reach potential guests with relevant offers. However, brand-building activities based on guest reviews would strengthen the options to stay in the race for getting the reservation from the right guest. In evaluating offerings, the hotel's website is critical and should send a clear message to potential guests about what the hotel can offer. Photos and videos are crucial.

3. Understanding Total Costs

  • Guest Needs: "What’s the total cost of my stay, including meals, drinks, and spa services?"
  • Hotel Opportunity: Hotels are not known for transparency. When the US president starts questioning hidden hotel fees, something is wrong. One success factor for Booking.com is showing the total cost for the different options the guest can book. It is the total the guest will pay, including all fees and taxes. Provide transparent pricing before the law stipulates it. Hotels should also list prices for food & beverages, spa treatments, and other consumer-related products and services. That opens an opportunity to offer packages that bundle services at a discount.

4. Booking the Stay

  • Guest Needs: "How can I book my stay in the most hassle-free way possible?"
  • Hotel Opportunity: If you ask the guest who offers the easiest booking. The answer is probably an OTA. They are experts in the booking process and confirmations. Hotels need to provide a seamless booking experience through the website and mobile. Seamless is defined by the guest, not the hotel. Ensure the booking system is simple and provides instant confirmation. Hotels have used Internet booking engines for 25 years, so by now, they should be seamless and easy to use. Hmmm - not all of them.

5. Preparing for the Trip

  • Guest Needs: "I’ve booked my stay, but did I get all the necessary information? Do they know I’m coming and what my preferences are?"
  • Hotel Opportunity: Send pre-arrival emails with essential information, weather updates, and personalized offerings based on guests' preferences to make them feel expected and valued. Hotels have an excellent opportunity to upsell and cross-sell without appearing too commercial.

6. Checking In

  • Guest Needs: "I hope check-in is quick and doesn’t involve repetitive processes like showing ID and providing credit card details again."
  • Hotel Opportunity: Move the check-in job to the guest, just as banks have moved all the work to their customers. Streamline check-in processes with digital solutions like mobile check-in so the guest can easily perform the job that a front desk service person would do. The world has evolved, and so have guest expectations. Guests want a mobile check-in that allows them to select their room, buy an upgrade, make a reservation in the restaurant, book spa treatments, etc. When the guest does all the heavy work, train staff to provide a warm, personalized welcome rather than a monotone script.

7. First Impressions of the Room

  • Guest Needs: "Is my room as I expected? Are my special requests taken care of?"
  • Hotel Opportunity: Ensure the room meets all stated specifications and any special requests. Consider a welcome note or a small gift as a personal touch. If the hotel shares the guest data with housekeeping, they can prepare the room for the specific guest based on preferences and expectations.

8. Dining and Spa Experiences

  • Guest Needs: "How do I schedule the dinner and spa treatment? I want these experiences to be relaxing, not another task."
  • Hotel Opportunity: Provide an easy booking system for dining and spa services, possibly through an app that allows scheduling from the guest's phone. Confirm appointments with gentle reminders. These functions should be as seamless as booking a hotel room. Hotels have an opportunity to cross-sell all their products and services here.

9. Enjoying Breakfast

  • Guest Needs: "I look forward to a hassle-free, enjoyable breakfast before I depart."
  • Hotel Opportunity: Offer multiple breakfast options, catering to various dietary preferences. Ensure high-quality service that is attentive but not intrusive. Many guests would also like to know when the breakfast is more or less crowded.

10. Checking Out and Reflecting on the Stay

  • Guest Needs: "I want the check-out process to be quick. I’ll think about whether my experience was good enough to return."
  • Hotel Opportunity: Most hotels have express check-out options and provide a digital receipt. Guests do not have to pass the front desk to check out. If possible, in a digital world, ask for feedback in a personal way and express genuine interest in the guest's experience. If not, add the possibility of rating the experience on the mobile. Uber is an excellent example of how easy this can be.
By stepping into the guest's shoes, hotels can critically assess each part of the service delivery process and identify areas for enhancement. This perspective helps design services that meet and exceed expectations, ensuring that guests are satisfied with their stay and are likely to recommend the hotel and potentially return.

Measure Success Based on Guest Satisfaction

In a guest-centric hotel model, the traditional Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) should focus primarily on metrics that reflect the quality of the guest experience. Here’s how hotels can implement and benefit from these guest satisfaction-centered metrics:

Key Metrics

  1. Net Promoter Score (NPS)
    • Definition: This measure measures the likelihood of guests recommending the hotel to friends and family, an indicator of overall satisfaction and brand loyalty.
    • Tools: Include NPS questions in post-stay surveys and employ analytics tools to track changes over time.
    • Analysis: High NPS often correlates with repeat visits and can more effectively predict long-term revenue than transient guest counts.
  2. Guest Satisfaction Scores (GSS)
    • Definition: Aggregate rating derived from post-stay surveys and reviews that assess various aspects of the guest's experience, from check-in to check-out.
    • Tools: Use digital survey platforms that integrate with your CRM to send a survey after checkout automatically. Monitor reviews everywhere on the Internet.
    • Analysis: It's essential to keep track of guest satisfaction scores regularly to notice patterns and determine areas that may need improvement. You can also examine scores by department to identify specific areas that require attention. In this regard, AI can be quite helpful in analyzing guest sentiment, providing more detailed insights into what the hotel needs to do to enhance its services.
  3. Average revenue per guest
    • Definition: Total revenue divided by the number of guests.
    • Tools: Track total revenue by consolidating sales from all systems.
    • Analysis: The purpose of becoming more guest-centric is to grow revenue and profits. Track the average guest spend and analyze growth rates overall, broken down into different outlets. An increase in spending would also indicate more satisfied guests. Happy guests will recommend the hotel to others and possibly return, which will grow revenue and profits in the long term.

Benefits of Guest Satisfaction Metrics

  • Enhanced Guest Experience: By focusing on satisfaction scores, direct feedback, and AI analysis, hotels can make targeted improvements that directly address guests' needs and expectations. This proactive approach helps create experiences that guests find genuinely satisfying and memorable.
  • Increased Loyalty and Retention: Satisfied guests are more likely to recommend and become advocates for the brand and potentially return, significantly reducing acquisition costs and boosting long-term revenue.
  • Data-Driven Decision-Making: Concrete metrics like NPS and GSS allow decision-makers to objectively assess the impact of various initiatives and investments on guest satisfaction. Guest satisfaction metrics lead to more informed strategies that align with guest desires and market demands.
  • Brand Reputation and Market Positioning: High guest satisfaction scores and positive online reviews enhance the hotel’s reputation, making it more attractive to prospective guests and increasing its competitiveness in the market.
Hotels can align all actions to enhance the guest experience, drive loyalty, and increase revenue by shifting focus to these key guest satisfaction metrics. This strategic focus not only meets the expectations of modern consumers but also positions the hotel as a leader in customer-centric service in the hospitality industry.


Hotels that prioritize the guest experience stand out and thrive. The shift from traditional, siloed organizational structures to a model organized around the guest journey represents an operational adjustment and a profound transformation in how hotels engage with their guests. By embracing this guest-centric approach, hotels can ensure that every aspect of the service delivery is streamlined, personalized, and focused on maximizing guest satisfaction.

Major Takeaways

  1. Guest-Centric Approach: Organizing around the guest journey involves understanding and mapping out every stage of the guest's experience, from pre-arrival to post-departure. This approach ensures that hotels integrate and tailor services seamlessly to meet guests' needs and preferences.
  2. Technology as an Enabler: Leveraging the right technology is critical to enhancing the guest experience. Tools like the hotel website, mobile apps and keys, and other digital solutions can make interactions more convenient and personalized, significantly enhancing guest satisfaction.
  3. Integrated Operations: Breaking down silos and encouraging collaboration among different departments are crucial for delivering a unified and consistent service experience. Cross-functional teams and integrated data systems ensure every team member can serve guests effectively.
  4. Measuring Success: Redefining KPIs to focus on guest satisfaction scores, Net Promoter Scores, direct feedback, and tracking the average spend per guest allows hotels to accurately measure the success of their guest-centric strategies. These metrics provide insights into how well the hotel meets guest expectations and where there is room for improvement.
  5. Continuous Improvement: The journey towards exceptional guest service is ongoing. Regular training, feedback analysis, and adapting to new technologies and market trends are essential for maintaining high standards of guest satisfaction.
By adopting these strategies, hotels enhance the guest experience and build a strong foundation for customer loyalty and sustained revenue growth. This transformation is not merely about staying relevant in the current market but about setting new standards in hospitality and becoming a preferred choice for travelers worldwide.