What Is the Guest Life Cycle in Hotels?

September 24, 2019

Are you planning your dream vacation? Or, maybe you just started thinking about where you’d want to go. If you’re lucky, maybe you even bought your plane ticket and booked your hotel (congrats)! These scenarios may all sound drastically different on the surface, but to a marketer, they all share one thing in common. They’re all part of the guest life cycle. Knowing the stages of the guest life cycle and how to target potential consumers at each step of the vacation-planning process is a crucial aspect of running a successful marketing campaign. Continue reading below for everything you need to know about the guest life cycle! For additional digital marketing resources, feel free to reach out to our team! Whether you’re just looking to tighten up your strategy or you don’t even have a website, we’re here to point you in the right direction!

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check-in at the hotel lobby is not the first stage in the guest life cycle in hotels for most guests

What Is The Guest Life Cycle?

Basically, the guest life cycle is the various stages guests move through in the life of their relationship with a lodging establishment. While it’s typically ascribed to hotels, the concept and its practical uses apply to everyone:

What Are the Stages in the Guest Life Cycle?

Below is a complete list, from start to finish. Bolded ones are the most typical. However, the others are important to consider when planning a marketing strategy to acquire and retain guests.

  1. Research
  2. Booking
  3. Pre-Arrival

  4. Arrival

  5. Occupancy

  6. Check-out / Departure

  7. Post-stay

Research

guest researching a future stay, part of the guest life cycle in hotelsFor us, this is called the “Dreaming” phase of the travel life cycle. This is the step after a potential guest decides they want to go on a trip, but before they decide where to stay. Sometimes they’ve already decided to which location they’ll be going but just haven’t found a hotel.

This is where marketing resources are devoted into attracting potential visitors to find and do research on your property. Channels to attract them include:

The goal is that once a potential guest completes this stage, they’re comfortable and ready to book with you instead of one of the OTA’s. 

Booking

This part is straight forward, but it’s one of the most important stages. Make sure that guests get the information they need to be comfortable with their decision to book with you. Look at your booking engine, for example, and ensure that there is little to no friction for potential guests when booking.

If there is, you increase the likelihood of them going elsewhere. The cost of switching properties is much lower to guests now than it is when they step foot on your property, so be ready to keep flighty people from making a decision you don’t want. Draconian cancellation policies can freak people out, for example.

What to communicate to guests immediately after booking:

Send a booking confirmation with other important details like:

  • check-in and check-out dates
  • invoice
  • contact information

The goal of this is to assuage any concerns that you’re not a legitimate business and that you didn’t just take their money and run.

They likely found you online, remember?

Pre-Arrival

Some people gloss this stage over, but they shouldn’t! This is often the period in which guests get buyers remorse, or get nervous they made the wrong decision. Reaching-out to guests in this period is a great time to reassure them of nominal charges on a booking modification. About 3 days before their arrival is the best way to reduce that buyer’s remorse I mentioned before.

At the same time, share information with guests of top things to enjoy during their visit with you:

  • Amenities
  • Attractions
  • Activities
  • Things to do

That way, you’ll help remind them of why they booked in the first place, and get them re-excited about their upcoming visit. This is also prime-time for upselling potential guests from their original reservation.

Arrival

guest arrival at the front desk in the guest life cycle in hotelsFirst impressions are everything. If guests haven’t heard from you since they booked, this is even more important. If they heard from you between booking and now, this is still not the place to drop the ball!

While staff members should do the following: 

  • Assign guests to accommodations
  • Collect method of payment
  • Registering the guest
  • Direct the guest to their accommodations

there’s still plenty of opportunities to provide a unique experience. Some inns make a point of taking each guest on a tour of their property and amenities before leading them to their room. 

Attending to guests when they first arrive is important. Just like the pre-arrival stage, making the guest feel welcomed and well informed right before they check-in can make them feel valued. Besides, this can also help create a positive attitude towards your lodging business and its services.

Occupancy

This is the period in which the guest is staying in their accommodations. Everything should be about the guest experience. The experience you provide is the only thing that can ensure that guests will come back for a second or third visit. Guests will be more receptive to any cross-selling and upsell offers while on the property. Anything you can offer guests that will enhance their stay is extremely valuable. This stage also opens communication with staff to take advantage of concierge services.

Departure

The check-out process, like every other stage, needs to be seamless and optimized to remove frustrations on the part of the guest. This is when you typically collect guest feedback and use it to improve operations. No hidden fees and no surprise paperwork will help complete the guest’s positive experience. 

Post-Departure

guest bemoaning her departure in the guest life cycle in hotelsOnce the guest has left your property, your relationship with them is just beginning. The hope is that you can entice those guests to come back, give referrals, or even just buy from your gift shop. Now you will be able to monitor them at any stage in the guest life cycle. Keep the spark alive! 

This is where your marketing strategy comes back into play. Use the information they used to book in order to make sure that you’re always in the back of their mind when it comes time to book another vacation. Developing an actionable email marketing campaign, for example, is a necessity.

 

 

Why is the guest life cycle in hotels important?

Understanding each stage in the guest life cycle and how your marketing strategy can be fine-tuned to attract guests at specific points in the cycle is an invaluable resource. Understanding your consumer on a deeper level will let you connect with your costumers on a deeper level, which will ultimately give you more business. Even if you think you have the guest life cycle mastered, putting it into practice is another ball game. If you need help putting the right tools into play, Q4Launch can lend a helping hand. Our team of SEO professionals and content marketers are trained to offer you the strategy you need to take your hospitality marketing game to the next level. Reach out today for a free consultation! 

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