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Boutique Hotels Know How to Foster Loyalty

Leaders from andBeyond and Spicers Retreat Weigh In on Loyalty in the Hospitality Industry Loyalty for boutique hotels looks a bit different than t...

Leaders from andBeyond and Spicers Retreat Weigh In on Loyalty in the Hospitality Industry

Loyalty for boutique hotels looks a bit different than that of big brands. How does our niche industry attract guests and keep them coming back again and again? In one of the most informative sessions of the Leadership Track at the Boutique Lifestyle Digital Summit by BLLA, Regina Connell, Director of Collaboratory of Bull Stockwell Allen, interviewed Nicole Robinson, Chief Marketing Officer of andBeyond, David Assef, Managing Director of Spicers Retreats, to discover how each professional has built luxury safari brands and how they are working through the challenges of 2020. 

When the pandemic erupted, Nicole and David were faced with a new set of challenges, but guests were eager to support the two companies. While Spicers Retreats was closed, past guests formed lines all the way down the driveway as soon as a resort reopened a restaurant for takeout services. For andBeyond, guests can show their support through taking a virtual safari, a 1.5 hour pre-recorded expedition with live access to a guide. This innovative experience allows andBeyond to stay at the front of guests’ minds. 

Both industry experts are extremely passionate about travel and hospitality. Nicole’s passion stems through her own experiences. She noted, “Travelling has the ability to change the traveller, but also has a positive impact on the place…it’s about visiting the place and making a connection with your family and the place that you visited.” David reflected, “I love to help provide smiles on people’s faces and really bring it back to real, genuine service, which was what hospitality was about originally.”

andBeyond

This genuine hospitality experience is what ultimately fosters loyalty among guests at independent hotels. For both andBeyond and Spicers Retreats, there are two types of loyal guests: those who want to experience each property, and those that feel attached to one in particular. David noted that this is, in part, due to the bonds guests can form with the hotel team. He revealed, “[The guests] are looking for familiarity when they stay; they’re looking for personalization. They like to be remembered.” For those loyal Spicers guests who visit every property, David said when they choose a favorite property, they say, “This is my Spicers. This aligns with me.” 

Since neither andBeyond nor Spicers Retreats provide any monetary compensation such as a points system for a future visit like big brands do, both companies have found ways to entice guests to continue to return. Nicole revealed that andBeyond makes a point to ensure guests are always thanked. This can be accomplished through efforts such as learning a guest’s food or drink order. Nicole explained, “If we care for the people and the communities they come from, they will care for the guests, and that’s the feeling that will bring the guests back – it’s that virtual circle of care.” David added that at Spicers, these intangible assets ultimately foster loyalty. Both agreed that a surefire way to quash loyalty would be a lack of acknowledgement, such as not celebrating a guest’s birthday or anniversary. 

Spicers Peak Lodge

So how do David and Nicole define loyalty? Nicole explained that for her, “The real definition of loyalty is when [the guests] start connecting with the impact we have on the ground.” andBeyond works with the African Foundation, so when guests get involved with the organization during a trip, it’s extremely rewarding for Nicole. She expressed, “When we see that interaction of a guest’s life being changed by an interaction with a community, and the community changed as well, I think that for me is the sweet spot.”

David laid out three elements of loyalty: building a culture of care, personalization, and engagement that is relevant to the target market. Loyalty is full of ebbs and flows, so David advised, “To continue with loyalty, you’ve got to continue to work with your guests and understand them and look at ways of improving value adding in some way shape or form.” 

andBeyond

Along the same lines, Nicole instructed, “Loyalty has, by definition, a longevity in it, and you need to invest in it for the long [term]. It doesn’t happen after one visit – it requires patience, perseverance, consistency, and building trust for the brand.” Both of these industry authorities have a deep understanding of what their guests are searching for in a travel experience, so Nicole and David will surely go above and beyond to deliver these experiences as the industry begins to recover, and ultimately, foster loyalty.

Spicers Sangoma

BLLA Members can watch the full session in the portal here


Article written by Drew Stephenson of BLLA

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