Different types of travelers expect different amenities from their hotels. The expectations of a business traveler typically won’t match those of a family vacationing with children. Hotels need to think about the types of travelers they wish to attract and refine their offerings, as well as their brand, to align with the wants and needs of their target demographic.
One demographic that is often overlooked in the US hospitality industry is international travelers. In addition to domestic tourists, the United States receives a huge number of travelers from foreign countries, whether they are here to conduct business or enjoy a vacation. In fact, 65 million people visit the United States each year, so it makes sense for hotels to try to attract these people. Some strategies for appealing to international tourists include:
1. Embrace multilingualism.
Perhaps the easiest way to attract international travelers is to provide services in their native languages. You can begin with your hotel’s website. Nowadays, it is relatively easy to create a website in a wide range of languages so that all potential guests can learn about the available options and book a stay without confusion. Of course, providing in-person multilingual services is more complicated, but you can start by looking for bilingual employees.
No matter what level of multilingual service you provide, aim first to cover the languages that are most popular in your geographic area. In addition, Google Analytics is good place to figure out which languages you should focus on. This online tool will show the countries where your website visitors are located. The U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics also shows that the top countries sending tourists to the US are Canada, Mexico, the UK, Japan, Brazil, and China.
To go further, hotels can form partnerships with local translation services to make sure they have bilingual staff available when foreign guests stay at the hotel. Another way to make a good impression is to offer pamphlets and guides in different languages, or even to create short audio guides to orient guests to your city.
2. Maintain a strong online presence.
Your hotel’s online presence starts with its website, which should be up to date and easy to navigate. In addition to offering a variety of languages, the website should also be able to process payments in a variety of currencies to make it as easy as possible for international visitors to book. Many people will judge your hotel by its website alone, so it is important that the style and design reflect the hotel’s brand and the site functions properly. However, there is more to online presence than just a website.
Pay close attention to online review websites and how your hotel is discussed, especially among foreign visitors. Whenever possible, you should reply to reviews, especially when they are negative, to apologize and attempt to address the problem. Ideally, you should reply in the reviewer’s own language. Other people who speak the same language will pay special attention to these interactions. In addition, you should remain active on social media and post content that will appeal to international audiences, such as blog posts about the top attractions in your town or the connection between your city and another country. Sometimes, it is also appropriate to post in languages other than English.
3. Build strategic partnerships.
A great way to break into new international markets or strengthen your hotel’s presence in a certain country is through strategic partnerships with other organizations. Some of the best partners are online travel agencies (OTAs), which many international travelers use to research and book overseas trips. Hotel executives should research the most popular OTAs in the markets they want to target, and then determine how they can advertise through these channels. For example, Chinese travelers often use Ctrip to plan travel, so connecting with this service can be a great way to drive bookings from this market.
Beyond OTAs, you can make progress by partnering with travel blogs in other countries and other, similar websites. Contacting these websites can lead to fruitful partnerships that help you understand what amenities international travelers want and how you can advertise to these people most successfully. For example, you might provide a free stay to a travel blogger in exchange for their review of your hotel. A positive review on a popular blog can give your hotel excellent exposure in the blogger’s home country.
4. Provide world-class amenities.
World travelers often want a distinctive experience when they stay at a hotel. Providing a unique range of amenities will help generate more buzz for your hotel among both foreign and domestic guests alike. When it comes to attracting international travelers, however, you need to think about how to represent American and local culture while still ensuring foreign guests feel comfortable. In general, tourists like to feel emerged in the cultures they are visiting, but they also appreciate some touches from home. For example, Americans generally drink coffee in the morning, but people from other cultures may prefer black tea or chai. Offering different options is the best way to appeal to the largest number of guests.
In addition, amenities should speak to the needs of international travelers, including guides to local destinations. Consider partnering with local tourist agencies that offer tours and other services in a variety of languages, so that your hotel can offer these services directly to guests. Providing truly unique experiences and thoughtful amenities is a great way to stand out from the competition.