Why the Hospitality Industry should be Catering towards the Female Traveler First
Having worked in the employer branding space across industries we commonly see that employers unintentionally overlook how they frame and position their brand externally and career opportunities internally to a female audience. We know that historically, women are the decision-makers either in the household or more currently in the emerging Gen Z and Millennial population, as independents. However, where she spends ‘her’ money and attention, males often will follow suit.
Predominantly, this oversight is something that leadership recognizes in hindsight. In acknowledging this, they create multiple marketing messages to various personas that interact and engage with the brand in the multitude of customers and employer journeys that exist. As we look at why this is, it is probably because management and leadership are fulfilled by male leaders that try their best to speak to the voice and perspective of their female counterparts rather than just including them in the process and letting the feminine speak to the feminine.
So, knowing that the feminine in our culture drives many behaviors and decisions in hospitality, either for herself or her family, why do we continue to have males lead the marketing messaging and consumer journey for ‘her’?
In this article, we will invite several suggestions and the perspective we have gleaned over years of speaking with thousands of women in their personal and professional lives and what we have synthesized from their experiences. We hope that this perspective illuminates the power of integrating and even prioritizing the female perspective in the strategy, process and creative for hospitality marketing strategies and subsequent messaging to prospective guests and employees alike.
Note – This is not an attack on how the industry or your business has historically operated. Rather, it is an observation we have secured anecdotal evidence and support from and the intent is to arm you with information and a perspective that may change how you make future decisions that impact your guests, staff, and investment alike.
Why hasn’t the industry spoken more to females?
While the statistics reinforce that females are the primary decision-makers as well as researchers for their next vacation, marketing messages created by male marketing leaders don’t always reflect the same sentiments that the feminine align with. Historically, the majority of the industry has been built by, run, managed and accelerated by male leadership. As such, when it comes to developing forward-facing consumer messages and a hotel marketing strategy and communication that reflects out of their guests, these leaders are guessing at what their audience wants to see and hear v.s.explicitly being influenced by their female counterparts. Thus, we get a slightly diluted version of telephone v.s. the real message from the source itself. While we are seeking to convey the safety and security of the feminine needs, how that is portrayed and translated will have slight deviance than how it would be directed and created by a woman.
The landscape of our societal composition has evolved as well. As of 2014, adult singles outnumbered their married counterparts, thus the millennial independence generation arose. The audience that would travel for vacations through the early 2000s and even into the teens was a familial unit. As such, we would present marketing messaging, packages and promotions either to families or to the mother of the household. Today, we see a rise of solo travelers, remote workers, digital nomads that stay for extended periods of time, and young professionals that are saturating the traveling landscape. The same messages that would land with mom and her kids no longer resonate with these individuals. Today’s marketers need to develop a strategy that can reflect and speak to each of these different personas and meet them where they are at.
Consumer behavior and expectations are also influencing this messaging to the feminine. Today’s casts expect a different experience and prioritize that seamlessness and orchestration of logistics over solely price. Whereas price and promotions drove behaviors for families to save and have more resources for activities and toys, solo and younger travelers have different demands. Our point here is not to continue to apply these traditional marketing tactics to familial units, but to adapt and recognize the array of various personas your travelers fit into now and refine your customer journey appropriately to each.
What is the impact of not marketing to ‘Her’?
In speaking with a dear friend of mine Aubree, who traveled for months throughout Bali, Thailand, and East Asia before finally settling in Australia, she spoke firsthand on how it was intimidating getting off the plane and not knowing where her first hotel was or what was around it. In the research phase, she just wasn’t able to gather enough information to know where to stay without getting there first, asking locals and getting a lay of the land before settling in and traveling around the region. No matter how many TripAdvisor reports or blogs, she read they seemed incomplete and sometimes had opposing views. Nonetheless, even without 100% safety and security, she took the leap of faith to travel by herself. In many of the travel support groups, women would reach out to her for guidance, suggestions and local recommendations that they weren’t able to glean from the plethora of other online outlets and blogs that existed. While Aubree might be the exception, the majority of independent women today while they own their own business or excel in their jobs often outperforming their male counterparts at their same age, can be reluctant to take the same risks in a foreign country with too many unknown circumstances.
For those in hospitality, this means they are trending towards services like Inspirada and others that curate the details and logistics on their behalf. This reassurance and clarity for them is something they are willing to pay for above and beyond for that piece of mind. Thus, mirroring those processes to provide important know before you go information, timely crucial pre-trip information about transportation, currency exchange, safety, medical care options in the area, etc. is more and more important to provide today’s eager travelers who yearn to travel, but also desire this information and reassurance. To further reiterate this point, in speaking with Kelsey she shared that she even went to a travel agency having done her research to identify the hotel and experiences she wanted, but was willing to pay the extra for their support and assistance to seamlessly connect the dots for her. This ungodly pains many of you to hear paying additional commissions, instead of having the opportunity to profit from a direct booking solely because of a lack of translating local information your team is familiar with to motivated travelers.
For our male readers, this next point might not hit as strongly as the former ones, but I imagine you’ve seen this in your life traveling or not. Women will anticipate every situation, dinner, and outing they need attire for and pack accordingly. As it relates to traveling, this is why so often bags are packed to the brim going there leaving no room for local merchandise or trinkets. As a Hotelier, how often are clothes or other guest belongings left behind or new suitcases bought just so they could bring home new local merchandise and souvenirs that reflects the culture that they just didn’t have room for in their original bags? Savvy marketers recognize this and will help prepare there to be guests with what local customs and dress look like so she can more appropriately prepare and pack accordingly. From simple Pinterest boards to a gallery on the website, giving direction about the local style will show your attention to detail and reassure her about the level of customer service you will provide throughout the rest of her experience.
The data supports that women are far more likely to buy services at the spa, merchandise, and drive the activities that they and/or their group participate in. An additional benefit to having ‘Her’ speak a marketing feminine language to your future female guests reflects the value and experience that she is expecting and solicits that excitement. Bridging the communication and micro-moments of the experience that leads to and following these activities will further create a seamless experience that is remarkable. As such she is far more prone to share this amongst her friends as well as on social media. By positioning extended upsells to the female in a way that resonates and emotionally excites her, you can increase the likelihood of conversions as well as the price and profitability of these services when you fulfill an exception and see more experience between them and your hotel.
Why ‘She’ is the future audience of any hospitality marketing strategy
While we have alluded throughout this article to the many benefits of building a clear Marketing Strategy for women, women let us more clearly share these explicitly. Equally, these women are saving in allocating their resources more diligently. With more discretionary income to spend in multiple capacities their desire to spend it on travel is also increasing for many reasons. Today, they can spend more time, money, and desire to do so that fulfills them intrinsically and holistically.
It’s not just the young that have this desire to travel, equally their empty Nester counterparts yearn for this opportunity to complete their bucket list. Having seen their kids off to college, they too have an inkling to fulfill experiences they’ve seen on TV and now social media for themselves. Increasingly, divorced women have additional resources to travel and see the world for prolonged periods of time. The average traveler is now a 47-year-old female. Like it or not, this is a way for them to emotionally heal and mentally detach and we have heard this from dozens of eager women that want to travel solo.
Across age demographics, women want to be immersed in culture, locally or globally. The trend for sustainable food, energy and culture is on the rise and women are leaning into this hard. By promoting these efforts within your organization and the community that emotional strain will resonate with ‘Her’ so long as it is authentic and purposeful.
Luxury travel memberships are on the rise and especially during Covid at higher occupancy levels than they’ve seen in years because women are willing to pay for seamless curated travel experiences. The number one thing that Millennials say they are struggling with is constant stress, according to a Mintel Report from 2019. Having the details thought through, agenda planned, food prepared and at the ready for them is worth paying a premium. Reducing details and thoughts about the logistics is something men are more prone to do themselves then pay for, but for women, this is a luxury that’s worth every penny. Thinking through the customer journey and micro-moments throughout the research and discovery process, through booking, pre-trip emails, arrival, the state itself, associated activities, and post leaving and mind mapping those to provide details and timely information will meaningfully differentiate your brand throughout the entire experience. If there’s one thing to remember from this article it’s this; Convenience is King.
Women also are more likely to influence those in their social network positively or negatively about the experience they had with your brand. Mintel reports that Millennials dominate the social media audience right now and their tendency to document their life experiences, including travel, is the equivalent of WOM advertising for you and your hotel. WOM is the most trustworthy form of advertising amongst Millenials and a strong percentage of women in general. Women will no doubt check your property’s social media and online presence, read through online reviews and ask for friends’ opinions who have been to the hotel or area. It is crucial to guide her through this. Some ideas could be having a unique hotel hashtag, geolocation Snapchat filters, more than 100 posts with the geotag location of your hotel on Instagram, a steady Facebook page and frequent responses to online reviews, whether they be good or bad.
What you should be doing to make sure you’re serving ‘Her’ needs & desires?
Recognizing the importance of marketing to the feminine and the multitude of consumer personas that currently exist, what can your hotel do to enhance its marketing strategy to more appropriately reflect and resonate with ‘Her’? Undoubtedly, this is a loaded and ever-evolving question to which the answers will vary by location, destination, experience and caliber/quality of that relative to the area. While each of these concepts could be its own article we will summarize them to bring some color to the expertise we have garnered over the last decade.
+ Bring ‘Her’ into a Leadership and Management Role –
It is shown that moving towards diversity and not just thoughts, ideas, race but also gender brings better results for organizations. Promoting and giving a voice to ‘Her’ internally through the marketing department to influence the messaging and micro-moments throughout the customer experience will improve the positioning and articulation of the hotel at large.
+ Updating the Online Experience to be Seamless & Valuable for ‘Her’ –
Take another internal review of the entire buying journey from every outlet that exists for her. On the website, explore the discovery and buying process navigating through the inventory and booking process for individuals, as well as groups. From simple calls to action to appropriate ‘Know Before You Go’ documents, where can you enhance the experience while not giving everything away and leaving some mystery for the experience.
+ Create a Bilateral Feedback Loop with Guests –
Create more opportunities for your guests to give feedback beyond their check out. Where else, even in the discovery and research phase or meeting up to a trip, are guests able to provide feedback? How can your internal team recognize trends and equally have a platform to share those insights with the marketing and sales teams to work off of?
+ Ask Powerful Questions & Listen Powerfully to Guests & Employees alike –
The biggest slippery slope we see is marketers taking things for granted or assumption versus directly asking. Even when they ask, making sure they ask the most powerful question to get the most powerful answers will enhance the effectiveness of the time spent with guests and employees to enhance their experience. Only act on what your feedback shows, not what you personally feel is best.
+ Align & Leverage Event Planners & Travel Agents for their Perspective –
Women predominantly more prone to be an event planner and explore the logistics and details for a seamless experience. Harness their experience to build a reputation for a more sustainable lead generation and seamless experiences across your customer mix.
+ Go Green & Sustainable Where Possible –
There are many benefits to going green beyond your bottom line. Women and younger travelers, in general, are seeking eco-friendly hotels that are sustainable and support their local communities. The ripple of fact from employee retention and engagement to customer satisfaction will far outweigh the benefits of your financial impact in going green.
Beyond the data, trends, statistics, financial and emotional reasons to market towards women are the ethical and social ones. Creating a community and culture in your brand, internally and externally, that empowers and supports the feminine will have an impact for all the women in your personal and professional life. I employ and invite you to sit down with your leadership team and take a deep dive into each of these categories and make small or large changes to how you present your brand to tomorrow’s consumer,’ Her’.