Hotel customer journey: Supporting guests at every stage

Hotel customer journey: Supporting guests at every stage

hotel customer journey

A guest's journey with your hotel covers all of the experiences and interaction they have with your business before, during, and after their stay. These experiences and interactions shape the way they feel about your services, so it’s important to pay close attention to them and enhance them where possible.

So, how do you ensure that your guests' needs are met at every stage? Here's our step-by-step guide to improving the hotel customer journey and creating experiences that are unforgettable — for the right reasons.

What is a hotel customer journey?

A hotel customer journey is the complete experience a guest undergoes from the initial idea of booking a hotel to their after-trip thoughts and reflections. It encompasses all the moments when a guest interacts with a hotel: from booking procedures and check-in processes to staying in the room, service encounters, and departure formalities.

hotel customer journey

A positive customer journey goes a long way towards guest satisfaction and loyalty, giving you a competitive edge in the crowded hotel industry.

Why it’s important to understand the journey

The guest journey is the entire experience a guest has with your hotel, so understanding it is essential. When you know what’s working and what isn’t, you’ll be able to cater to guests' needs at each stage, make services faster and more efficient, and tailor your marketing and communications efforts to have real impact. And by making these improvements, you’ll boost the customer experience. This in turn means more guests feeling satisfied, recommending you to others, and making more bookings with you in the future.

Enhanced customer experience

Understanding the whole journey can enable you to streamline and optimize your services at key touchpoints, which will enhance the customer experience. At check-in, you could offer remote options or digital keys to reduce waiting times, and once guests have settled in, give them the chance to purchase add-ons to take their stay to the next level.

Identifying pain points

Analyzing the hotel customer journey allows you to identify potential pain points and areas for improvement. This will help you to address issues proactively, before guests choose to look elsewhere or leave negative reviews. Start maximizing guest satisfaction today.

Optimized marketing and communication

Understanding how guests learn about your hotel, how they conduct online research and evaluate their options, and what influences their hotel guest booking decisions will help you to optimize your marketing and communication strategies.

Optimized marketing and communication

By targeting your messaging effectively, selecting the most relevant channels, and delivering compelling content that resonates with guests, you’ll reach the right people at the right time.

Maximized revenue opportunities

Learning more about the different stages of the hotel guest journey enables you to find opportunities for upselling additional services or amenities. From offering room upgrades during the booking process to promoting activities and room service options during a guest's stay, you can maximize revenue while enhancing the guest experience.

Building customer relationships

Each interaction within the customer journey is an opportunity to build relationships with guests. By delivering exceptional service at every touchpoint, you can create positive emotional connections with guests. Go a step further by personalizing your interactions to foster long-term loyalty.

Continuous improvement

Monitoring and analyzing the hotel customer journey on an ongoing basis allows you to adapt and change strategies in response to guest preferences, market trends, and competitive dynamics. Continuous improvement will keep you relevant, competitive, and resilient at all times.

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The hotel customer journey

Inspiration stage

Similar to travel customer journey, the inspiration and research stage is the very beginning of the journey,when a potential guest finds something that inspires their interest in planning a trip. Whether it's stumbling upon captivating travel photos on social media, reading positive guest reviews, or listening to travel tales from friends and family, something sparks an interest. They may not have a specific hotel in mind at this point, so they are open to exploring all possibilities.

Inspiration stage

The inspiration phase is incredibly important, but is often overlooked by travel companies. Generic advertisements and promotions work some of the time, but they often miss the mark for most modern customers who are used to personalized advertisements nowadays. That's where a modernized hotel website or a mobile app can really help you. With access to user data, you can tailor your marketing efforts towards customers’ preferences.

Another thing you should take into account is that while social media and word-of-mouth recommendations play a significant role in inspiring potential customers, you should also leverage influencer partnerships and user-generated content to showcase your unique offerings. Collaborating with travel influencers and encouraging guests to share their experiences online can attract attention to your services.

Planning stage

The planning phase is when a potential guest decides they should go on a trip and starts organizing it. This phase generally involves selecting the particular destination that aligns with their interests and preferences, setting travel dates, and creating a bespoke itinerary. It involves meticulous planning and attention to detail.

This is also the stage in which future guests start to weigh up their accommodation options, comparing hotels based on location, amenities, price, and the feedback of other travelers. It’s crucial to find ways to appeal to them at this moment: whether it’s the promised quality of the stay, availability of services, affordable pricing, or something else, make sure that your hotel is an obvious contender.

To encourage travelers to move through the booking process, you can also provide valuable resources and guides to aid trip planning: think curated lists of local attractions, insider tips from hotel staff, and interactive maps highlighting nearest points of interest.

Booking stage

When the planning is done, travelers move onto the booking stage of the customer journey, where they use hotel websites, apps, or travel agents to apply their preferences and budget and secure the most appropriate room. This is a perfect time for them to leverage promotional offers and loyalty programs to get the best value for money.

Booking stage

To incentivize direct bookings and save on third-party commission fees, you can offer exclusive benefits when guests book directly through your website or hotel app. Anything from complimentary room upgrades and late check-out options to discounts on various services will encourage guests to engage directly with your business and set you apart from competitors.

Pre-stay stage

In the pre-arrival stage, guests prepare for their upcoming trip, finalizing arrangements with the hotel. This may include reaching out for booking confirmation details, conveying any special requests or requirements like bed preferences and dietary restrictions, and making necessary transportation arrangements to ensure a smooth arrival.

Personalized communication is key during the pre-stay phase, as it sets the tone for the experience a guest is about to have at your hotel. Sending tailored emails to guests prior to their arrival, welcoming them and offering assistance with any special requests or arrangements, will demonstrate care and attentiveness. Anticipating guests' needs will instill confidence in your business and help you to build rapport.

Check-in stage

This is the stage at which a guest arrives at the hotel. The check-in process generally includes identification, providing payment information, and receiving the keys to the room.

Check-in stage

Streamlining the check-in process is essential for creating a positive first impression. Speed things up and minimize wait times with mobile check-ins and digital key systems. This moment also presents an opportunity for a hotel to offer special services and upgrades, providing extra value to both parties.

Stay stage

The stay stage is the core part of a customer's journey. Settled into their rooms, guests enjoy the amenities and services on offer: lounging by the pool, visiting a hotel restaurant, or venturing out to explore the local attractions. Throughout their stay, your goal is to deliver exceptional service, ensuring guests feel welcomed, comfortable, and valued.

During a guest's stay, you can enhance the experience through thoughtful gestures like surprise treats delivered to the room, personalized recommendations for nearby activities or dining options, or special events and activities.

Check-out stage

As guests prepare to leave the hotel, they transition to the check-out stage. This phase involves settling charges, returning keys or access cards, and providing feedback on their experience if requested. As guests prepare to depart, you may extend assistance with luggage handling or transportation arrangements, ensuring a smooth departure.

The check-out process should be seamless and hassle-free, leaving guests with a positive final impression of your business. You can offer express check-out options via mobile app or in-room technology, allowing guests to settle their bills and depart quickly and efficiently. Expressing gratitude and welcoming feedback during the check-out process also demonstrates a commitment to customer satisfaction and continuous improvement.

Post-stay stage

During the post-stay stage of the customer journey, guests reflect on their experience and share feedback. This may include completing surveys, writing online reviews on review sites like TripAdvisor or Yelp, or simply sharing their experiences with friends and family.

Post-stay stage

This feedback is an insight into your performance, which you can use to refine your services, address any shortcomings, and continually improve the guest experience for future guests.

Now’s the time to encourage repeat business through targeted communication and post-stay engagement. This can include personalized follow-up emails thanking guests for their stay, inviting them to provide feedback, or giving them access to your loyalty program. By staying connected with guests beyond their stay, you can foster long-term relationships and encourage repeat bookings.

What is a hotel customer journey map?

A hotel customer journey map is a visual representation of all the stages a guest goes through. It illustrates a guest's interactions, emotions, and touchpoints with a hotel throughout their stay.

A guest journey map will help hoteliers better understand the guest experience, identify pain points, and find opportunities for improvement. By mapping out the hotel guest journey, you can tailor your services and amenities to better meet the needs and expectations of your customers.

How to create a hotel customer journey map

Set the scope

Your hotel guest journey map requires a careful examination of your services, target audience, and goals. What are your specific guest demographics? Business travelers, families, or couples seeking romantic getaways? Determining who you actually want to enhance the guest experience for is crucial if you want to cater to their unique needs and preferences.

Define guest personas

The next step is to define guest personas — in other words, detailed profiles that accurately represent your typical hotel guests. This includes a thorough examination of demographics, motivations, needs, and pain points across different guest segments.

Guest personas

By understanding the nuances of each guest persona, you can start to tailor the hotel guest journey map to address their specific requirements at every stage. Whether it's providing seamless booking experiences for busy business travelers or offering family-friendly amenities for vacationing families, the hotel customer journeys you design should reflect a deep understanding of these distinct needs and preferences.

Identify touchpoints at each stage

Next, break down the hotel guest journey into distinct stages, including pre-arrival, arrival, stay, and post-stay. Within each stage, note down the touchpoints that represent interactions between guests and your hotel. Don’t forget time spent browsing your website, booking, check-in, ordering hotel room service, housekeeping, and check-out — these are just some of the main touchpoints, but there may be more.

Explore best and worst case scenarios

Come up with both best case and worst case scenarios for each touchpoint within the hotel guest journey. In the best case scenario, guest needs are met fully, and everything runs smoothly. In the worst case scenario, issues arise and lead to frustration and dissatisfaction. This will help you mitigate problems before they arise and enhance the overall hotel guest experience.

List the software used at each touchpoint

Identify the software or technologies used at each touchpoint to facilitate guest interactions. This might include a booking engine, a property management system, customer relationship management software, a mobile app, a self-service kiosk, and communication tools. Review these tools to make sure they are up to date and properly integrated to provide a cohesive guest experience.

Implement and test

Once you've finished creating the hotel customer journey map, implement the necessary changes and deploy any new software or systems identified in the mapping process. It's crucial to test these changes to ensure they function as intended and enhance the guest experience. Conducting mock scenarios or pilot tests can help you identify any potential issues before full implementation.

Analyze and iterate

Continuously monitor and measure key performance indicators related to the guest journey, like booking conversion rates, check-in times, guest satisfaction scores, and repeat bookings. Analyze feedback from guests and hotel staff to identify areas for improvement. Use this data to refine the guest journey map and your operational processes.

Analyze and iterate

Regularly reviewing and optimizing the guest journey ensures that your hotel stays competitive and continues to meet the evolving needs of guests.

What software should I use to optimize a guest's journey?

Mobile check-ins and keyless entry

These solutions allow guests to check-in remotely through a mobile app and use their smartphones as room keys. Eliminating the need for physical check-in queues, freeing up the front desk, and reducing the chance of double bookings will contribute to a better hotel guest experience.

Another upside is that mobile apps give your business a constant presence on guests’ mobile devices, and regularly remind guests about your services. This is great for building brand loyalty.

Guest experience management tools

Allow guests to customize their experiences themselves through guest management tools. With mobile apps or in-room tablets, make it possible for guests to request room service, make restaurant or spa reservations, leave feedback, and so much more. Guests will value these personalized interactions and this will lead to more memorable stays.

You could also consider enabling smart room controls through internet-of-things devices. Allow guests to adjust their room temperature, lighting, and entertainment systems using voice commands or mobile apps. Increasing guest comfort is key to enhancing the overall experience.

Wi-Fi analytics

Use Wi-Fi analytics to track guest behavior, preferences, and demographics, enabling personalized recommendations and targeted hotel marketing campaigns.


This data-driven approach not only improves the guest experience by offering relevant suggestions but also empowers you to tailor your offerings and promotions to specific guest segments.

Contactless payment solutions

Offer contactless payment options to streamline the payment process and enhance security. These solutions aren't just more convenient for you, guests, and online travel agents, they also minimize physical contact and any risks related to cash payments, fostering a safer environment.

Dynamic pricing software

Dynamic pricing software enables you to adjust room rates based on demand, occupancy levels and market trends in real time, maximizing revenue while offering competitive pricing to guests.

This pricing strategy ensures that your business remains responsive to market changes and guest demand, optimizing profitability without compromising the quality of the guest experience.

Feedback surveys

Digital surveys sent via email or mobile app allow guests to provide feedback conveniently and in real time, so you can respond promptly and improve customer satisfaction.

Feedback surveys

These surveys can provide rich insights, facilitating more informed decision-making and continuous improvement of your services and leading to more positive reviews in the future.

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Understanding the stages of the hotel customer journey is essential in providing an exceptional guest experience and building lasting relationships with your customers. From the initial inspiration phase to the reflections after the trip, each stage presents opportunities to engage with guests and create positive moments.

By focusing on personalized services, seamless transitions, and continuous improvement, your hotel can navigate the hotel guest journey with ease, ensuring that every guest feels valued and appreciated throughout their stay. This will help you boost customer loyalty, encourage positive online hotel reviews, and position you for success in the increasingly competitive hospitality industry. To get started, develop a customer journey map to figure out which elements need your attention at each stage.

Alex loves travel and tech and founded Zoftify to help travel companies use technology more effectively. Before this, he worked in tech consulting, where he led international mobile development teams.

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