Jan Valenta of Taste of Prague: customers are currently looking for quality at a good price or an exceptional experience
First there was a famous food blog, then came the now legendary food tours, nowadays Taste of Prague has its own podcast and runs accommodation in Chaloupka Bousov. The focus of their interest is food. They are aware that hospitality and gastronomy are closely linked, so it makes sense that they focus on their intersection. They regularly show foreign gourmets in the Czech Republic that Prague's gastronomic scene is on par with that of Berlin, for example. What did last year's change in clientele bring them and what do they think the accommodation experience of the future will look like?
Has your clientele changed over the pandemic? Are their spending habits any different? How have you had to adapt to it?
I'm sure it has. In the past, we focused almost exclusively on foreign clients, but they couldn't come during the pandemic, so we had to transition to local clients. Two things were essential to our business before the pandemic - open borders and open restaurants, the lockdown made both impossible. In the beginning, our local clients especially wanted to support quality restaurants at a time when they weren't having the easiest time. Now they're more looking for quality at a good price or an exceptional experience.
What do you think is the most important strategy in the hospitality industry today?
At the moment, the emphasis is probably on direct sales and on creating your own sales channels. Before covid, almost no high-quality Moravian winery had an e-shop, let alone a newsletter, because all the wines were very easily sold to restaurants in Prague. After they closed or sales were reduced, wineries had to turn to the end client. Nowadays, even the smallest wineries have their own e-shop with delivery across the country, and anonymous winemakers are gradually becoming people with active Instagram accounts.
Which current trend in the hospitality industry do you think will not last long and which, on the other hand, will persist?
I have a feeling that the hospitality industry is no longer in a state of sheer desperation, which often led to sell-outs and very low prices - you could book a room at the five-star Alcron for 50 Euros via covid. The shortage of labour in the hospitality industry leads to price increases that ultimately have to be paid by the consumer. At the same time, for the same reason, there are bound to be limited-service establishments. Restaurants and diners without service or with a strong emphasis on takeaway. The most expensive item will be the man-hour.
What is your current and desired ratio of direct bookings from the website to bookings through intermediaries?
Ideally, we would have all bookings through the website and none through an intermediary. Guests who book our tours through the website have somehow found us and therefore already have a connection to us and are genuinely interested in what we do, often before the tour even starts we find out that they have viewed our website and instagram. Guests through intermediaries are mainly guided by reviews and positive ratings directly on the intermediary's website. We only build a relationship with them during the tour itself. In addition, intermediaries don't benefit the service provider, they benefit themselves - they'll take, say, 20% of the price, but use half of it for Google ads mentioning your brand, reducing your reach and increasing their own. You are then stuck in a vicious circle.
„In addition, intermediaries don't benefit the service provider, they benefit themselves - they'll take, say, 20% of the price, but use half of it for Google ads mentioning your brand, reducing your reach and increasing their own.“
What are you doing to achieve direct bookings?
We try to communicate with our guests and potential guests directly, especially through social media and the newsletter. We are all about creating quality content and as part of that we want to inform the public about what we have to offer. At the same time, we strive to make our guests regulars through great service.
What do you think is the accommodation experience of the future?
It will probably be more based on technology and less on direct human contact. There will be fewer receptionists, but you can check in before you visit the hotel, just like you check in on a plane today. Lodging establishments will try to offer extra services and engage their guests in various loyalty programs because they won't want to share the shrinking margins with the upsellers. And they're going to communicate a lot more with the public.
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