By Robert Rauch, CHA

1. Millennials will become the core customer within the hospitality and travel industries over the next five to ten years. The majority of airlines, hotels and travel companies will benefit from this sector as they enter into their peak earning, spending and travel years. Within this group of GenY travelers, there are many different markets considering the fact that exploration, interaction and experience are the major focus of Millennials. Willing to pay more for a greater experience, "foodies" are a prevalent subset of this market; looking for an overall gourmet experience for a reasonable price will cause the industry to revamp their lobby bars, restaurants and food service. Internet bloggers, culture buffs, LGBT and Multi-generational travelers all looking for a unique, novel experience will command change within the market.

2. Speed and precision will be a requirement when it comes to accommodating Millennials in upcoming years according to Hotels.com's latest Hotel Price Index report. Fast booking, fast check-in, fast WiFi and fast responses to customer service needs will need to be implemented within hotels. Considering Millennials have no problems speaking up, if what they are seeking is not quick enough, they will turn to Twitter, Facebook, Yelp or TripAdvisor to voice their complaints.

3. WOW customer service will become even more influential this year. Service today consists of four levels: basic, expected, desired and WOW. Basic service can be found at the post office whereas expected service can be found at most fast food restaurants and many businesses. Desired service is often found at good hotels and restaurants but WOW Service is the only way to ensure repeat business. By creating an impressive, unique guest experience that exceeds all expectations, you are able to capture the customer.

4. Leadership is modeling the way and showing your management team how critical it is to "walk the talk." Each and every employee, including myself, all have something we can work on. Forming a connection with guests can improve dramatically with genuine, individual interaction. It is my goal as a leader to instill the value of building relationships by sharing the knowledge I have and learning from them as well. For instance, I run with our guests staying at the Hilton Garden Inn and Homewood Suites San Diego/Del Mar and offer personal training sessions for others.

5. Expectation of more international visitors. Average rates and occupancy levels in the U.S. are likely to increase over the next few years, influenced by a very new market. "Leisure demand from abroad, fueled in part by the new Discover America campaign, will stimulate a new demand" according to Arne Sorenson, President and CEO of Marriott Hotels & Resorts. China is preparing to send about 100 million leisure tourists into the international market every year. If the U.S. gets its typical share, that will mean an additional 10 million visitors from China alone. Considering the average Chinese traveler spends a week in the U.S., demand is created for an additional 70 million room nights in a market where prices are steadily rising. The globalization of travel will prove to be a massive force.

6. Social media and mobile will be inseparable. Social media and mobile already live in symbiosis and we will only continue to see them merge over the course of this year. Mobile activity has allowed social media to live in real time by allowing users to create updates, tag friends and check in on their mobile devices. Smartphones represent 50 percent of new mobile devices being purchased and the growth of connected devices will only continue to rise. Ericsson estimates that there will be over 50 billion connected devices in circulation by 2020, including laptops, tablets and smartphones. In North America, 2014 will mark the first year that online access is greater from mobile devices than a desktop or laptop. Keeping an eye out for authentic ways to make use of emerging social/mobile applications will be of great value to those in hotel marketing.

7. Content marketing will replace traditional advertising. Traditional advertising is rapidly losing value as hotel marketing professionals begin to take advantage of effective content marketing. Marketing's new mantra, "Brands must now act as publishers," has come about due to social media and its potential to engage in meaningful conversations with loyal fans and clients alike. You will be able to drastically reduce investments in traditional paid media by implementing media tools such as blogs, social media, newsletters, webinars, eBooks, photo or video sharing and shared media. If brands begin to "opt out" of being a producer, SEO efforts will be affected. Google is now weighing current content, social proof and author scores in their results ranking. Simply put, you need to create and share content while engaging people if you want to be recognized moving forward.

8. Renewed focus on property websites. Finding ways of encouraging direct bookings will be one of the most important parts of a marketing director's job in 2014. Considering travelers are increasingly taking their transactions online, the hotel's own website needs to become the most important avenue for bookings to gain the highest ROI. After American hotels spent an estimated $2.7 billion on OTA commissions, the rates rose and restrictions tightened. Hotels are looking at any and all ways to increase direct bookings in 2014. This means that hotel websites will need to create incentives through booking with them directly rather than via the OTAs. Fresh content, consistent updates of promotions and rich media will draw in the guests.

9. Review site tactics. According to The Wall Street Journal, Yelp reports 50 million users across its web and mobile platforms. TripAdvisor has become the world's most popular travel website with 34 million unique users each month. Google Places is the Yellow Pages of the digital age meaning that business listings also show up on iPhone searches as well as on Google Maps. In 2014 there is a need to:

  • Monitor Yelp, TripAdvisor and Google Places reviews and alert management of any low reviews twice a week
  • Comment on glowing reviews to thank them
  • Comment on low reviews and how the property intends to handle future situations
  • Feature Yelp deals

10. Reputation Management. There is much anticipation that reputation management will begin to dictate the hotel industry in upcoming years. Considering there are millions of reviews written each day across a plethora of different platforms, the world wide web has the power of influencing one's decision making process; being able to manage your businesses reputation will determine success or failure. TrustYou had made it their mission to influence travel decisions in a positive way, developing a technology and software making it simple to monitor, manage and market a businesses reputation. Another company, Flip.to, has been making strides to tap into the market of potential travelers' family and friends considering 70% of customers take recommendations from their family or friends when choosing a product, brand or business.

About Robert Rauch

Robert Rauch serves as President of R. A. Rauch & Associates, Inc. He is a nationally recognized hotelier serving clients in all facets of the industry. Rauch has over 35 years of hospitality-related management experience. Widely recognized as the "hotel guru," Mr. Rauch maintains a blog where he expounds upon insights and trends in the hospitality industry at www.hotelguru.com.

Mr. Rauch also served as General Manager of full-service four Diamond hotels for Hilton and Embassy Suites. His education qualifications include a bachelor's degree in Hotel Administration from Western International University and a master's degree in Tourism Administration from Arizona State University. He is a Certified Hotel Administrator and has served as chairman of numerous tourism organizations nationally and in the western U.S.

Mr. Rauch currently serves on numerous Boards of Directors. He has been directly involved in developing several leading brand hotels, some of which the firm still owns and manages.

R. A. Rauch & Associates, Inc. currently operates 17 hotels throughout North America and is arguably the fastest growing hotel management firm in the United States. Rauch founded the website hotelguru.com and publishes Hospitality Innsights, an electronic newsletter. He is a Faculty Associate at Arizona State University where he teaches Entrepreneurial Recreation and Tourism.

Contact: Robert Rauch

rauch@hotelguru.com / 858-523-0590

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