By Paul O’Reilly-Hyland
It is no secret that the average consumer is changing. Across industries, purchasing behavior and expectations have been shifting in recent years, and no industry is immune, including hospitality. The industry as we know it is shifting into overdrive to satisfy a new generation of Instagram-savvy travelers who expect instant gratification in every area of their lives. With this new breed of guests here to stay, hotels are upgrading their services to stay ahead of the curve.
People across the world are exponentially more tech-savvy than they were even a few years ago. Regardless of age, almost everyone has a smart phone, the latest Apple products, high-tech cameras and more. Consumers have begun to expect the ease and instant gratification provided by technology in every aspect of their life, including their hotel stay.
Hotel guests are no longer satisfied with having to call up a hotel to get a room or wait in line upon arrival in order to check in. They expect to browse available dates from any device, as well as check in instantly upon arrival and make their way to their room with little to no wait time. During their stay, guest want the type of instant service that they have come to expect in other parts of their life from companies like Uber and Postmates – they want to order their dinner, commission a car service and even open the blinds and control the lights from one consolidated screen in their hotel room. Many guests think of WiFi as a necessity when considering somewhere to stay, not an added perk they are willing to pay for.
Hotels are taking these expectations into account and are incorporating a number of new gadgets and services in order to satisfy their newly tech-literate guests. Hilton is just one of the many hotel brands that are integrating a robot-like “concierge” into their lobbies to inform guests about activities outside of the hotel that could be of interest. Hotels who lag behind or fail to update or incorporate technology in any way risk losing their future customers to other brands who are keeping up with the times.
Hotel guests now expect more than a bed and a bathroom from their stay. Consumers are increasingly drawn to hotels that offer interesting amenities and access to unique experiences that can be enjoyed outside of the hotel room. A neighborhood guide placed in the bedside table or standard concierge recommendations no longer do the trick. People from all around the world booking stays at hotels are expecting more of an amenity-filled experience than they would get staying in an AirBnB where they set the itinerary themselves.
Part of this change in expectations is due to the shifting demographics of hotel guests – millennials are beginning to travel more as they collect more disposable income, and come with different expectations than the boomers and Gen Xers who came before them. In other areas of their life, millennials are increasingly drawn to – and spending their money on – experience over routine. They want the newest restaurant, interactive activities, tickets to the most exclusive events and more.
In order to cater to this, hotels are pulling out all the stops. They are offering guests exclusive reservations, partnering with nearby experiential pop-ups to secure discounts, pulling together unique itineraries with lesser-known destinations or up-and-coming places in the city they are staying to give guests the thrill of being “first” to experience something.
Hotels aren’t only offering experiences outside their walls. They are offering in-hotel activities like cooking classes, golf tournaments, wine tastings and more to draw in guests who are not content to pay only for a place to sleep.
The Travelling Businessperson
With an abundance of businesses expanding across the world, more employees are required to travel for work. On top of that, employees are increasingly being encouraged to work remotely – driving up the number of hotel visits even more each year. In 2018, over 471 million people traveled for business in the United States, and the number is only expected to increase in coming years. With this exceptionally large number of people traveling, hotels are upgrading, updating, and increasing what they offer to their business travelers.
For the frequent business traveler, a hotel that understands and caters to their needs is crucial. Aside from their growing technology needs, they expect a place to effectively conduct their business, whether it be an updated lounge with spaces for collaboration, a phone room for taking confidential calls or even a convenient and classy restaurant to entertain clients at. Business travelers also appreciate the ability to keep some sort of routine while on the road, including their fitness routine and want for familiarity. Travelers have come to expect the familiar brands they enjoy at home to be offered at the place they have chosen to stay, rather than having to settle for off-brand hotel options.
Hotels are listening to these needs and creating new, world-class business centers for their guests. They are increasing their partnerships, offering familiar brands such as Starbucks in their lobbies. Additionally, hotels that have gyms are upgrading them with state-of-the-art machinery and moving them from the dark basement to places with better scenery. The many facilities that can’t fit a full gym on the premises are offering gym alternatives to help their guests stay fit while also see the city they are in, setting up yoga in the park, meditation spaces in the city, and daily passes to gyms and fitness classes. With business travelers being a core component of hotels’ repeat business, it is crucial that they make expected updates or risk losing customers to their rivals.
Changes Are Here
Consumer expectations are constantly changing, and don’t look like they will stop anytime soon. As competition increases and the industry continues to evolve, hotels must stay abreast of the wants and needs of potential guests in order to retain past customers and draw in old ones. Hotels who stick with the status quo are bound to fall behind and risk becoming out of touch and therefore irrelevant.