By Robert A. Rauch, CHA
We are seeing a shift from sitting at home to experiencing the world. Some travelers came out in 2021, others in 2022, and everyone is finally getting out in 2023! The world was closed, now it’s completely open with the exception of China. Pent-up demand still exists today in the leisure segment and groups and business travelers will continue to increase their travel from 2022 to 2023. This will occur even if there is a recession as companies cannot grow if they do not meet. Corporate balance sheets are in good shape and while the headwinds of a slowing economy could impact some travel, 2023 will be a good, solid year.
Sustainability, Authenticity and Diversity and the Gen Z Traveler
Our guests want us to be friendly to the environment and to be sensitive to greenhouse gases, air and water pollution and clean energy. In 2019, the tourism sector totaled 8% of greenhouse gases globally, according to Carbon Brief. Several industry sources say we are reducing our negative impact across the sector which is good news, but travelers would love to hear that we are doing more.
Sustainability and diversity are top causes for socially conscious meeting planners, their attendees and travelers in general—additionally, wellness is a huge focus. The Global Wellness Institute expects to see over 20% annual growth in the wellness tourism industry over the next several years. Events focusing on health, meditation, recreation, sustainably-sourced food, and related activities will compete favorably for both business meetings and the individual traveler.
Gen Z travelers, who grew up with heightened awareness of climate change, global crises and desire for diversity are looking for newer experiences. They like eco-friendly accommodation options and businesses that hire employees that look like them. There is a five-point spread between Gen Zers and others when considering staying in a green accommodation on their next vacation, 38% of Gen Zers compared to 33% of those over 25.
Gen Z heavily utilizes technology, including TikTok, Instagram and other social media channels when they travel. These travelers are interested in places where they can post photos while they are on the road or after they have returned. These memories and experiences will differentiate one hotel, restaurant or tour from another and one place from another.
Authentic experiences are desirable by nearly 50% of Gen Zers and over one-third of global Gen Zers said they prioritize spending money on local businesses and products when traveling, according to MMGY. That is equal to the 25+ crowd, who have more financial freedom. Gen Zers are also more likely to be interested in traveling with a purpose, such as volunteering and ecotourism, which is again fueled by the desire to do something meaningful and give back to the community.
Other Guest Demands
Breakfast continues to be near the top of guest desires and they strongly prefer a free breakfast even if they have to forego award points. Additionally, they want a better breakfast with some creativity! Housekeeping service is a touch point that we must all address this year–how do we simplify it, what bed toppings do we display to show them the changes and how do we deploy staff to fix it?
Our guests are pushing back on rates and expect renovations now that we have all used the supply chain delays as an excuse. Time to freshen the product and get back to smiling at all guests, cleaning up our management teams, training staff and renovating our hotels. I say this not to agree with the brands that want us to spend $50K per room but to at least freshen the areas that the guests notice—lobby, hotel rooms and restaurants/bars.
It is time to drive business with technology, assess our revenue management systems, drive meetings to our hotels and modernize our operations. We must differentiate our hotels from our competition by providing technology, service and a clean, fresh product. Moreover, we must lead our team via training, sincere management and walking the talk.
The pandemic is over, it is time to move on from ancient practices and pandemic excuses. Covid-19 was hard to endure—but now we can celebrate our successes and grow our teams and profits concurrently! To a great 2023!