In March, the 9th edition of the Young Hoteliers Summit (YHS) took place at Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne. The topic revolved around the central theme: “Eyes on the Future: Following the Momentum of Growth”. With 80 delegates present from schools all over the world, YHS is the largest student-run hospitality conference worldwide and has reached over 60 nationalities on six continents.
Steve Hood, Vice President of Research at STR welcomed the delegates with an insightful keynote speech about major revelations in the hotel sector. He pointed out that the industry has seen over 100 new brands in roughly four years and focused not only on innovation but also on redesign, re-launch and renovation, gradually introducing the delegates to the main topics of the upcoming days.
In the three days of the summit, discussions revolved about trends in hospitality but also around global developments affecting the industry: new technologies, the ever-changing landscape of hotel ownership as well as disrupting innovations. The most heated discussion was nevertheless caused by Millennials. A term to describe a new generation of guests with needs so different from all previous generations, many say drastic changes to traditional hospitality concepts will be necessary. However, this opinion was not shared by the panelists, who mutually agreed that while Millennials were in fact different from previous generations, they weren’t any more different than the Generation Y was to the Baby Boomers. This mindset was especially present in the “Redefining Luxury in the Age of the Millennial” panel, when François Delahaye, COO of Dorchester Collection indicated that he neither liked the term Millennial nor believed in traditional loyalty programs due to the dis-loyalty of the generation. The panelists did agree however, that bloggers as well as influencers have become an integral part of a hotel’s marketing strategy, intensifying the so-called storytelling of a brand.
The second essential part of the Summit were the recent developments in technology, forcing the hospitality industry to follow the example. Keynotes given by Nick Price, CIO followed by Marc Levie, CEO of CitizenM gave great insight into the topic. They pointed out that the hotel sector was currently failing to catch up with other industries and needed to drastically improve data storage- and handling. Nick Price also gave an outlook of the industry, such as two-way messaging with the hotel, new payment options like ApplePay or a revenue management tool, which will let customers choose their room, similar to what is already common in the airline industry. Marc Levie explained that joint ventures between different industries could help improve the sector’s image and bring new marketing tools to the industry.
The final topic covered in the event was the changing dynamics of hotel ownership. A panel led by Russell Kett, Chairman of HVS London, brought insight to the transformation of the hotel investment market. Giovanni Forni, Vice President at Cedar Capital explained that many investors currently seek promising lifestyle hotels and even hostels as opposed to traditional properties. Interestingly, the panel on “The Rise of Lifestyle Brands: Revolutionizing the Hotel Experience” revealed the same findings, namely that investment in hostels can be very prosperous. Navneet Bali, Chairman of Meininger Hotels explained that the industry has seen an enormous focus on niche markets. Similarly, Jessica Emde, Brand Manager at Nhow believes that a concepts aligning with the hotel location can help attract an entirely new segment of customers.
In the three-day summit, the delegates were exposed to panel discussions led by key players in the industry but also to keynote speeches as well as workshops and the annual challenge. This year’s challenge was provided by Onefinestay, a luxury home rental company, recently acquired by Accor. The challenge included an up-to-now untouched topic: the attraction of bleisure guests in luxury home rental. Teachers and companies alike were excited to see the many ideas the delegates came up to impress Onefinestay.
The revolving topic was reviewed from different angles and delegates were exposed to discussions around guest loyalty, the not-so-special behavior of Millennials and the controversy of big data as well as its use in our industry.