Millennial travellers take almost twice as many leisure trips as Gen Xers or baby boomers. The hospitality industry must evolve to respond to the needs of their changing demographics or risk losing them altogether.
The hospitality industry lives and dies on anticipating what customers want. But according to a recent study by the global consultancy firm HVS London, most hotels are struggling to keep pace with the changing needs of travellers.
Even with advances in technology, including the advent of analytics to study browsing behaviour, the hospitality sector has struggled to keep up with the changing needs of the modern guest. That’s a problem for the industry as a whole, with the sharing-economy ready to step in to fill the void.
So what does the modern traveller expect from their holiday experience? While everyone has a different idea of their dream holiday, there are a few recurring themes the hospitality sector would do well to remember.
The guest experience has always been at the forefront of hospitality but today’s travellers expect a more authentic taste of the surrounding culture. As visitors strive to become more immersed in the local society, package holidays centred solely around the hotel are becoming less relevant. This is, in part, down to the growth in social media and increasing levels of cultural assimilation. After all, nobody wants to return from holiday with only pictures of the hotel pool. Guests will always respond more strongly to a hotel that acts as an extension of the surrounding settings. Features like cuisine, language, interior design and even the means of service can play a part in cultivating an atmosphere of true locality.
Travellers today are more likely to reject a location if it seems overly corporate. Instead, tourists today opt for something that better reflects the environment in which the accommodation is based. Modern guests (both young and old) tend to shun generic toys from the hotel gift shop in favour of genuine locally-made products. Likewise, hotels that opt for a uniform approach across every branch will lose out to those that offer a more genuine, locally-informed approach.
Just as guests want to feel a connection with the local culture, they also expect a personalised experience. Price and location will always be a factor, but it’s essential that hotels recognise a guests individual desires and respond to those needs in a way that best suits their guest.
Of course, there’s no way a hotel can possibly appeal to the whims of every visitor. With Genie, coupled with an intelligent Hotel Management System, hotels can engage with visitors on a one-to-one basis without assigning them their own personal concierge. A guest could input their special diet specifications before arrival. The information can then be saved to their personal profile. This, in turn, spares them the rigmarole of explaining their requirements each time they order room service. Not only does this make the life of the guest easier, it enables hotels to provide customised suggestions directly to the visitor.
How do you identify and respond to each customer’s unique requirements without sacrificing efficiency? The answer; technology.
Above all else, the modern traveller wants to feel valued. Technology and, by extension, automation, holds the key to identifying individual needs and appealing to them without stretching company resources. The modern traveller expects a degree of technological functionality from their stay (unless the hotel is marketed as a retreat from the digital world) because so much of their own life is built around technology.
Staying ahead of the technology game doesn’t mean providing bigger, brighter TVs in each room, either. It means recognising the trends in the tech industry that are filtering their way into people’s lives. With the smartphone now a ubiquitous element of daily life for most travellers, hotels can increase both revenue and brand loyalty with the aid of Genie and intelligent automation.
With great power comes great responsibility. The hospitality industry would do well to remember this as the surge of new technologies bring with it untold data-tracking potential. Of course, before passing guest details on to third parties, any company must seek permission from the guest. Hoteliers might be surprised by how protective guests are over their basic information, particularly in light of recent social media data leaks. Hotels should always ensure this information is handled responsibly, regardless of how valuable data is to building customer relationships.
In the age of the modern traveller, privacy extends far beyond the hotel room. Guests expect their information to be used responsibly, to ensure only relevant advertising comes their way. By using a Genie phone, for instance, they can limit the outflow of personal information and still enjoy relevant, exclusive promotions that actually enhance the travel experience.
Tired of the same tours, the same attractions and treading the same path as visitors before them, the millennial traveller looks to technology as the number one source of information. With this information, travellers gain build a unique experience that better reflects their own understanding of a culture.
That’s no reason for hotels to be lax, however. While modern guests want autonomy, this doesn’t mean being left completely to their own devices. The new generation of visitor wants to explore at their own pace and in their own way. Technology provides the opportunity for guests to shape their own adventure, but also for hotels to provide support, should they need it.
As far as striking the balance between autonomy and dependence goes, it’s largely down to the hotel, the guests and the nature of the surrounding attractions. For hotels based in rural areas, providing regular transport to attractions could be essential. For visitors to a hotel in the heart of a city, guests may prefer a lighter touch. Advice on the best modes of transport, maps highlighting popular routes or digital tours provided through a Genie phone give guests the freedom to explore at their leisure while keeping them on the right track.
The biggest challenge facing the hospitality industry today is how to respond the ever-changing needs of clients. With so many different reasons for visiting a new city, the onus is on the industry. It’s down to the hotels, the B&Bs, the villas and the hostels to effectively respond to guests’ interests in a way that allows them to define their own experience while giving them an insight into the real vibe of the local area. It’s a tall order, but the hotels hosting the next generation of traveller will be those capable of rising to this challenge.