The hospitality industry as we know it is changing rapidly at the moment. New terms, concepts and ideas are rolling in like never before, and for hoteliers, GM’s and Marketing Managers, it can all seem a bit overwhelming. That’s why I arranged to meet Anders Justenlund, Senior Lecturer and Business Developer at University College Northern Denmark, for a talk about current and future trends in the industry – and how hotels can prepare themselves for growth by embracing them. Grab a cup of coffee and let’s get started!
Regitse: Anders, thank you for joining in this conversation! Can you pick out one significant marketing trend we’re currently seeing in the hospitality industry?
Anders: Today’s marketing is complex. It’s getting more and more tricky in relation to break through the daily news stream. One of the things we see today is that hotels and restaurants make use of SoMe influencers in various ways. Depending on the type of operation you match the influencer with, it makes more sense for a local restaurant to make use of a local micro-influencer with fewer (but local) followers to gain more business. On the contrary, it might make more sense for Marriott to cooperate with Macro-influencers with millions of followers to reach a global audience. It is all about matching your message with a specific audience at a specific time, rather than creating huge general campaigns with a broad audience. You may gain some short-term awareness, but very little interaction/call for action for your potential guests.
Regitse: How can hotels prepare themselves for the generation to come (the so-called Generation Z)? What initiatives do they need to implement?
Anders: Hotel companies need to change their mindset from one size fits all in relation to standardized hotel rooms and service offering, and instead adapt to the needs and demands of Generation Z. Hotels need to be aware of the specific needs of this segment. Especially digital nomads is a tricky segment to approach – their only address is an IP-address. This is also a segment that does NOT make use of irons, shoe polishing, minibar, room service etc., but would rather get out of the room and socialize (while working) in public areas of the hotel. F&B services need to be healthy but also with a touch of luxury. My advice would be to minimize the focus on the room itself and emphasize the development of services in public areas e.g. free meeting spaces with complimentary tea/coffee or other free business meeting services, which will benefit your hotel in the future. Nurture start-ups and it will pay back in future revenue streams! Free, fast and reliable WiFi is also a must!
Regitse: is sustainability still a growing factor in hotel operations and hospitality in general, or will we see a decline in popularity in the near future?
Anders: Sustainability is still on the agenda, but have changed over time. Most hotel companies are being more serious in their approach to sustainability in their operations now, and we’ve gone from good intentions to real actions. There is a huge focus on waste management, power supply, food waste, water consumption etc.; initiatives that can save hotels money in relation to costs. However, you also see more and more hotels that implement initiatives that supports the local community (employment, social activities and engagements). Gone are the days where CSR was equal philanthropy – initiatives are about local positive and proactive impact.
Regitse: Can you tell us more about ’the personalized’ hotel experience? What’s that about?
Anders: The personalized experience is digital, it’s about big data. How much do we really know about our guests? The more information we have – the better we can adapt our service offerings. Customer Relation Management is everything. What does your guest want in relation to drinks, room preference, bed, pillows etc. These are the standard things we could expect – however personal experiences is also about going the extra mile. Is there something we can do to exceed our guest’s expectations to our experience? The last perspective to the future of personalization is co-creation where guests make the final adjustments to e.g. their hotel room experience. This is where the “internet of things” plays a vital role. E.g. that we can link our own “Alexa” to the hotel room and create the environment we prefer.
Regitse: We’re talking about ’the rise of smart hotels’; what are they and will they dominate the market in, say, 10 years from now?
Anders: A SMART hotel is where digitalization has taken over, and where the hotel adapts to every individual guest’s needs and demands. Technology plays a vital role in the all aspects of the hotel operation. (see my answer above). This helps cutting costs and optimize the hotel operations and at the same time enhance the guest experience. In the next ten years we will see a high level of technology implementation in all types of hotel operations – some more visible than others. At newer hotel properties, this will be very visible to the guests and in more “classical” hotels, I believe that newer types of technologies will be more ‘hidden’ for the guests, but highly implemented behind the curtain.
Regitse: It’s sometimes easier said than done. How can hotels embrace digitalization in a way that makes sense to them, both larger chains and smaller, independent properties?
Anders: It’s all about context! Managers needs to look at their operation and digitalize the part of the operations where it makes sense. You should never digitalize parts of your operation for the sake of digitalization! Technology upgrades should optimize your operations and revenue streams – not be slowed down by them down.
Hotel operators should look at how digitalization would benefit their business model in relation to their market approach (value propositions, channels, revenue streams, customer relationship and market segments) and how this links to internal operational perspectives (partnerships, costs, resources and operational activities).
Regitse: Speaking of digitalization; Hilton has already introduced a robot concierge. Is this something hotel guests all over the world need to get used to?
Anders: The robots being used today are more marketing stunts than anything else. I don’t think they’re adding real improvements or optimization of any operation. Robots are not taking over the human touch anytime soon, but they work sort of like a driverless trolley. They are the very first and primitive versions of what we’ll see in many decades – perhaps centuries from now – in hotel operations. Today they are merely an entertaining touch to the hotel experience.
Regitse: So, we can agree that the core DNA of hospitality is ’the personal touch’. Will we see less of that in the future – and more important: how do hotels maintain it in the future?
Anders: I believe that we’ll see a more personal touch in the future, however it may be in other areas than today. The more we use data and technology to survey our guests the more we learn about their needs and demands and can personalize our service offering to them. The more automated our operation will be, the more time staff can spend on taking care of hotel guests and pamper them according to their needs. The personal touch will still stand for many years to come. After all, that’s exactly what hospitality is all about.