America by mid-century will look much different than today, and thus present hoteliers (and many customer-service-centric businesses) with a new set of guest desires to fulfill. Coyle-referred hotel mystery shoppers in 2050 will likely check into hotels and rooms with very different amenities and features than those of today. And these hotels will need to set benchmarks and standards that speak to a new type of guest.
Just how is America changing, and what will it look like in 2050? During the recent Americas Lodging Investment Summit (ALIS), Joel Kotkin, author of “The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050” presented a lucid look at demographic and cultural trends, some that are likely to change the hotel product and guest experience vastly in years to come. Here, we present just a few key points from Joel Kotkin’s session.
- The US population will continue to grow, but the population is not aging as dramatically as in other countries. By 2050, 20% will be over the age of 65, 42% will be part of the labor force and “millennials” will make up the overwhelming majority of the population.
- Migration to smaller cities and towns will grow, a “declustering” that will create more “sub-cities” and “multipolar cities” (several small city centers rather than one huge city). Cities that were once secondary cities will experience strong growth tied to airport hub growth (such as Phoenix, Riverside, Houston). According to Kotkin, 35% of the population want to live in the country, and 33% in a suburb near a city. But the suburbs of 2050 will have more vibrant main towns or centers, rather than be bedroom communities of major cities. And there will be a revival of the heartland.
- The top cities that current college graduates (millennials) are moving to include Baltimore, Birmingham, Jacksonville, Louisville, Nashville, Rochester and Portland.
- Immigration will drive American demography; the largest population in 2050 (millennials) will be the most diverse in history. The ethnic market is where the majority of growth purchasing power will reside.
- This vast millennial population is family oriented, ethnically diverse and want to live in housing near their jobs. More will work from home than ever before. Millenials will look for experiences that are unique and personal.
What do these trends (and many others Kotkin explores) mean for the guest experience by mid-century? For one, businesses can build around unique places, and provide unscripted, meaningful experiences that encompass family. Even well-known brands were warned to stay away from replica facilities in different cities – opting instead to foster a sense of place. The role of facilities that involve or cater to the entire family will also conceivably grow in importance as the ties between generations will be closer than in previous periods of history.
Cities, and city-based hotels (and restaurants by extension,) need to nurture their unique differences, capitalizing on local cuisines, traditions, cultures and diversity. The most successful will provide experiences, products and services that consumers can’t get in any other location.
As changing demographics play out, the role of monitoring the customer experience, gaining feedback and measuring quality assurance to move with these customer shifts becomes ever more important. As Coyle’s network of professional hotel and mystery shopping evaluators have often found, subtle shifts that respond to new guest needs can elevate the guest experience beyond initial expectations.