During the recent International Hotel, Motel & Restaurant Show, hospitality consultants and experts explored how changing consumer attitudes and behaviors are affecting the industry. How will hoteliers address and meet these changing needs, from altering hotel design to enhancing the guest experience? How will overall changes among consumers impact the guest experience?
In one of the IHMRS panels focused on the issue, “Customers of the Future”, were the following highlights:
Redefining the grand space: Hoteliers say that hotels of the future will reconfigure the lobby space, moving away from the transaction-oriented approach of a front desk (barrier) to one more conducive to connecting with guests. This includes making bar and lounges more visible, removing traditional front desks, checking in guests with wireless laptops, and offering an “experience” when guests arrive.
Mobile check-ins: As it becomes easier to provide guests with cell phone applications that allow them to check-in with mobile phones, more hotels will embrace the option. Business travelers won’t need to stop and endure the usual tedious check-in process, another enhancement to the guest experience.
In-room technology initiatives: According to hospitality consultants at IHMRS, innovations like the use of iPads to control in-room technology, 3D TVs and enhanced customization to accommodate individual preferences, will make the guest room experience quite different in the years ahead. Coyle’s mystery shopping services, which include hotel and restaurant secret shoppers that spend a great deal of time focusing on facilities, have often shown that upgraded technology goes a long way to improving guest comfort. However, often the best technology improvements are “fuzzy”, meaning they improve comfort, convenience and overall experience without necessarily “wowing” guests.
Experience is golden: Luxury in the old days was more often about luxury of service and material, and while these remain important, the “luxury of experience” is paramount say consultants. Guests, more than ever, want authenticity from property to property. They want interactivity, entertainment and diversity. The consistency in brands across properties should focus on service, but the environment of each location should offer diversity.
Environmentalism behind the scenes: While some hotels are still reluctant to jump into fully sustainable products and approaches for fear that when standards are adopted, they may have to rework previous choices, some hotel consultants say more hotels are weaving these efforts into the hotel without promoting it as they’ve done in the past. And while there are groups of consumers looking for sustainable concepts in the hotels they choose, the million-dollar question is “are there enough of them?”
For more crucial consumer trends of 2011, see this piece in Trendwatching.com
Coyle Hospitality Consulting provides mystery shopping referral services, restaurant consulting, spa consulting and hotel consulting, among other services for the hospitality industry.