Apparently, guests are hungering for new kinds of experiences when they check in to hotels. As a result, owners and operators need to staff their properties with associates who know their neighborhoods.
The buzzword of 2016 in the hotel industry was definitely “experience.”
Every marketing story, announcement of a new hotel or brand or conference panel discussion touched on how the modern traveler—i.e., millennials and the millennial-minded—don’t want the stale, tacky, cookie-cutter hotel experience of the past. They want their hotel stays to be “experiential,” filled with wondrous new adventures, amenities, and food and drink.
That might sound a little snarky, but it’s the truth. Consumers want something different from all their retail experiences, and that particularly includes travel. As a result, a slew of relatively new hotel offerings are serving up ways for travelers to learn about the neighborhoods in which they find themselves, to test the new and hip restaurants and to become part of instant communities, albeit ones that only last as long as their stays.
Of course, not every hotel is a boutique, is in a hip neighborhood, or has an in-person concierge to guide guests to those experiences after which they lust. So in order to compete, owners and operators of hotels of all stripes need to staff their properties with managers and associates who know their neighborhoods and have an affinity for customer service. In short, everyone at the hotel—from the GM to the housekeepers—needs to be a concierge.
Hotel operators who fail to recognize and act on this trend will continue to see traditional and nontraditional competitors gnawing away at their business. And depending on where your hotel or hotels are located, one of the biggest threats is coming from sharing-economy providers such as Airbnb.
Capitalizing on its marketing promise to help guests “live there,” Airbnb launched two new products in November aimed at helping guests maximize their travel experiences. Trips is a planner for tours and activities, while Places provides curated recommendations for restaurants, bars, events and meet-up locations near Airbnb host accommodations.
While these offerings are useful and appear to be personal, hotel staffs can provide the same information in a variety of ways that can be even more personal. Even at a select-service hotel, a front-desk associate who can recommend local restaurants or retail spots can turn satisfied guests into fans.
Hotels have another advantage over most Airbnb facilities by being able to create ad hoc communities of guests in lounges, lobbies, coffee areas or even poolside. By necessity, many extended-stay hotel concepts have recognized this need and offer manager’s cocktail hours or evening food offerings. That’s much more appreciated by guests than having to sit in an Airbnb apartment or house in an area where they probably don’t know anyone and are unfamiliar with the area.
The global hotel brand companies also see this as an opportunity. Several of them—Wyndham Hotel Group, Marriott International and Hilton Worldwide Holdings and others—have developed programming for members of their loyalty programs to provide a range of experiences.
At Wyndham, loyalty club members have access to a variety of local experiences, from food tours to museum visits and theme park admissions. At Marriott, it is an “experiences marketplace,” while Hilton leverages a partnership with Live Nation to offer concert tickets and other music-oriented experiences.
And while these corporate initiatives can be attractive to many guests, for others (think millennials) they might seem contrived and unauthentic. That’s why one-to-one personal involvement with guests is the best way to give them the experiences they seek and to create lifelong champions of a hotel or chain.
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