How are properties changing as consumer desires shift?
 
How are properties changing as consumer desires shift?
11 OCTOBER 2017 7:13 AM

As consumer preferences evolve from wanting things like pay-per-view to in-room streaming, hoteliers are working to meet the wants of their customers.

There is no question that we are in the midst of a huge shift in consumer behaviors and desires. And at a time when the priorities and preferences of consumers are changing, perhaps faster than at any time in recent memory, it is both fascinating and important to look at how the hotel industry is evolving in response to those shifts.

Observing what hotel owners and operators are already doing to accommodate their guests gives us a good idea of the direction that the industry is headed, and could even give us some insight into what the hotel landscape might look like in the years ahead.

Technology
Generationally, younger consumers are particularly apt to be more satisfied with the flexibility and independence of self-service options. At a time when powerful personal mobile technology and an extraordinary ecosystem of new apps makes that independence easier and more attainable than ever, this tech-driven trend shows no sign of slowing down. While we haven’t seen it fully take root yet in the hotel industry—where a sizable percentage of guests still appreciate those signature high-touch hospitality interactions—it is coming, and hotel decision-makers need to keep that in mind as we design the accommodations and services of tomorrow.

Technology as a whole continues to emerge as a fulcrum in our business. More and more hotel professionals are recognizing that the next decade will be, in many ways, driven by the emergence of artificial intelligence. Some forward-thinking professionals are already referring to the next 10 to 20 years as “The Algorithm Age.”

Here at FHG, we are now designing all of our hotels with fiber optic cabling and sophisticated wireless content delivery systems designed to satisfy the ever-growing demand people have for fast and continuous connectivity. Existing technology is changing as well. The television has become more an extension of guest’s personal electronics than a delivery portal for cable content. In-room movies are on the way to extinction, which is a consequence of a tech world where people can just pull up a movie on their laptop or mobile device. It is remarkable (and a sign of how profoundly things can change in the industry) when you think about that, as recently as two decades ago, two of the biggest profit centers in a hotel were pay-per-view movies and the telephone department. Needless to say, those two moneymakers are long gone.

As time goes on, virtually everything we do is evolving in response to (or with the assistance of) technology. The way we shop has already changed (and continues to change) dramatically, and there is no reason to think that our hospitality experience will be any different.

Improved dining experiences
Guests will also be looking for and prioritizing hotels that can give them more of an experience; they continue to expect more than “just” a bed and a shower.

Inevitably—and perhaps unsurprisingly—room-service dining might soon become obsolete because of the high costs of service impeding on a hotel’s profitability. And, not to mention, guests turning towards flexible grab-and-go options, instead.

Hotels that offer something extra—like rooftop bars, creative high-quality food-and-beverage concepts, and authentic local experiences, will stand out. For instance, FHG’s new hotel property set to open on Chicago’s Navy Pier will include both a high-energy first-floor restaurant and a truly one-of-a-kind 30,000-square-foot mega rooftop bar and restaurant that’s set to open prior to the hotel in 2018. And, The Keep, a self-contained speakeasy within FHG’s new Hotel LeVeque Hotel Autograph Collection in the historic The LeVeque Tower in Columbus is a prohibition era-themed bar and restaurant featuring local ingredients and offering travelers and locals a true dining experience.

Health and wellness mindset
We will also continue to see an increased emphasis on health and wellness options in response to consumer demand.

In much the same way that virtually every grocery store chain now offers its own line of organic products, hotels are recognizing that there is interest in and demand for high-end exercise facilities (sometimes specially designed by major companies).

A couple of treadmills simply isn’t going to cut it these days—and certainly not in the future. And, hotels are getting creative to satisfy the desires of high-end exercise facilities for multi-tasking guests in this fast-paced world, like the new Home2Suites by Hilton Louisville NuLu Medical District opening soon, which will include a “Spin2Cycle”—a fitness center where guests can run on the treadmill while running a load of laundry. Hotels are also being proactive about offering walking trail maps and other lifestyle/fitness tools and guidance to guests.

Design trends
We see this experience and emphasis on unique features in hotel design trends, too.

Even mainstream select-service brands are offering more flexibility in hotel lobby designs, and are encouraging developers to focus on locally-inspired design concepts. In fact, local is the hottest thing in the industry right now. Local restaurants and food, local design and décor, local products and programming.

FHG’s Renaissance Toledo Downtown Hotel, for example, includes two riverfront dining destinations—The Heights and Brim House helmed by Toledo native, Chef Aaron Lawson. The Brim House features dramatic design that pays homage to the local glass culture, and features Midwestern brews and ingredients, bringing to life a true Toledo destination. The Heights rooftop bar offers guests 360-degree sweeping views of the Maumee River and Toledo skyline. The goal was to create two destination restaurants that would change the landscape of Downtown Toledo, while still assimilating perfectly into the local culture.

In many ways, the hotel industry has come full circle. It used to be a very local business, then it became a global industry and now it is becoming local again.

During a time of change, with technology and consumer practices and preferences evolving so rapidly, forward-thinking hotel owners and operators will have a clear advantage. Those who can position themselves and their properties on the cutting edge—keeping one step ahead of what is happening in the marketplace—will thrive in this competitive and fast-changing industry.

Robert Habeeb is president and CEO of First Hospitality Group, Inc., a national, experienced, and established hospitality management and development company serving the investment and real estate industries. Since 1985, FHG has been an award-winning pioneer in the hospitality industry. FHG has successfully developed, marketed and managed more than 16 brands and 50 properties throughout the Midwest. Visit www.fhginc.com.

The opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Hotel News Now or its parent company, STR and its affiliated companies. Columnists published on this site are given the freedom to express views that may be controversial, but our goal is to provoke thought and constructive discussion within our reader community. Please feel free to comment or contact an editor with any questions or concerns.

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