Tomorrow’s travelers are being courted today by hotels that want to grow loyalty and interaction with guests. Much research and intensive study have gone into what the hotel of the future will look like. Some hotels are removing desks (Millennials supposedly use laptops on the bed or sofa) and storage space (it’s easier to live out of the suitcase). But, is that enough?
According to Concur’s 2016 State of Business Travel Report, not all business travelers are created equal. With the advent of home sharing through AirBnB or HomeAway (data shows a 56-percent growth between the first quarters of 2015 and 2016), hotels cannot risk losing market share.
The US Census bureau estimates that Millennials will outgrow baby boomers as the nation’s largest generation. Hoteliers are catching onto the Millennial spirit by diversifying their offerings to an ever more segmented customer base.
When Starwood’s SPG Keyless program launched in 2014, it was groundbreaking. The latest update allows rooms with multiple guests to each use their own smartphone to unlock the door. Other brands followed suit, but SPG Keyless remains the largest with more than 160 properties in over 30 countries, and more being added with the upcoming rollout of Keyless 2.0.
Originally offered at the more youthful W, Aloft and Element brands, it is now being rolled out to other Starwood brands including Le Meridien, Sheraton and Westin proving that some Millennial trends are ideas that can successfully cross over to more mature consumer segments.
“Rather than the first interaction being the swipe of a credit card, hotel associates can now focus on ways to better personalize guests’ stays,” says Alyssa Waxenberg, vice president of mobile for Starwood Hotels & Resorts.
Hotels are getting personal with music, art and wellness experiences. Last year, Hilton launched Hilton at PLAY in partnership with Live Nation to provide more “enriching and playful experiences” for guests. Hotels transition to concert spaces with live music events. Hilton HHonors members can even use points for special backstage tours and sound checks with some of their favorite musicians.
Marriott’s Renaissance brand is going through its own renaissance with trendy interior redesigns and a new concert series with Billboard to promote emerging music artists at various hotels and streamed live on AXS TV.
Music lovers will discover something unique at the W Bali Seminyak and W Seattle where a Sound Studio, designed in part by producer and DJ White Shadow of Lady Gaga fame, gives guests the opportunity for impromptu jam or recording sessions. Amateur musicians and experienced pop stars can reserve the soundproof music studio, a joint partnership with Coca-Cola, and writing space to get creative during their stay. Hotels are no longer just places to sleep or meet; artists can actually create content for the world.
Swissotel’s Vitality program, available at properties in Berlin, Chicago and Sydney among others, provides guests with “physical and mental vitality boosts.” Guests receive TOMS bags stuffed with jogging maps, SWELL water bottles that keep drinks cold for 24 hours, in-room exercise equipment, access to calming and inspiring podcasts, and unique postcards with colored pencils (hotels will mail them for free).
Artists and glitterati are important, but what about the rest of us? Hilton’s Homewood Suites and Home2 Suites are targeting men, the majority of their current guests, with a program that promotes how to be better travel planners. Since fathers are becoming increasingly involved in planning family travel, the “Travel MANager Program” and MenCanPlanTravel.com website help by sharing tips on saving money and finding unique packages. Man’s Best Friend, too, receives special attention from some hotel brands; Pier One Sydney Harbour, Autograph Collection, offers a dog minibar with goodies like beef jerky or tendon treats.
Even Best Western, traditionally appealing to Baby Boomers looking to save a buck, is turning its attention to Millennials with a new brand called GLo, offering value-focused rooms with contemporary style. Research shows that younger travelers book travel with less planning giving value brands an upper hand.
As hotel companies reposition for tomorrow’s traveler, they are still jockeying for today’s business while being careful not to alienate one consumer segment in favor of another. The good news is that when hotels get creative, we all win.
By Ramsey Qubein