This article explores the latest trends to understand their impact on the changing face of hospitality. It brings together recent research pertaining to all aspects of the hotel and combines them with Hoteliers Inspiration’s insights, we looked at the different trend sets impacting the next few years in the hospitality industry.
The article aims to show that, when combined, these trends point to something bigger; they signal an emerging era for the global hospitality industry, what we call ‘Relationship Economy”.
These trends and new way of experiencing hospitality will not only come from products and services, but also from creating meaningful relationships among guests.
This Relationship Economy will be the next step up from the existing “experience economy” This offers a clear new role for hotels in facilitating these meaningful relationships and not only providing, but supporting and adapting to the inevitable changes and environment for it to flourish.
Thinking about Relationships is about understanding the connections between guests and the process of forming those connections, whether that is the relationship between guests, their circles of influence, the local community or the hotel itself. The core purpose of a Relationship Economy is about helping guests to make those connections.
Hospitality has always been about relationships, the word itself means ‘friendliness to strangers’, but how is the face of hospitality evolving as a result of social and consumer trends?
It would be unjust to state that so far no attention to guests was given by members of the hospitality community, the dynamics, however, changed. Due to economical changes the overall disposable income of people around the world has at least slightly improved. This resulted in better possibilities for people to travel to other destinations. In Europe, we have seen an increase in visitors from countries like India, Turkey, China, Korea, Arab countries and other regions.
Not only did we, regionally, see more visitors from previously lower tourist volume generating countries, but also an increase from within Europe itself.
The growing diversity of visitor demographics will require the hospitality industry to further develop things such language skills as well as enhancing the understanding and appreciation of cultural differences.
Building a relationship with others is easier when we have a clearer understanding about communication preferences, eating habits, culture and of course the nature of our guests’ visits.
Working on those elements enhances the chance of making stronger relationships and developing a guest base willing to visit us more often and recommend us to others.
Hotel trends that are directly impacting in transforming the guest experience to an economy of relationship
Consistent guest experience
Recognizing that the guests experience may be indeed taken into different phases, Pre Stay (search, book) During and Post Stay, if any of these interactions fails, undoubtedly it’s going to lead to unmet expectations.
The During Stay phase, (Service Oriented) is no longer considered as the most important one, although most of the human interaction will happen during this phase, any friction or unmet expectations will significantly reduce the chances to create connections and embrace relationships with guests, as an example, making booking and reservation easier therefore avoiding a disruptive check-in due to an inefficient system that sets guests up for frustration and disappointment.
The importance of implementing a seamless process by incorporating technology to automate and streamline the entire guest experience from the Pre Stay – During and Post Stay is crucial to remain competitive. Hoteliers are now in more control of every single stage of the guest journey, and in so doing, have the opportunity to consistently deliver the guest experience they all expect as a guest.
The fundamental dynamics of the guests’ journey are drastically changing. It is no longer so clear when a travel experience begins or ends. Before they checked in, guests form opinions, reading social media reviews from others, all shaping the opinions of upcoming prospective travellers.
Hoteliers need to recognize that when guests are no longer physically present in the building, they still have a relationship to nurture and cultivate, maintaining a point of connection with departed guests, for example, by making time to respond to reviews they have posted on social media and websites is becoming more important in retaining and gaining the battle for loyalty.
The personalized guest experience
There’s enough evidence to recognize that the industry is entering a golden age of personalization in response to cultural differences seen from guests and constant evolving people’s expectations.
Hotel technology can be the best ally of hoteliers by providing platforms and solutions that can recognize and anticipate guests’ expectations. In an ideal scenario, Hoteliers will need to make the entire guest experience tailored 100% to the individual, that could be the case when identifying food, music, sport activity and other preferences.
Hotels are adapting to this trend by focusing on making sure their guests are treated like unique individuals and not simple entries in the PMS reservation system.
By recognizing How and When their guests’ idiosyncratic preferences, habits and likes, by using a staff genuine interactions, hotels are on the way to create and being part of the called Relationship Economy.
Hotels will have to find ways to help front of house staff to build a common social currency that they can share with guests and that guests can share with others.
The hotel in the community
As travellers learn more about the business behind the brand, transparency is becoming a prerequisite. People want more than a great quality of sleep or breakfast experience, we encounter visible signs that people want to know what an organization stands for. Hotels organizations must provide authenticity and show that the business is connected with a meaningful purpose, the message Why they are in business has never been so relevant; and by why the hotel is in business, we don’t mean “making money” these two words should always be the result of having a clear core purpose in place.
For hotels, restaurants and bars that attract both local people and residents have never been more important. The upcoming generation of guests truly appreciate the opportunity to interact and develop connections with local people, in addition to more distant travellers.
Relationships that bring value to all parties will be truly sustainable. Local sourcing will continually increase value as a key point of differentiation. Serving locally sourced ingredients, partnering local suppliers from farmers and bakers, brewers and coffee roasters are a way to embrace this trend, furthermore, the creation of partnerships with community organisations and education providers in local regions to offer skills development and improve and increase the employment prospects of the local population also embraces the hotel core purpose.
Community awareness can be about stepping in to support different social activities during specific times of the year and inviting guests to be part of those activities, this could also be a clever way to help form those relationships.
Hotels supporting a transformational guest experience
Hotels will be acting soon as a local community hub, for example with local bands and artists coming and performing, meaning that the hotel develop a stronger connection with their community. This is why people like boutiques at the moment, people want to experience the local life in a different way.
By having the hotel acting as a community hub, they are shaping the guest experiences that enable travellers to challenge themselves and to engage with the local community. This can mean anything from offering an off-the-grid meditation retreat to facilitate volunteer work with non-profit organizations.
These guest experiences are the kind of stories we want to read and see in social media nowadays.
The changing expectations and demands of travellers are creating new opportunities to build relationships by involving the hotel with third party service providers. Like a yoga retreat in the countryside that encourages guests to engage in community service. This might involve going on a play date with visually impaired children or helping to build a new wall for the local school. The result is that guests feel like something more than just tourists, a virtuous circle for hospitality providers, guests, social activities and the local community.
In an economy based on relationships, not only content, but context is important. It can help and hinder the development of relationships. Given the guests the opportunity to reconnect not only with cities but also with the wider environment is a strong motive to embrace relationships.
Those hotels that understand how guests’ interactions are changing will do well. Guests will be seeking a variety of different experiences and activities, not simply those determined by the hotel service and amenities mostly known by guests.
The guests behind this trend are seeking self-reflection and development in their travels, to connect with humanity and the natural kingdom, and to return home, changed, with shifted perspectives and a deeper understanding of the world we all inhabit.
The hospitality industry needs to find ways of helping guests collect social currency to trade and use in building relationships with others. This could include helping people display and share their discoveries about a destination with others or helping them uncover information only locals have. Hotels may not always be directly involved in the interactions, rather than facilitating the information and programs.
A final word
Each of these trends are indicative of changes in the industry, some of which may turn out to be more impactful and long-lasting than others. Only one thing is for certain and will remain constant: Hotels must always be open to change, whether it comes in the form of new technology or new attitudes in travel.
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About the Authors:
Sergio Foti Cees WM Nieboer
Director of Hoteliers Inspiration Senior Business Partner