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Hotel Innovations

Where is Experience Going in Hospitality?

If you do a simple Google News search about the hotel guest experience, you will come across a wide-range of articles about how this is the new frontier in hospitality. From new innovations to catering to the more affluent traveler, the concept of making a hotel stay a unique experience has fully taken hold.

Of course, offering a “truly unique guest experience,” is much easier to read about than to actually create for travelers. But in due time, we may see that providing these experiences will become a commodity – with many hotel brands providing similar offerings, which will in turn, make them not unique.

However, independent hotels seem to be on the forefront of this trend, and for now, this is translating into business growth. According to new research, performance of independent hotels in the United States has been on a steady growth trajectory over the past year. In addition, demand also outpaces supply, creating a favorable operating environment.

Independent hotels cater to the more forward-thinking traveler, who want to make new personal connections in the lobbies, leverage mobile innovations, and have experiences that will reinforce and shape their individual identities.

This is one arena where Airbnb cannot compete. While many travelers are embracing the idea of staying in another person’s apartment or home – and “live like a local” – one cannot truly have a unique guest experience in an Airbnb. There is no hotel staff to provide insights into local attractions, and there are no built-in guest innovations to help serve as digital concierges, or opportunities for personal networking in lobbies.

As with any industry, there are trends that take hold with many jumping on board as the train takes off. The idea of providing a unique guest experience is upon us and worth considering. Although we’ll keep an eye on how long it will last, and which hotel brands emerge as the winners in this frontier.

 

Will New Innovations Make Hotels a Concrete Box in the Sky?

We are certainly in a very exciting time in the hospitality sector when it comes to innovation. From robotic concierges to new ways for appealing to the millennial traveler, there is no shortage of new stories to take up the pages of magazines like Hospitality Technology.

In addition, while many of these new innovations are still in the nascent phases, Starwood Hotels is bringing an innovation to life at all 150 Aloft, Element, and W Hotels: using your smartphone as a room key.

Replacing all room keys with your smartphone is certainly cutting-edge, but it brings up some potential challenges. For example, what will the hotelier do for guests who don’t own smartphones, or choose not to use their devices as room keys?

This trend points to a larger issue, which is losing the human-touch element when it comes to guest services. All of these technologies point to a future – much like you would see in a science fiction movie – where guests access a personalized sleeping pod.

While this concept is cool on the surface, we cannot forget that people still like to have human contact. In addition, there may be issues that may arise where a guest actually needs to interact with a hotel employee in a live venue.

In addition, by chasing the millennials, hoteliers may risk losing their baby boomer guests, who have more money to spend. While this may not be the case for all baby boomer guests, the pace of innovation could scare them away. Simply put, baby boomers want a frictionless, and often technology-less, experience that will make them feel comfortable.

We also run the risk of hotels becoming commoditized concrete boxes in the sky. If every hospitality provider offers the same innovations –without a human experience – then we will all ultimately be sleeping in our own separate futuristic pods.

Is this the future that we want for the hotel sector?

Finding the right balance between innovation and human interaction could be the right solution for everyone.

 

Embracing New Innovations When Expanding Internationally

As the hospitality sector continues to rebound, many larger hoteliers are investing in international growth and expansion opportunities.

Read any hotel trade magazine and you will see a wide range of international expansion stories, such as Hilton seeking new opportunities in Malaysia and Marriott International’s plans to open its first hotel in Bosnia and Herzegovin.

Driving much of this expansion is the flow of investment dollars.  According to Jones Lang of LaSalle’s Hotels & Hospitality Group, hotel investment volumes across Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) reached €8.2 billion September YTD 2013, a 53 percent growth compared to the same time last year.

“Q3 reported the strongest quarterly growth so far this year, with transaction volumes up almost 70 percent compared to the same quarter in 2012,” according to Jonathan Hubbard, CEO Northern Europe, Hotels & Hospitality Group.

As hotels expand their portfolios internationally, this is the ideal time to ensure that the right technologies are being implemented to help create brand loyalty in these new regions. Although hotels need to know and understand the local market, its culture and what it has to offer, the right innovations – from a frictionless guest experience to mobility – can serve as a true brand differentiator in these new regions.

By offering guests high-touch services, combined with strong personalization to guests in both the social and mobile environments, hotels have the opportunity to establish deeper connections with guests in any location around the planet.

With travel budgets expected to increase across the board, hotel brands will have more opportunities than ever to gain guest loyalty – not just in the U.S., but also across the globe.