One of Aesop’s fables involves a giant Oak and a tiny reed. The Oak berates the reed for bending in the slightest breeze, and brags continuously about its own strength. When a violent storm comes, the tree splits and topples to the ground. The reed, because of its ability to bend and change in the wind, remains standing.
Most hoteliers would say that the Oak is a more fitting image for a successful property. Strong, steadfast, majestic. But there is also quite a bit to be said for the reed. Today’s deluge of location-specific information means that guest expectations are moulding the services and amenities offered by hotels, and even the design concepts behind them. Consider these three trends that impact traveller expectations right now, and will continue to do so in years to come.
SoLoMo means interacting on social media, digging for location-specific data (often using GPS and maps), and making decisions on-the-fly with mobile devices. Social, location, mobile. It’s a popular buzz word at the moment, but how does it apply to the hospitality industry?
Simply put: If you think today’s hotel guest is well-researched, wait until you see the hotel guest of tomorrow. Mobile apps in particular are amassing users and becoming powerful. That’s because they offer fast access to refined, location-specific information. They also provide users with tools to compare and book at the tap of a finger.
To stay relevant, properties must make themselves relevant within the SoLoMo continuum. Having a web site or a Facebook page is no longer enough. It’s crucial to keep your finger on the pulse of how people make travel decisions today, and how they’ll do so tomorrow.
SoLoMo also means that properties are held to higher standards in terms of service, location, amenities and overall value. Technology will continue to provide more and better information to prospective guests, and this information must include positive feedback about your hotel. How can such feedback be generated? Only through authenticity and excellence, in everything from duvets to digital touch points.
The average home entertainment system has internet-powered movie access, an HD picture, high quality sound, and sophisticated recording capabilities. In many cases, checking into a hotel is like travelling back to 1990 when basic cable was something to write home about. Why is this? The vast majority of guests will turn on the TV during their stay, making it a powerful point of focus within the room—and a golden opportunity to strengthen brand perception.
Some guests will turn a blind eye to a dated entertainment system, so long as they have free and fast wifi. But the clock is ticking. Hotels must raise entertainment to a standard that equals or even exceeds the average home system. It’s only logical to assume that in ten or twenty years time, HD screens with full internet browsing capabilities will be the norm. In order to meet guest expectations today, hotel rooms should feature hardware and software that is highly responsive and upgradable.
3. Food and Beverage
When it comes to the expectations of today’s hotel guest, there are a number of reasons why food and beverage is becoming hugely important. First, the affordability of travel and the prevalence of food-related media (including TV shows, celebrity chefs and mobile apps) have spiked public interest in food culture. As a result, guests are becoming more critical.
Second, hotel kitchens face a well-established stereotype of mediocre food. This creates a market gap for owners and managers—an opportunity to make dining a strongpoint instead of an afterthought. SoLoMo has also increased demand for food and drink in the public spaces of hotels. Guests want an experience that feels social, local and flavorful. Can hotels really deliver such experiences without making tangible improvements to food and beverage?
Third, the competition is simply tougher. This again relates to the trends and technologies grouped under the SoLoMo umbrella. Since guests have more options and information than ever, hotels are upping the food and beverage ante in order to compete. Many companies are creating food and beverage positions at the executive level, while others are starting entire restaurant chains. Any hotel that can become a desirable dining option, or even generate positive buzz from gourmet and locally-inspired room service options, will have a leg up on those who remain loyal to the burger-and-fries set.
The Moral of the Story
Hotels will always benefit from being rooted like an Oak in the fundamentals of staff and service. But those who cannot bend in the wind may find themselves uprooted. Understanding how and why guest expectations are changing is an ongoing practice. It requires deep insight and decisive action, and it’s the key to staying upright through times of change in the hospitality industry.
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