New markets. New guests. New properties. The hotel industry is adapting to a changing landscape of business and leisure travelers. While planners may be concerned about filling room blocks for upcoming meetings and conferences, what might change within those room blocks by the end of the decade?
As attendees continue to compare options for accommodations, here are three key areas that will shape their choices by 2020.
1) Plug Into New Possibilities
“Technology will continue to be the driving force in how we deliver a better guest experience in hotels,” David L. Jones, Ph.D., Administrative Director, Department of Hospitality Management, University of San Francisco says.
Some hotels are already beginning to offer iPad check-in and add other tech-savvy elements to the guest experience, but Jones points out that there are no limits to technological innovation.
“I think it would be limiting to tie the future to a single platform device like an iPad, as we probably haven’t even seen the type of device yet that we will be using to communicate within 10 years,” Jones says.
While an emerging audience of guests will continue to demand more tech-savvy solutions, the path to embracing technology will still be paved with roadblocks.
“There is still a lot of resistance to change,” Lisa Y. Thomas, Ph.D., Instructor, School of Hospitality Leadership, Driehaus College of Business, DePaul University, says. “In order to integrate new technologies into existing systems, the price point can be very high. A lot of younger employees see the possibilities, but many senior-level leaders at hotels may be concerned about the investment.”
“It’s the old ‘if it’s not broke, don’t fix it’ mentality,” Thomas adds.
2) Guests Will Want to Go Green (er).
From towel and linen re-use programs to water-efficient shower heads and toilets, some hotels have already taken steps toward becoming better friends to the environment. Statistics show that travelers want hotels to continue to adopt eco-friendly practices, too.
“Guests want to feel good about where they’re staying,” Carolyn Clark, vice president, marketing and communications, says. “As scientists continue to outline the impact of climate change, guests will continue to look for hotels with smaller carbon footprints.”
Some properties are already leading the charge. Consider The Alexander in Indianapolis, a LEED-certified Dolce property complete with energy efficient appliances, LED lighting, recycled construction materials and in-room keycard energy controls. Other properties are sweetening the deal for green guests, too. Kimpton offers parking discounts for guests who drive hybrid vehicles. While these hotels may be early adopters, these trends will continue across the industry.
“By 2020, more planners will be looking to minimize the carbon footprint of their events,” Thomas says. “From selecting catering options to choosing hotel rooms, people might even be willing to spend a bit more if it’s a better ethical choice.”
SEE ALSO: How Eco-Friendly Is Your Room Block?
Those ethics will spill over to another key area of the hotel experience: eating. Thomas points out that some hotels are truly embracing the farm-to-table mentality. For example, the Hilton in downtown Chicago has a rooftop urban garden and a beehive for honey production.
“As more conference attendees and individual guests change their eating habits, more hotels will adjust their approaches to food and beverage,” Thomas says.
3) Loyalty Is in the Hands of Tomorrow’s Leaders.
“The effectiveness of loyalty programs is debatable,” Jones says. “If you compare the number of members of each of the major brands’ loyalty programs, you’d find that they all have about the same total number of members and most would have significant overlap of those members.”
SEE ALSO: Do Loyalty Programs Still Matter?
“What drives loyalty?” Jones asks.
It’s not the actual loyalty programs, Jones says. Instead, it’s the ability to actually deliver on individualized service and incorporate it into a hotel’s brand standards, policies and procedures.
Jones says that adjusting a hotel’s approach to loyalty begins at the recruitment level with the graduates of worldwide hospitality management programs.
“These students are already inclined toward understanding what the guests want, and they understand how service should be delivered,” Jones says. “Therefore, the ability to attract guests who return stay after stay is ultimately a factor of how well we educate the future industry leaders at the university level.”
How do you expect hotels to change by 2020? Go to Catalyst to start the conversation.
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