Stay­ing Dif­fer­ent

To­day’s trav­el­ers ex­pect more from the ex­pe­ri­ence so ho­tels are ramp­ing up for to­mor­row

Business Traveler (USA) - - WORLD WISE - By Ram­sey Qubein

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. BT

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