TAPPING INTO THE MILLENNIAL MINDSET
The hospitality industry is heading towards an interesting and neverseen-before-in-history confluence of generations, where Gen X meets Gen Y and Gen Z. Are we ready for the challenge?
I read an interesting report on the future of the workplace recently. We already know that the office of the future will not be the same as it is today, and we are prepared for the fact that many jobs of today will be redundant and irrelevant in the not-sodistant future, given the tremendous pace of technology evolution.
One of the crux areas of the study was how the next-generation office will be transformed to be more flexible, tech-savvy and artificial intelligence (Ai)-driven. But what caught my attention was how this shift is not determined just by technology, but also by the aspiration of our new generation of professionals to seek more work-life balance. And that set me thinking. Shouldn’t we, in the hospitality sector, be looking further than the Millennials? Shouldn’t we discuss the Gen Z mindset that is heavily influenced by the Millennials, but has further evolved because of their extraordinary exposure to nextgeneration technology?
I believe that the future of our industry will be determined not only by how we tap in to the Millennials, who form our new key guest demographic, but also by how we address a never-seen-before-in-history confluence – of Gen X with Gen Y and Gen Z.
I term that 'never-seen-before-in-history' because unlike the previous coming together of multiple generations, we are now witnessing substantial shifts in the outlook, perspective and opportunities that define Generations X, Y and Z.
The incremental growth in technology the world has witnessed in recent years has led to a remarkable transformation in the outlook of successive generations at very short lead times. What must have taken decades to bring about, the so-called ‘generation gap’ is now set in motion at shorter intervals.
That brings us to the big question: Are we ready for the challenge of addressing the confluence of three remarkable generations: the Baby Boomers, the Millennials and the Nexters? With Gen Z already entering the workforce and evolving as independent travelers in their own right, how can we factor in their considerations as ‘guests’, while not ignoring the sensitivities and aspirations of the other two?
Naturally, it calls for a ‘generational mind shift’ on the part of hotel developers and operators. Developers will have to think beyond the confines of traditional ‘hotels’ and look, possibly, at the concept of ‘coliving hospitality’, where Millennials and Gen Z are assured of ‘freedom places’ and ‘social hubs’ that foster interaction, creativity and collaboration.
Beyond the Millennial mindset, let's talk about Gen Z too
This becomes relevant because mobility and connectivity will be central to both Millennials and Nexters as they seek travel experiences not merely as conventional vacations but as ‘workations’ that reflect their spirit of collaboration. This will be more relevant in the future as global crowdsourcing of work will become the norm, breaking all conventional boundaries.
Further, the Millennial and Nexter generations are increasingly valueconscious, more so because they have grown up through the era of a bitter global financial crisis that they saw impacting their parents and lives around them. They are also genuine adventurers, people who seek cultural connectivity and are eager to unlock new experiences.
Our industry, naturally, cannot operate with hard-fisted approaches if we are to engage them. While hotel developers must look beyond conventional investment models, hotel operators must focus on innovating new experiences that are curated for Gen Y and Z without ignoring Gen X. It is a tough act to roll out but – let us be honest – we do not have a choice.
However, we have technology on our side; we stand at the doorstep of big opportunities driven by big data analytics and AI. Integrating digital into every touchpoint of our operation, we can positively engage the new generations.
But technology is only the starter; the main course is the genuine experience that we can offer them. And that can come only from the heart – from knowledgeable concierges, from friendly staff and from our commitment to a culture of service excellence. According to reports, in the next three years, 50 per cent of the global workforce will be Millennials and by 2025, at least 25 per cent of our professionals will be Nexters. Their requirements of travel and hospitality are different, as is the way they approach everything from bookings to room-stay and the use of amenities.
For us to tap the Millennial and Nexter market, we must therefore move now and move fast. We must embrace technology with vigor, bunk conventional thinking and look at hospitality, not with the tinted eyes of our experience, but from the fresh, wide-eyed, worldview of two generations that have grown up on games and are not mystified by technology leaps.
Olivier Harnisch is a speaker at the upcoming Arabian Hotel Investment
Conference 2018 (AHIC), being held from April 17 to 19, 2018, at the AHIC Village, Waldorf Astoria, Ras Al Khaimah, on the topic ‘Tapping into the Millennial Mindset, Why Investors Need to Broaden their Thinking’. arabianconference.com
Olivier Harnisch CEO Emaar Hospitality Group