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?

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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

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