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Hotels Adapting Technology to Generational Preferences

The Cornell Center for Hospitality Research “For Tech’s Sake! Building Customer Loyalty via Generational Preferences” roundtable session focused on key learnings hotels can leverage by understanding the technology “preference gap” among multiple generations.

After providing statistics regarding decision making influences and demographic preferences,  Josh Weiss, vice president of Guest Technology Innovation at Hilton Hotels, said “We must be deliberate and thoughtful in how we design, deliver and support technology that stays relevant and intuitive fo all of our guests across generations.”

Mark McCarthy is a Senior Lecturer Cornell School for Hospitality Administration. Photo Credit: Cornell University.

Mark McCarthy is a Senior Lecturer Cornell School for Hospitality Administration. Photo Credit: Cornell University.

For example, Cornell’s Senior Lecturer of Information Systems Mark McCarthy asked the audience “how many people expect to use a phone to unlock a hotel room?” He then provided findings from his own research that showed that 55% of people polled don’t expect this capability. The difference in what technology guests want can be seen in their demand for internet access. Guests expect easy reliable wi-fi access in hotel rooms, but fewer expect such access on planes.

In other words: technology for technology’s sake isn’t a sound strategy for hotels. “Such investments degrade the customer experience rather than enhance it,” the panelists said.

More than two dozen industry leaders, along with researchers and students met for the second annual Technology Entrepreneurship Roundtable hosted by the Center for Hospitality Research at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration. The April 2016 event covered a range of discussions including cloud computing’s impact on consumers’ ability to influence brands, social media’s connectivity between businesses and their customers, the role of generational preferences, customizing technology, and the challenges of adapting to the constantly changing environment.

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Consumers Act as WatchDogs for the Hotel Industry

The Cornell Center for Hospitality Research “High Tech, High Touch: Highlights from the 2016 Entrepreneurship Roundtable” cultivated key observations about technology and the hotel industry in its 2016 roundtable session.

“The modern era is all about authenticity.  You must deliver what you promise, ” said MIT’s Jeffrey Lipton.

 

Photo Credit: Larry Hall, President and CEO, Trillium Services Group at the Cornell Center for Hospitality Research, April 2016. Photo via Cornell University

Photo Credit: Larry Hall, President and CEO of Trillium Services Group, at the Cornell Center for Hospitality Research, April 2016. Photo via Cornell University.

“The cloud gives consumers a loud, amplified voice. Companies are held to a higher than ever level of morality and accountability as a result,” Larry Hall President and CEO of Trillium Services Group said.

 

Even negative, disastrous situations — like the Chipotle E. coli outbreak — provides opportunities if hotels are ready to engage with their customers. “While it may appear that there is no upside in this situation for the company, it served as an opportunity for Chipotle to connect with its customer base, and address the problem, building trust.” the authors of the report shared.

While some might argue that the market has a way of always bearing out what consumers will buy or what they will pay for, panelists seemed to say that consumers may be gaining the upper hand.

Take, for example, a recent Marriott situation, when the hotel curtailed hotpot access, thus requiring customers to subscribe to the hotel’s internet service. A PR firestorm forced the chain to reverse its policy and issue an apology.

The “Voice of the Crowd on the Cloud,” panelists stated that individual consumers unify, becoming “the crowd” in social media. The crowd then serves as social and environmental responsibility watchdogs who keep businesses accountable for their actions and decisions.

The panel also discussed the relevance and importance all hotels face regarding negative online reviews. “Dealing with negative reviews is a pressing issue, and one we dealt with at a previous company of ours. After each guest stayed, we would send out a typical survey with ratings from 1 to 5.  If they rated us a 4 or a 5, we would send them to TripAdvisor and if they rated us a 1-3, we would redirect to our own webpage to address the complaint. This was a new way we dealt with reviews and the paradox they can cause,” said Josh Ogle of The Original Agency.

More than two dozen industry leaders, along with researchers and students met for the second annual Technology Entrepreneurship Roundtable hosted by the Center for Hospitality Research at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration. The April 2016 event covered a range of discussions including cloud computing’s impact on consumers’ ability to influence brands, social media’s connectivity between businesses and their customers, the role of generational preferences, customizing technology, and the challenges of adapting to the constantly changing environment.

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From Around the Web: Hotel Groups Collaborate to Launch First Standardized Water Measurement Tool

 

Photo credit: Jon Westenberg via Medium

Photo credit: Jon Westenberg via Medium

The International Tourism Partnership have announced a jointly agreed upon method for measuring water use in the hotel industry.

The 18-month project has resulted in “a free methodology and calculation tool which will enable hotel companies and individual properties to measure and report on water consumption in a consistent way.”

Consistent is the key word: up until now, while companies did measure water consumption, each firm had its own methods that may have included (or excluded) certain sources or uses of water.  Also key was that the initiative would be “free and easy to implement.”

The initiative was started in response to “one of the most pressing global issues hotels need to address is their consumption of water, and the understanding that “what gets measured gets managed.”

The 18 global hotel groups, some of the biggest brands in the lodging industry,  include: Accor, Carlson Rezidor, Diamond Resorts, Fairmont Raffles Hotels International, Hilton Worldwide, the Hongkong & Shanghai Hotels, Hyatt Hotels & Resorts, InterContinental Hotels Group, Las Vegas Sands Corp., Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, Marriott International, MGM Hotels & Resorts, NH Hotel Group, Soneva, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Taj Hotels, Resorts & Palaces, Whitbread, and Wyndham Worldwide Resorts.

The hoteliers worked with KPMG as technical consultants and included with input from the international expert community, including the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), Water Footprint Network, CDP and CEO Water Mandate.

For more, read on.

 

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From around the Web: 2016 Hotel Trends

by Christina McCale 0 Comments
Photo by: Julia Wimmerlin/National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest

Photo by: Julia Wimmerlin/National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest

The London Telegraph writes that there nine key trends she’s observing in the hotel market.

  1. Forget the usual hotel restaurant. “Following Rene Redzepi’s successful Noma residency at the Mandarin Oriental Tokyo last year, chefs of similar acclaim are setting up temporarily at hotels.”
  2. Smart Hotels are getting hotter. While no one’s saying that the unmanned hotel is going to be the norm, hotels can use technology to create frictionless experiences for guests. An example of this is Arrive Hotel in Palm Springs. Hotels embracing this philosophy are offering check-in at the hotel bar, cross-functional staff who can provide all kinds of guest support, keyless room entry, on screen Netflix/Apple TV and guest services arranged through text messaging.
  3. An Appreciation for Historical Hotels. There is a growing appreciation for smaller hotels with historical relevance and ambiance.  Hotels like The Beekman Hotel and The Chicago Peninsula that are not just luxurious but who have a clear sense of history and style are of great appeal.
  4. Millennials are “in.”  Hotels are looking for ways to appeal to this HUGE target market. Some hotels are rethinking room size (include everything a guest needs, and nothing they don’t) and creating entirely new brand lines.  Marriott, for example, has an entire hotel that serves as its lab for experimenting with new offerings before rolling it out to the rest of the line.
  5. Hotel groups will merge and evolve. With the Starwood (which owns Sheraton,St. Regis®, The Luxury Collection®, , Westin®, Le Méridien®, Sheraton®, Tribute Portfolio™, Four Points® by Sheraton, Aloft®, Element®,) and Marriott merger, the new firm will count more than 1.1 million hotel rooms worldwide.
  6. Wellness Goes Mainstream. Once thought only for the luxury hotels, the wellness trend is making its way downmarket to appeal to all sorts of consumers who realize that health isn’t just about decisions made in the doctor’s office, but rather all the little decisions you make — from restaurant decisions to aromatherapy showers — on a daily basis.

… And more.  Other trends include Concept Hotels, Eco-Friendly Hotels, and Exclusivity as “the new Luxury.”

 

 

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From Around the Web: 5 Hotel Trends & Disruptions

by Christina McCale 0 Comments
Photo by: samson duborg-rankin via Unsplash

Photo by: samson duborg-rankin via Unsplash

Travelmarket Report shared five key trends — disruptions — for the hotel industry as observed on at the Hotel Experience trade show held at the Javits Center. They include:

  1. The Sharing Economy.  “Hotels can’t wish away Airbnb, said Skift CEO Rafat Ali, “but there is mass denial going on among lodging leaders. Airbnb won’t be as transformative for hotels as Uber has been for the taxi industry, but it may be the next big distribution channel, supplanting OTAs.”
  2. The Reinvention of Legacy Brands.  As we’ve discussed here, Millennials are shaking up the hotel experience – and some brands like Marriott are adapting to these changing tastes.
  3. The Rules about Hotel Restaurants/Food & Beverage Are Changing. The article shares five major changes for hotels in their restaurant/bar operations.
  4. Meetings and Events are changing. According to the article, event logistics will become more and more automated, event apps and paper money will likely disappear.
  5. Good News for Travel Agents.  Harvey Chipkin reports that there is a “sense of wanderlust among millennials is exponentially greater than the other three generations.” Further, Millennials and the affluent are more likely to use travel agents to help with travel plans as they are groups who “perceive a value in paying for their time.”

Read more here.

 

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Bath Trends for 2016 (and Beyond)

As we’ve discussed before, here on Hotel Tubs Pro, consumers expect hotels to be at least as good as what they have at home (or what they aspire to.) While this list is primarily focused on the residential market, there are trends that hotels should pay attention to and consider for their upcoming renovation projects.

 

Blending Natural Materials

Photo by interiorzine.com

Photo by interiorzine.com

The natural, organic, clean look will continue.  Spice up your designs with continuing your tile work onto the walls, or reusing materials in other parts of the suite. Not only are these aesthetically pleasing designs but they can also be lower maintenance for your cleaning staff. While we might be hesitant to incorporate wood directly in line with water, consider wood-like tile products that incorporate the look, while still remaining durable for industrial, high-volume use.

 

 

White on White

Photo by: americanstandard-us.com

Photo by: americanstandard-us.com

There’s a big reason why white is so used: it’s clean, it’s elegant. It can help small rooms seem more light and airy… So why wouldn’t it be commonly used in the bath? Note in this photo, too, other smaller trends: the use of the trough-style sink, the freestanding soaking tub, and wood floors — all of which are ongoing trends for you to consider including in your hotel baths.

 

 

Bold Juxtapositions

Photo by interiorzine.com

Photo by interiorzine.com

As shared on interiorzine.com, “When one uses a combination of modern and organic, it creates a dynamic atmosphere that evokes clean and stylish sensation. The juxtaposition of wood and stone to synthetics is very clever, combinative and suitable for many variations of design.” Take note of the mosaic, bold color tiled wall behind the free-standing soaking tub: these are continuing trends from 2016 to consider as well. (Note in the picture above the use of wood accents. The smooth cement flooring trend can also be incorporated here as well.)

 

 

Shower Benches/Grab Bars

Photo by: Houzz.com

Photo by: Houzz.com

With an aging population, it’s wise for hotels to at least consider adapting what they normally might look for in shower design.  Shower seats and safety bars can get a bad rep, with most thinking they’re clunky or awkward looking in the shower.  But they don’t have to be. Instead of thinking “chair size” – go big and think “bench.” The mental shift immediately changes your concepts in what is possible in designing the space. Also, draw in other design elements: the antiqued brass or mosaic patterns/graphical treatments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rethinking Water Spouts

Photo by interiorzine.com

Photo by interiorzine.com

Whether it’s a metal “fountain-like” faucet, or one out of clay materials with room for plantlife, your choice in faucetry can bring big personality to a small space.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Luscious Plantlife

Photo by: interiorzine.com

 

We’ve talked about “living walls” here before, but now we’re seeing them included in bath areas. Also shown here: open shelving as storage to help your guests stay organized (and yet still within reach/sight so that guests aren’t as likely to leave personal items behind after checkout.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Go Bold

Photo by: interiorzine.com

Photo by: interiorzine.com

At the other end of the spectrum, matted big, bold and dark colors can create drama in a counter-intuitive way.  Normally, we think small spaces should incorporate light colors to create a lighter feel of spaciousness. But dark colors can create drama, warmth, a feeling a relaxation and cocooning. Neutral colors can also go dark – think charcoal grey.  (Note here too: the continuation of tile on the walls and open shelving.) Also consider the shape of your tiles.  While the traditional, rectangular subway tiles are common, consider other standardized shapes like hexagons (see above).

 

 

 

 

Brass Accents

 

Photo by: interiorzine.com

Photo by: interiorzine.com

 

When most people think of “brass,” they think of the high-shine metal: but there’s more than one way to finish or treat brass. There’s just something about the classic elegance of the right treatment of brass with marble (another trend we’ve talked about.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dark Neutrals

Photo by: interiorzine.com

Photo by: interiorzine.com

As mentioned earlier, dark neutrals are in — especially when used in combination with one other color (ie: black, or a dark teal, etc). Also note here the use of a longer, trough style sink, and unique organizational method/open shelving — all of which helps your guests stay organized while on the road.

 

 

Water Efficient Fixtures

Shown above Moen’s Velocity Eight-Inch Multi-function Rainshower Showerhead. Photo by: Remodelista.com

Shown above Moen’s Velocity Eight-Inch Multi-function Rainshower Showerhead. Photo by: Remodelista.com

It seems like a contradiction in terms: the “luxury” feel evoked in rainshower showerheads, versus being “environmentally friendly.” The two trends couldn’t seem more in contrast. … Until now.

While the EPA required that manufacturers make showerheads that only used 2.5 gallons of water per minute (gpm) in 1992, (down from 5.5 gpm), they also have a “voluntary WaterSense” classification using only 2.0 gpm flow for certification. That might not sound like much:  it’s a 20% savings, which, added up over time — and in the volume hotels use it — can mean buckets of cost reduction.

 

 

Fog-Free Mirrors

Photo by: clearmirror.com

Photo by: clearmirror.com

Fog free mirrors work for both you and your staff:  low maintenance upgrade that gives your guests frustration free early morning routines.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Smart Showers with Added Health Benefits

Vitamin C infused showers reportedly neutralize chlorine and leave guests with healther skin, hair and nails. Photo from: Forbes.com

Vitamin C infused showers reportedly neutralize chlorine and leave guests with healther skin, hair and nails. Photo from: Forbes.com

Smart showers are another element of tech-infused hotel rooms.  Some smart showers can change shower stall glass from clear to opaque with the touch of a button. Others control temperature, water pressure and spray pattern preferences. Some stalls now include waterproof TV screens, while others have speakers that can play your favorite music from your iPhone.

While trends come and go, these are the ones we see as having “staying power” that you can include in various aspects of the design of your hotel rooms and baths as you begin renovating/refinishing your rooms.

Check out more bath trends:

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From Around the Web: New Age Amenities in Hotels

Vitamin C infused showers reportedly neutralize chlorine and leave guests with healther skin, hair and nails. Photo from: Forbes.com

Vitamin C infused showers reportedly neutralize chlorine and leave guests with healther skin, hair and nails. Photo from: Forbes.com

While some guests are choosing to find ways to get out and about when they’re traveling, some hotel guests still like the ability to create a haven – a home away from home – while they’re on the road.

Whether they’re a corporate business traveler who seeks sanctuary from the road warrior life, or an executive just needing a break away from a long day of meetings, some hotel guests choose to use their hotel room as a get-away.

Hotels are responding to this trend in a few unique ways.

“Wellness amenities at luxury hotels are highly demanded but they usually come at a premium price,” shares Keith Flamer in Forbes. Now guests at more moderately priced hotels can enjoy programs like “Stay Well®, a less expensive wellness program featuring in-room sensations that revitalize the body, revive the mind and energize the spirit.”

Some of the program offerings include:

  • Vitamin C-infused showers to neutralize chlorine,
  • circadian rhythm lighting (red-spectrum light in the living quarters to aid sleep and melatonin-boosting blue-spectrum light in the bathroom to assist waking),
  • hypoallergenic beds, and comfy, non-toxic natural foam mattresses

… all designed to relax and rejuvenate weary leisure and business travelers. “We have adopted an underlying philosophy that the most important health decisions are not made in a doctor’s office; rather, there are dozens of decisions individuals make daily while at work, at home, in a restaurant or in retail environments that are the most impactful drivers of quality of life or health and wellness,” says Jim Zboril, president of Tavistock Development Company.

Read more…

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Hotel Trend: The Ever Shrinking Hotel Room Size

 

Hotel rooms are undergoing a “resizing:” literally. And in doing so, are rethinking the configuration and expectations that go with the hotel room as well.

Tommie is a creative micro-hotel offering rooms 160-200 square feet but creative communal activities for guests. Photo credit: New York Times.com

Tommie is a creative micro-hotel offering rooms 160-200 square feet but creative communal activities for guests. Photo credit: New York Times.com

 

Down from the 1990s when a hotel room was over 350 square feet, today’s average hotel room is about 330 square feet.  But some hotel brands are shrinking that size even more.

As O’Rouke Hospitality reports, “Marriot’s Moxy Hotels are now building rooms about 183 square feet in size and the new brand Yotel’s rooms are only 170 square feet on average.”  Best Western’s Vib and Glo properties are in the 200 and 250 square feet range.

There are plenty of reasons for the shift:  as Bjorn Hanson of New York University’s Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism has said in the past, smaller rooms are cheaper to both build, furnish and maintain.  And given Millennial prevailing attitudes, some brands feel they are giving their target audience “everything they want and nothing they don’t need” complementing the small rooms with grand, open common areas where guests can mingle, work and play.

 

Moxy room rendering by Marriott Hotel Development Corp via CNBC.com

Moxy room rendering by Marriott Hotel Development Corp via CNBC.com

 

Brands employing the smaller room approach say that what the room lacks in sheer physical size, they make up for in all the things the guest really wants.  Think: sound-reducing walls, free Wi-Fi, floor-to-ceiling art pieces and top of the line showers.

Hotels are able to using space more efficiently through the best use of technology (such as using wall mounted flat screen TVs versus bulky tube TVs in entertainment cabinets), as well as adapting their floor plans to reflect the flexible, mobile life and work styles people have today.

By throwing out existing assumptions of hotel room design, they can change expectations and take advantage of guest pleasing opportunities, such as expansive windows to let in natural light, thus making a room feel bigger than it really is, and extending that philosophy by using glazed glass block to separate the bath area – instead of a typical “wall.”

As Tony Capuano, Marriott’s chief development officer, said in a Washington Post interview, “The old conventional hotel model was a customer checked in, went straight to their room and never came out.”  Marriott proposes changing that paradigm where the hotel still offers well designed rooms, but more vivacious, engaging public spaces that people will want to be part of. …Or as Marriott describes it, “a buzzing living space where things are always happening. Just like home….. but with a bartender! ;)”

This migration isn’t really new — it’s just now being seen in the hotel space.  The notion of people wandering down the street to get away from the house or work at Starbucks — the “third place” — an in between space that’s both homey and allows for work, casual meetings or creative conversation.

But it’s exciting to see this trend being incorporated into the hospitality industry. And it will be fascinating to see ongoing guest feedback about the evolution of these new room designs.

 

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Marriott Innovating the Hotel Experience

Given shifting demographics and changing technology expectations, hotels have been trying to find new ways reinvent the hotel experience.

Generational graphic

Generational breakdowns by year and size. Graphic from Pew Research.

While millennials, those born between 1980 – mid 90s, are perhaps the most visible or talked about reason for hotels exploring rebranding, they’re certainly not the only reason.

Generation Z, those born from approximately 1995 – 2010 (ages 6-21 in 2016), is an equally large, influential population.  They are often described as “true digital natives, more pragmatic, more cautious, more money-conscious, and more globally minded” than previous generations.  (If you’re curious, Alpha Generation comes next and consists of all those children born after 2010.)

Then let’s add the changing face of technology as well as consumer expectations: wide spread wireless high speed access, on-demand everything, and unique one-to-one experiences.

Oh – and let’s do it all on a budget.

“For [Generation Z], traveling becomes a marker of adulthood,” saysMelanie Shreffler, senior editorial director at Cassandra Report. “Seventy-seven percent of 14 to 18 year-olds say that traveling without supervision is a marker of adulthood—and 42 percent of those teens feel like they are adults. That’s a significant number.” And in addition, Generation Z still has significant influence over purchasing decisions made by their Gen X parents and/or Baby Boomer grand parents.

The Cassandra Report’s Generation Z study shows 84 percent of kids aged 7-17  influence their family’s overall spending. “When it comes to family vacations and travel, 32 percent of parents say their kids hold a lot of influence on vacations and spending, and 54 percent of parents say kids have some influence,” Shreffler said.

But just because the following concepts were initially intended for the Millennial or Emerging Generation Z market, don’t think that other generations won’t appreciate them. “Baby boomers and even the Silent generation give us very high scores for the new approach,” Mike Dearing, managing director of Marriott Hotels, shared with Fast Company .

Which brings us to the innovation and re-thinking hotels like Marriott are exploring.  Examples include:

Moxie Hotel Public Living Room

Check out the Moxy’s public “Living Room” space where guests can mix, mingle and congregate. Photo credit Marriott via Washington Post.

 

Cozy and Cool micro-hotels. Designed to appeal to millennials, Marriott’s “Moxy” hotels are sensible, sleek spaces  “defined by attitude rather than affordability.” Rooms will typically be smaller than the average hotel room (approximately 200 square feet), with glitzy common areas, … or as shared in the Washington Post, “open bars, all-night cafes and a buzzing living space where things are always happening.”

 

 

 

 

Marriott’s Innovation Lab Hotel in Charlotte, North Carolina. Throughout the property, guests will find “beta buttons” and “beta boards” where customers can give an immediate “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” to every part of the customer experience.  “The Charlotte hotel is really our innovation lab. This is where we’re testing our best thinking and new concepts. We’re staying in constant dialogue with our guests to figure out what works and what they connect with best,” Dearing said.

For example, through the Innovation Lab, Marriott found that guests preferred the homey feeling of rooms with hard wood floors rather than carpeting. That new finding has been incorporated in the last 20 Marriott renovation projects.

A Localized, Brand Experience.

Marriott found that while Boomers expected consistency of experience (ie: The Marriott burger you get in Denver is the same burger you get in Philadelphia), Millennials were looking for unique, culturally difference experiences based on where they were at. So Marriott has been cracking the code on how to evoke the “Marriott Brand Experience” with a localized twist: a Marriott guest stay that’s still unique to Omaha or Seattle or Miami.

One way Marriott is doing this is through amenities: the services and resources available in the hotel.  For example, a local chef may partner with the Marriott to include a new cafe or restaurant that reflects the local area’s unique cuisine or flair.  The Innovation Lab also found that Millennials sought out opportunities to meet people: like taking a gym class or mingling in the coffee bar area with cozy, comfy chairs and seating areas designed to invite conversation.

Finding new ways to maintain brand value, and yet appeal to the changing tastes of the traveling market will be vital. How is your brand finding ways to adapt?

 

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