Hoteliers need to know what they don’t know and whom to partner with to fill in knowledge and amenity gaps.
Tourism and hospitality are industries that require a wide range of expertise and interests from hoteliers. Knowledge of new local activities, food-and-beverage trends and evolving technology are examples that barely scratch the surface, especially with today’s changing landscape of traveler preferences.
That being said, there are activities that we as hoteliers probably do not do well. Some of these might include wellness and nutrition programming, sustainability programs, room design with new technologies, artificial intelligence, crisis management and new regulations for jump-start industries like cannabis, among others.
The hotelier of the future must know when to operate with partners and when to go alone. One example of a partnership on a global stage is Hilton and Lyft, which have begun sharing loyalty programs. Equinox, the luxury fitness chain, is building a hotel—this shows the crossover of a lifestyle brand from fitness to hotels. But there are many ways to partner at a local level.
Transforming the guest experience is critical to avoiding the commoditization of our products as the Airbnb and other short-term rentals impact our marketing position. Sometimes, guests are more interested in the simple things. When reading reviews online, it is clear that team members who go out of their way to be pleasant and helpful will win out over hotels that have superior amenities. The guest experience must be a blend of extraordinary customer service and a program that makes guests feel that the experience they signed up for is fantastic. What things can we do that will provide for unique experiences? Here are some areas where a partnership or use of lifestyle trends can be of major value.
The Global Wellness Institute predicts the wellness tourism industry will reach nearly $1 trillion on a global scale by the year 2020. But what is wellness travel? It includes eating healthy while traveling, living healthy by working out or staying fit during a stay, and being mindful by participating in yoga, meditation or similar activities.
There are many ways to incorporate wellness into a hotel program, and you don’t have to have a cookie-cutter approach. First, armed with any indoor or outdoor space, adding yoga is just a matter of partnering with the right person or entity. Most fitness rooms are small, but adding a cycling program just requires bikes that can be acquired by partnering with a cycle store. Think outside the box. Hotels near water, for example, can partner with paddleboarding or kayak tours. These are leisurely activities that combine fitness with fun, and add value to the experience, like being picked up to hit the best surf spots or even a relaxing historic walking tour.
Food and beverage
Adding nutritionally beneficial food can be accomplished without a chef, or even an F&B department. Partner with a health food store or restaurant that features healthy choices for amenities or special occasions. One of our boutique properties recently added grocery delivery to its services list. You can also create unique packages, like a bed-and-breakfast, and be sure to have a healthy catering partner for events. When guests feel good—smoothie in the morning!—they will have a better experience during their stay overall.
How do we develop healthy eating? How about the alt-meat boom? Should we add a really tasty burger that is plant-based? In my case, while I am a carnivore, I enjoy breaking from my tradition of eating meat regularly and enjoy veggie alternatives of all kinds. It is way better for my workouts as meat tends to sit in the belly longer. But I am finding many guests feel the same way. With so many different dietary trends, it is important to create options for all types of diets, allergies and restrictions to allow guests to have the best experience possible.
Wine and beer programs can be amplified as well, benefiting both the guest and the hotelier. Local craft beers and local wines can be memorable, especially when they source grapes from premier wineries and create something uniquely their own. Try bringing in the winemaker or cicerone (beer maker) and have a tasting. When we add education to the mix of F&B, we appeal to a guest in a way that lasts, which is sort of a combination of incredible customer service and truly fun education.
Perhaps we should start with a simple definition of sustainability: “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the lifestyle of future generations.” The truth is, sustainability is about innovating and finding new ways to do things that are more “green.” It is not about the Green New Deal; rather, it is about common-sense approaches that reduce energy consumption, water use and waste.
One of the biggest challenges is return on investment. While many team members and owners alike are in favor of being more “green,” owners would like to see a return on any investment, green or not. The simple process of putting a sign in the bathroom about where to put towels to ensure they are not washed is merely a start.
Build a hotel of the future
The hotel of the future might include facial recognition, Wi-Fi-enabled panic buttons, door locks and HVAC sensors and 5G. We will be utilizing software entrepreneurs to solve for all of these needs. Whether we employ artificial intelligence or some degree of automation, we must ensure the guest of the future feels connected. Baby boomers are no longer dominating the hotel guest profile—it is the millennials. It’s time to change our ways, partner with winners and earn the business of boomers, Gen Xers and millennials alike. Maybe the newest generation, Gen Z, will like our products, too!
Robert A. Rauch, CHA, is an internationally-recognized hotelier, CEO and founder of RAR Hospitality, a leading hospitality management and consulting firm based in San Diego. Rauch has more than 35 years of hospitality-related management experience in all facets of the industry.
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