How to cater to a growing Hispanic population
23 NOVEMBER 2015 9:29 AM
While some degree of personalization is always welcome, Hispanic travelers want the same types of high-quality guest experiences as everyone else.
REPORT FROM THE U.S.—Don’t overdo it when catering to Hispanic travelers.
That’s the message from hotel owners, managers and management experts when it comes to this growing segment of the U.S. hospitality industry.
Bjorn Hanson, a hospital industry expert and professor with the New York University Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism, said: “Almost as important as what to do is what not to do. Most Hispanic travelers don’t see themselves as Hispanic travelers, but as travelers. And they’re looking for the same things that any traveler looks for: good service and all the things that make up a good traveling experience. Something that looks too obvious or superficial or too contrived can be a negative.”
“At the end of the day, a traveler is a traveler is a traveler, and Latinos have the same needs as travelers from Asia or Europe or wherever, so I wouldn’t be looking at changing the design of the hotel or the design of the room,” said Carlos J. Rodriguez, a member of the Latino Hotel Association’s board of directors who is principal and executive VP of Driftwood Hospitality Management, which manages 50 hotels in the United States and has an ownership participation in three dozen others.
“But there are little things you can do,” Rodriguez said.
Such as offering cortadito (a Cuban espresso) in South Florida hotels frequented by Cubans, for example. Or featuring events that might appeal to the Latino market in hotel magazines. Or providing ample storage space for guests in Miami, Los Angeles and other destinations favored by Latinos whose vacations are often built around shopping sprees at fashionable stores.
“In certain hotels in places like Miami and Texas, there’s a lot of shopping that goes on,” Rodriguez said. “They’ll come with one suitcase and go back with 20, so we provide more space for storage to accommodate that.”
Indeed, Bob Rauch said catering to shoppers can be key.
Rauch is president of RAR Hospitality, which has 15 hotels in California and Arizona. “We get a lot of Hispanic shoppers coming to two of our properties due to close proximity to shopping. We are in the process of placing an ad in the Spanish newspaper that is published in the state of Sonora and in southern Arizona that will primarily be for the Christmas shopping time of the year to see if this increases the production during this time period.”
A growing share
The Hispanic population increased by 15.2 million between 2000 and 2010, according to U.S. Census figures, which accounts for more than half of the 27.3 million increase in the total U.S. population during that period. Hispanics now make up more than 16% of the U.S. population. Estimates vary, but one industry report found that Hispanics—who comprise about 10% of the leisure travel market—spent an estimated $3.6 billion in 2012.
Phocuswright called 2014 a “phenomenal” year for travel in the U.S., noting that two-thirds of the adult population took a leisure trip, marking a six-year, post-recession high. That’s up from 61% of the adult population in 2012 and 65% in 2013. (A leisure traveler is defined as any adult who has taken at least one overnight leisure trip over the past 12 months, at least 75 miles away from home, that included paid lodging and/or a flight. The size of the leisure pool is now 14 million adults.)
Hispanics continue to account for larger shares of the traveling public. According to a study from Think Now Research:
- Upscale and affluent Hispanic consumers are just as likely as their non-Hispanic counterparts to take vacations. Nine in 10 upscale Hispanics traveled in 2014, and virtually all Hispanics described as “affluent” took a trip last year.
- Regardless of income, Hispanics spend more money on average than non-Hispanics on domestic vacations, due at least in part to the fact that they are more likely to fly and because they have larger families. On average, Hispanics spend about $2,400 on a vacation traveling within the U.S., according to Think Now, rising to more than $3,600 among affluent Hispanics.
- California, Texas and Florida are the most popular drive-to domestic leisure destinations, which combined were visited by nearly 70% of Hispanic travelers during their past two domestic vacations. Nevada and New York round out the top five.
- Hispanics are more likely than non-Hispanics to report staying in many different hotel chains, regardless of income, with Holiday Inn, Best Western Hotels & Resorts and Hilton Hotels & Resorts leading the pack.
The American Hotel & Lodging Association, which represents all segments of the 1.8 million-employee U.S. hotel industry, notes that personalization is key to driving successful businesses.
“This means understanding and relating to a diverse market of travelers, and reflecting this principle in those who serve them,” the association states on its website. “By bringing an awareness and mindfulness to the varying needs and perspectives of both employees and guests, you create a foundation for increased employee retention and guest loyalty. It’s not just the right thing to do; it’s the only way to stay competitive in an increasingly diverse marketplace.”
Added Rodriguez: “In towns like Houston, Miami, San Antonio, on the operations end, you need to make sure you have people who can speak Spanish at the front desk.”
Rauch agreed. He also noted that hotels are limited by more than common sense when it comes to catering to customers. “The hotels we have in strong Mexican markets are branded, and brand standards are sacred.”