The days of selling hotel ‘boxes’ are gone

Always evolving — seemingly never fast enough in a world that devours instant gratification for breakfast, lunch and dinner — the hotel industry deserves more credit for its evolution and transition into the technology-enabled information age. It struggles to balance profitability with integrating disparate systems, slowly finding its way with data science-driven initiatives and age-old retention issues, but the days of selling “boxes” with no soul are all but gone.

Hoteliers are improving on meeting guest needs, enabling them to travel on their terms, be it self-service with text messaging to manage requests, or with 21st-century amenities, experiential opportunities and spaces that better match preferences. Just look at two newcomers, among others: Hilton’s responsive and flexible Motto and Rami Zeidan’s sizzling Life House, which emphasizes a cheap chic experience and local culture.

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

But as we prepare to turn the page on another year, I have a few thoughts about priorities for 2019 that might better serve your guests and maybe even your bottom lines.

Go mobile first in everything. No huge revelation here, but smartphones have dramatically changed how consumers manage their lives. Every decision you make, be it for the front or back of the house, should be viewed first from a mobile perspective. Find better ways to use social media as a sales platform as commerce tools improve.

You can even use social media to communicate with your internal teams as well as build and reaffirm company culture. Don’t be afraid to let guests opt in to direct messaging options to further frictionless service processes, and train team members on best practices for using these systems.

Cocoons matter. With so many developers creating smaller guest room footprints, I want to advocate for either reversing that trend where possible or giving smaller rooms an even homier feel. We all seem to be traveling with more stresses and less down time, so guest rooms that provide an escape are growing in importance and offer another selling point in response to alternative accommodations. Yes, create the communal lobby, the great coffee/cocktail bar and grab-and-go spaces that drive incremental revenue, but that’s not the end all, be all. Be it a nice throw and more pillows on the bed, more thoughtful lighting or bringing back soaking tubs, give rooms more warmth. Bring wellness into the guest room.

Go greener yet. Sustainability will resonate more as you market to next-gen travelers and planners. Building and operating more sustainably matters to both internal and external constituents. Yes, green programming can conflict with guest preferences and create housekeeping issues, as evidenced by Marriott International’s recent labor negotiations, and those must be properly researched and solutions must work for all. Issues related to growing water shortages, F&B sourcing and waste reduction, especially harmful waste, matters more each day. Adopt a triple bottom line (social, environmental and financial) to evaluate performance to create greater business value. Acting responsibly is simply the right thing to do.

Here’s to another great year of innovation for owners and operators working hard to compete in a rapidly evolving market place.