“Travelers don’t just want to sleep in hotels anymore. They want to work, eat, drink, socialize or just keep to themselves with their electronic devices there.”
That’s the bottom line from a recent USA Today interview reporter Nancy Trejos recently conducted with five top hotel executives.
The objective of the interview (and if you click on the link, you can see a video with hotel execs discussing the issues) was to ascertain what modern hotels need to have to attract consumers.
True, hotels are experimenting with technology, design, amenities, and more. But there are some things a any hotel worth its salt can’t market without: accommodations for people’s devices. Yep. Take the pillows, take the beds, but a hotel without a great Wifi connection is all but dead.
Is free Wi-Fi finally going to become the norm at all hotels?
InterContinental Hotel Group’s CEO Richard Solomons says yes.
“One of our biggest “dissatisfiers” that we had a few years ago was Wi-Fi availability, price — and actually how well it worked,” says Solomons. “If you go back a few more years than I’ve been in the business, the hotel room was a big advance than what we had at home. How many people at home had air conditioning or separate en-suite bathrooms? In some ways, the wider world moved on faster than the hotel industry. You can go and spend 99 cents on a hamburger at McDonald’s and get free Fi-Wi or a cup of coffee.”
Hyatt Hotels and Resorts CEO Mark Hoplamazian agrees.
“It’s been a guest essential for a while now, and we felt that making it conditional was demonstrating maybe a tone deafness.”
Marketing to millennials (people born in the 80s through the early 2000s) appears to present its own challenges. And they are the hotel consumers of the near future. What did the CEOs have to say?
Preferred Hotel Group CEO Lindsey Ueberroth indicated his own company has done some studies.
“We actually did a study on millennials,” notes Ueberroth. “They are definitely a growing powerhouse, but to build a brand around Millennials is an interesting concept. The reality is, they are not spending their own money. They are spending other people’s money right now. And they are influencing the Baby Boomers who have the time and the money to spend.”
But going forward? Wyndham Hotel Group CEO Geoff Ballotti sees the writing on the hotel wall.
“When you look at the four segments, (millennials) are the second fastest spending and the fastest growing,” says Ballotti. “The research last year said the Millennials’ spend on travel grew 20 percent, which I don’t think it did in the Generation Xers or the Boomers. These people are spending our corporate money, and they are out traveling, and we need to market to them, and we need to appeal to them.”
The entire interview — covering everything from wiki to mobile keys to strategies for building brand loyalty — is well worth the read, and essential for anyone in the hotel industry.