In my last post, I studied the numbers and the macroeconomic effects on the hotel industry that the great brains from the Bisnow Lodging Investment Summit spoke about in DC.
While everything does revolve around the numbers, there were several panels that explored the innovations, traveler trends, and future of hotels from an experiential and development standpoint.
Technology [We're Not Going Off The Grid Anytime Soon]
Disappointingly, I was one of the few live tweeting during the conference with the #BLIS2012 hashtag, providing insight
Pebble, an E-paper watch for iPhone and Android, just raised $10 million in funding through Kickstarter.com
from great speakers in 140 character bites. [If you feel lost already, you need to hire our sister company OttoPilot Media to move you and your company into the digital age]. Many travelers consistently complain about the lack of outlets, especially in older hotels.
With the number of devices that we all have, and the desire to wander from the desk surface (I mean, they don’t call it a “lap”top for nothing), the power options are substantially limited. However, if you’re thinking of adding major electrical renovations to your PIPs now, rethink that. By the time you do that renovation, technology will have changed. You’re already behind.
Bill Fortier, SVP from Hilton Worldwide, reminded us on the development panel that the standard and acceptable Hilton TV is now 42″. This just shows a barometer of what a traveler expects–a home away from home with all the amenities. Technology investment will be required because customers will demand it.
Younger generations have three main requirements–control, connectivity, and immediacy. Hotels will need to learn to cater to these requirements to earn the loyalty of a typically unloyal consumer.
F&B Is Not Just About Restaurants
Sadly, food & beverage was previously seen as the redheaded stepchildren of many hotels. It’s been, at its nicest, referred to as a loss leader and many owners and brands have allowed F&B to be back burnered. From a trending perspective, panelists and speakers are now sitting up and taking notice of F&B again. It’s not that F&B has become profitable (in fact it’s rarely profitable in a union market), it’s because it’s an important part of the brand and travel experience. Jon Bortz, CEO of Pebblebrook, reminded conference attendees that F&B stands for “food and beverage” and not “restaurants”.
Starwood's aLoft brand has 24/7 F&B kiosks to serve their guests
As select service becomes more experiential, we are seeing hotels with pantries and limited-service offerings really embrace that idea of F&B.
It’s About the Experience
Across the board, just like we hear in digital marketing, there is talk of the consumer’s experience. Virgin Hotels’ Allie Hope resonated soundly with conference attendees by painting a picture of the Virgin experience. She was also one of the few speakers that spoke about having a targeted demographic. For Virgin it’s mid-30s, high earners, seasoned travelers, into social media, and well-educated.
Marriott seems to understand that people are looking for more unique experiences in hotels now with their Autograph collection; frequently, this is what
Turnberry Isle Resort in Miami- a part of the Marriott Autograph Collection
draws travelers to independents and boutique hotels. Through their Autograph collection, Marriott has picked up individually iconic assets with a heavier leisure mix than their normal properties. The collection includes 30 hotels–like The Carlton in New York and Turnberry Isle in Miami–and is the fastest grown full-service brand in the industry, ever (according to CEO Arne Sorenson). If you even visit the Autograph Collection website, it’s a very un-Marriott like user interface…and the word “experience” is used pervasively. Evidently, Autograph is symbiotic because, since adding the flag, average hotel revPAR is up 5-10 points.
Where is Hotel Innovation Going?
Unfortunately, there seemed to be a lot of reactive thought for what hotels should look like here and now, with today’s
"Ohhh, the files are IN the computer?" (Zoolander)
traveler and today’s technology. There was a real dearth of talk about the future of hotels. The conference brought tremendous insight on economic futures and what we can expect from financing, but innovation was another story.
In order for hoteliers to really understand what the future holds, they need to stop hanging out with and only learning from hotel people. Look to industries that are typically more cutting-edge–technology, sustainability, arts, entrepreneurship. Those are the industries that understand where this ship is going and what people are going to want in the future.
We’re on the right track with understanding experiential needs, but we are already behind by planning PIPs and CapEx projects with today’s technology and traveler in mind.