Summer 2018’s Hotel Business Trends
From a new definition of luxury to the revamped hotel manager, here’s a mid-year look at some of the most compelling developments in the hospitality sector.
“As good as it gets.” That’s how Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC) dubbed the hospitality business environment in its 2018 UK Hotels Forecast.
The accountancy giant’s research suggests that occupancy, and revenue per available room rates, will continue to rise in the 2018-19 financial year. Indeed, according to the Hotel Britain 2018 report, average room rates passed £100 (113 euros) for the first time ever. However, the PWC report also posits that the rate is not sustainable and will slow. This is partly due to the number of new openings; 7500 new rooms stood ready to welcome guests in the first half of 2017 alone.
Our close contemporaries in the restaurant trade have suffered from over-saturation in the sector. So how can we try to future-proof our hotel businesses against it? Here we look at a number of encouraging developments that could be highly effective when integrated with your existing strategies.
New Luxury Versus Old
From Formula One to Louis Vuitton, established luxury brands are changing how they view their customers. Put simply: the new rich are very different to the old rich. Compare Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to property baron, and now president, Donald Trump. It’s easy to conclude that their taste in hotels might be very different. Indicative of this evolution is the travel company for high net worth individuals, Black Tomato. At first glance, one would be forgiven for thinking Lonely Planet had undergone a rebrand. But Black Tomato deals in bespoke holidays, usually adventurous and exotic, at a minimum travel budget of $3000 per person. ‘Experience’ is the key word here. Sensual pleasures – such as fine dining, scatter cushions, and cocktails – are out, while personal growth and wellbeing are in. Supposedly at least; Black Tomato often recommend bookending your adventure holiday with some good, old-fashioned, luxury resort action.
Educated taste represents the happy medium here. Books, plants, deftly chosen antiques and – if at all possible – a historical building, are how this trend for more rarefied choices is playing out in the wider market.
A decade or more ago, the first time wealthy consumers experienced new entertainment technology was in their hotel suites. Returning home, they demanded the same from their interior architects. Soon, luxury apartments from DC to Dubai boasted features such as a television screen that emerged from the foot of the bed. But here in 2018 it’s apparent that hotels cannot hope to match – let alone keep up with – the incredible technology available in comfortable homes. So IT directors must choose their battles when budgeting season comes around.
Experts say that excellent connectivity – via a clean, fast, secure, and easy to access wi-fi connection – is key to securing the loyalty of tech aficionados. Many of these will bring their own portable devices to access the digital world, so they don’t require a significant technology element to the room itself. Providing a ‘hassle free’ internet connection of course is easier said than done, though, especially in the heritage sites that are very much on-trend too.
Research shows that guests do still prefer to watch on a big screen, so providing a straightforward connection to the hotel’s television is moot. Plus, Sky TV reps will tell you that only 25% of guests ever stream from their own devices in hotel rooms. So best not to pawn all the flat screens just yet.
…and No Connectivity
While a web connection will always be essential for some, for others it has simply ceased to be empowering. New research from Barclaycard published in July 2018 suggests that even millennial festival goers are putting down their smart phones. 23% consider filming at a concert to be unacceptable, and 63% plan on a digital detox at their next festival. A 2017 Deloitte survey claimed that 38% of British adults believe that they use their smartphones too much, which rose to over half amongst 16-24 year-olds. If these figures keep following the same trajectory, staring obliviously into a smartphone screen will eventually acquire the same pariah status as smoking cigarettes. 4G is available on Mount Everest, so even geography is no guarantee of a digital detox for your guests. But you can follow the example of the Westin hotel in Dublin, which offers digital detox packages using a suitably lo-fi solution. Guests hand their phones in at reception for an agreed time, receiving in return a newspaper, an explorer’s map of the city – and a tree planting kit to engage with when they get home… that forever reminds them of the Westin experience.
Next Generation GMs
With its elements of design, entertainment, and providing said ‘experiences’, hotel management is becoming considered a creative career – and one that pays much better than many media roles. For Glion, in 2018, 98% of job-seeking graduating students had one or more employment opportunities by graduation day. Initiatives to attract women into senior management roles, and the flexibility that these have prompted, are thought to have helped bolster how attractive the profession is becoming. Moreover, cloud-based technologies are making administration more straightforward, leaving more time for the human aspects of hospitality such as welcoming guests and dispensing local knowledge.
Quote worthy hotel industry thought leader Ian Schraeger, founder of the Morgans Hotel Group, once said, “If you call it a hotel, people will only want to sleep there.” Multiple revenue streams are essential in today’s costly business environment, so hotels are evolving into multiple use spaces.
This can mean creating a destination hotel that attracts the bold and the beautiful: like Schrager’s own Edition with its experiential-style decal and nightclub programming that matches any hipster hangout. Less fraught, but also effective, is partnering with a co-working brand that can turn a lobby cluttered with laptop-toting business people into an entrepreneurial lifestyle hub. Extreme examples include serving takeaway coffee to commuters from a hatch, or even managing on-brand local Airbnb properties.