Who: Rex Warren, Assistant Professor with Johnson & Wales University College of Hospitality, Providence
Agree or Disagree with Article: Both
I don’t blame anyone with an interest in hospitality for clicking on this round-up of the year’s top-10 trends published in January. Now, with most of the year behind us, let’s look back and see how this forecast matched up with reality.
The first trend—“co-everything,” i.e. the trend of community instead of corporate accommodations—is really what we are beginning to see as a response to the impact of Airbnb and others. This impact has not been insignificant: In fact, Airbnb is the world’s largest accommodation provider by the number of units. So naturally, the leading brands will respond to this competitive threat. It is unlikely to happen in 2017, of course, because “announcing” brands and building them out are two very different things. Whether these new brands grow is up to the investors and ownership groups that place their bets.
Reworking Reward Systems
The concepts of loyalty evolution are also ongoing. Any global brand who peers into the customer profitability of their various loyalty tiers will quickly come to the realization that their elite members are typically not all that profitable. Why? Elite members know your system better than you do, and they game it with abandon.
What does a “real” loyalty program look like? We shall find out what “another” loyalty program looks like, but over years not months. You can rest assured of one thing though. Success is quickly replicated, and so attempting to gain a sustainable competitive advantage through a new twist in an old rope isn’t going to last long.
Hotels will continue to leverage technology when it drives customer preference and economic advantage. Happily, even with the technology today there is far more data about our guests and how they move through our systems and properties that we may never be able to harvest it all. Which is a great problem to have!
MISSED THE MARK
Emphasis on Design
The second trend of “good design goes mainstream” is really nothing new. Global brands have been focused on design improvements for decades now. And there are some truly inspiring new builds and renovations. The caution with trying to keep up with the trends is that it can become very expensive, and it isn’t economically feasible to change out your interiors every time something shows up on Pinterest. And unlike a residential environment, a commercial environment must be designed for durability. Happily, the materials coming forth today—particularly floor coverings—are making that easier.
What is interesting is to watch the brands respond to the changing traveler. These brands were all built on standardization. And when that was done, it worked, largely because the traveler then wanted to reduce their risk of a bad experience and so went with a global brand. And it did work because once the door closed you didn’t know whether you were in Indianapolis or Islamabad. Today though, the brands are trying to balance consistency with localization. And it is a truly challenging thing to do well.
What Goes Around Comes Around … Unless it Never Left
The article also mentioned how hospitality will “rediscover” it’s roots. Interesting “trend.” We’ve been at this since Jesus slept in the barn, so if it is a trend, it is an established trend. A focus on delivering economically sustainable service excellence is, was, and always will be a priority.