Keeping pace in a changing industry

By Georgia Ward

The hospitality industry is fluid and dynamic, with many aspects of it changing daily. It is important for those who rely on it to be aware of its current course and how and why in recent years the industry has shifted due to a rise in a new variant of consumer and their demands.

The current role of the consumer

The role of the consumer in the wider world has expanded and progressed in the last 20 years due to advances in technology and the ever-growing, plentiful abundance of information and data.

Consumers know exactly what they want, how they want it and when they want it. If a supplier falls behind the mark and is unable to provide, the consumer simply lifts a finger and finds someone else. Similarly, our patience as a population is thinning; this is a result of high-speed internet, 4G, short wait times at airports and stations, self-checkout machines and pretty much everything else that’s been invented in the last 10 years to reduce waiting times. We refuse to wait for things anymore, purely because that’s what we expect now.

Consumers in the hospitality sector

Consumers again are trail-blazing change in the hospitality sector and in particular luxury travel.

Our idea of luxury is changing; the connotations of luxury are gradually shifting. At the heart of it you still have the traditional luxury ideals of The Ritz and The Dorchester, with their white tablecloths and 24-hour butler services which aren’t in danger of becoming extinct, but the outer edges of what a luxury hotel is are becoming blurred. This is primarily because of the recent ‘realisation’ that we are damaging the planet that we live on and we need to do something about it.

Luxury industries have jumped on this band wagon and have managed to turn the word ‘eco-friendly’ and ‘sustainable’ from something that used to be associated with hemp products or organic fuel  into something that people will actively look for when booking a hotel – so much so that according to research commissioned by Booking.com, 71% of travelers think that travel companies should offer consumers more sustainable travel choices. People have become so conscious of sustainability that it’s now more of an expectation than a selling point, and the word could even be going out of fashion because it’s becoming the norm.

What role do millennials have to play?

Like it or not, millennials are fundamentally sending shockwave after shockwave through industries in every sector. They are typified as being more narcissistic, more idealistic, more socially conscious and more experience-oriented than any of their preceding generations.

The younger generation has had information on tap where and when they wanted it since they were born, so now that they are older and have purchasing power, they expect to have all the details available to them, including the social, economic and environmental impact of what they’re buying.

This change is forcing older generations to question themselves and their choices. For example the vegan movement  – love it or hate it –will have caused you to either consciously or subconsciously be more aware of what you put on your plate, hence the greater demand on restaurants and hotels to show the provenance of their ingredients.

 

So how does one cater for this new generation of guests?

Hoteliers have to be conscious of the changing times and cannot allow themselves to be stubborn or cling to outdated ideas of luxury, because ‘that’s what they have always done’.

There are numerous low-cost changes that can be utilised to pull a hotel up to necessary sustainability standards. Firstly, there shouldn’t be one person in charge of keeping the hotel within expected green standards; the entire team should be educated and should buy into bringing a sustainable change to your business.

Sustainability should be organic and flow truthfully through the business and should be able to be felt by the guest. It’s all well and good to put a sign on your front door saying ‘we’re a green hotel’ but if the staff aren’t aware of what plastic goes in what bin or don’t ‘think before they print’, you are not truly a sustainable hotel and shouldn’t market yourself as one.

Establishing a green team is essential to driving environmental initiatives in your business. From there, there is an entire spectrum of small and large changes that can not only make you more of an eco-friendly business but will be more appealing to the new wave consumer who lives and breathes sustainability.

Switch out plastic water bottles for glass ones and fill them on site, seek out new cleaning products – a popular one at the moment is the company Enjo, which only uses water to clean but can kill the same amount of bacteria as well as any chemical-based product. In food and beverage, utilise the local area around you; ‘local produce’ is such a buzz word at the moment and people can’t get enough of it.

Interview your local suppliers and get as much information from them as you can, including history, fun quirks and stories which you can relay to your customers to create a more theatrical experience around the dining experience you offer. This is not only environmentally friendly but gives a unique aspect to your food, as consumers have tried most foods now and are looking for something unique which they will not be able to get elsewhere.

Similarly, think of fun and original ideas that intrigue the guest and add a little spice to your eco-friendly movement, for example handing out wildflower seeds at checkout to encourage people to support the bee population or gifting branded metal straws to cut down on plastic which guests can reuse again and again.

Marketing your millennial-friendly business

After making these changes, knowing how to communicate your offer to the right market. Utilising your social media platforms allows you to sell your business directly on arguably fastest growing booking platform that is used by millions of people worldwide. Research for easyJet of 18 to 65-year-olds showed more than half (55 percent) had booked trips purely based on images they had seen on the social network. Almost a third (32 percent) of the more than 2,000 people surveyed also admitted their biggest motivation when picking a location was how nice the photos will look on their own Instagram feed.

One of the first things people do when looking up a new hotel, apart from visiting their website, is looking at their Instagram. Your Instagram needs to be transparent and authentic; use it as an eye-piece for your customers to get a feel for your hotel. Interview staff, film them setting up for breakfast, prepping for dinner, making drinks – show those watching the effort that goes into your hotel and make it personal, as this is what people want.

Your profile needs to be appealing and intrigue the consumer from first glance – colour co-ordination is a good technique to make a profile appear attractive and encourages the consumer to click through different posts. Once you have your customers engaged, make sure there is a clear journey through to your hotel booking page from your profile by providing a link to your website, from which you can get to the booking page in a maximum of three clicks.

One of the keys optimising social media marketing is being consistent. You can’t post every hour one day then wait a month until your next post, as this will reduce interaction on your page and the content you have worked hard to produce won’t be noticed. Additionally, the more consistently you post, higher up on people’s news feeds Instagram’s algorithm will feature you.

Finally, be an interactive and truthful page runner, reply to comments, include customer reviews in your post to show people who care about you, that you care about them.

A shifting consumer landscape doesn’t mean your business plan should change overnight that would be authentic and unnatural, but by looking at what not just the consumer of today, but the consumer of tomorrow wants, the hospitality industry can bring positive change and stay ahead of the game.

Angus Rose-Bristow