Growth in the hotel space will see modest growth this year, according to Zacks Equity Research, due to factors including an overall improvement in the Consumer Confidence Index in January, which is expected to continue throughout the rest of the year.
Besides macroeconomic factors, the Zacks report takes note of underlying reasons for the growth, which include a notable shift in how hotels and the hospitality industry approaches their market strategies.
Losing the cookie-cutter model
Hotel brands are changing up their go-to-market strategies to accommodate a younger demographic, and millennial guests who have a different set of expectations than their Baby Boomer parents and grandparents. Older marketing put things like familiarity and brand recognition at the front of the line, and while those things continue to be important, millennials will go out of their way to find a hotel which caters to their growing interest in eco-friendly traveling. According to an article from Ash Sobhe, Marketing Director at hotel comparison platform HotelsCombined, ” Millennial travelers tend to be aware when service providers are not employing environmental and ecological friendly policies and technologies, and they tend to be unafraid of voicing their disdain on such matters. Even if Millennial travel customers don’t express their negative opinions on this to management at hotels and other lodging locations, it’s a safe bet that they will be telling their friends, family — and the rest of the world — via social media.”
Attempts to differentiate, leveraging newer innovations like eco-friendly policies, will become increasingly important, especially in the luxury market, as the market becomes more saturated in the coming years. In addition to eco-awareness, other factors the hospitality industry is mindful of include wellness programs and brand distinctiveness, greater service, and ethical sourcing of food.
All guests want specialized services, but younger ones are more willing to have those services delivered through digital platforms, smartphone apps, and the Internet of Things, rather than through a face-to-face interaction with a live concierge.
Smart marketing solutions in the hotel industry
Smart solutions in the hospitality industry are increasingly being deployed, and touted as advantages in hotels’ marketing campaigns, especially as that smart automation brings a new level of convenience and comfort that just can’t be duplicated by human staff. Besides things like automatic check-in, smartphone-based room controls, and “digital concierge” services, those IoT innovations are also being used behind the scenes, to make hotels more ecologically friendly – another big advantage when appealing to a more eco-conscious audience. Those IoT systems are monitoring building and environmental systems, energy usage and air quality, while also detecting failures as they occur so that they can be attended to more quickly – and even before a guest has the chance to notice that something is amiss. Some properties have already put voice assistants in rooms (including Wynn Las Vegas), adding an even greater level of automation with a personal touch.
In addition to the high-tech innovations and IoT devices though, automation has taken a more direct role in facilitating high-touch – and very human – campaigns.
Consumers respond to what their peers are saying much more than they respond to traditional advertisements, and hotel brands have caught on and are creating “brand ambassador” relationships with influencers, and taking a more active role on social media and review sites.
“In the hospitality industry, hotel brands have put social media at the front of their marketing campaigns,” said Chris Rivett, travel expert at HotelsCombined.com. “But simple posting of updates, deals and pictures is only a small part of that – the greatest success comes when those brands use social media as a means to communicate directly with their guests, and monitor what’s being said online.”
Marriott for example, has a control room with a dozen employees, who do nothing but read social media posts and respond to them when appropriate, using a platform called HYP3R, a real-time engagement platform which gathers social activity from a given location.
Growth in the hospitality industry will be driven by decidedly different factors in the coming years, with marketing and public relations being driven primarily by digitally-driven tools, personalization through automation, and direct engagement on social platforms.