How is the hospitality industry influenced by our guests expectations?
Updated: Dec 11, 2019
Recently, Dylan and I have been discussing the latest trends and characteristics of the modern-day guest and their expectations of the hospitality industry. Part of what struck this interest in studying the demands on the industry came about during my internship here in Livingstone, Zambia. It is no surprise that the majority of guests are travelling to this part of the world because of its majestic Victoria Falls. In my opinion, this tourist destination has been built on the fact that guests would be coming to visit these falls irrespective of whether the many other activities and opportunities were available in this location. However, my concern is that establishments have become too reliant on the relationship between guests and the falls. What happens if the falls were to be removed from the situation? Are the current trends and demands of the modern-day guest - that is, the desire for experiences (Self-fulfilment, disconnection and once-in-a-lifetime moments)- being matched by the hospitality establishments in the industry at the moment?
Zambia is having one of its worst droughts in decades and the rivers water levels at the Victoria Falls are at their lowest in almost 25 years. This has sent the tourism industry into a sense of panic. Godfrey Koti, a spokesman for the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, released a statement explaining that “some of the tourism activities that we boast of can be a thing of the past if the rains don’t come”. So, this brings me to my point, are the hospitality establishments appropriately positioned to accommodate for the new type of tourist or have they relied too heavily on the expectation that tourists need a place to sleep and the rest will take care of its-self? As a young hotelier, this inspired me to look at what hotels on a global scale are doing and how tourism is impacting the hospitality establishments.
During my investigation, I came across a report written by Rebecca Gross who discussed the pressures that hotels in Australia are experiencing and how this is influencing their approaching to the way they carry out their operations. For example, hotels are now found to be offering new and upgraded gyms, health spas, retreat areas, etc. in response to the latest trends of wellness travel.
New brands, new designs, new technologies and new guest-centric services are driving the way for the transformation of the hospitality industry as hoteliers have come under pressure to reconstruct, and redesign their product offering to be more personalized, immersive, adventurous and attuned to local culture in response to the demand for a deeper emotional connection. More so, guests are wanting a sense of local character within their hotel specifically, causing a trend of redefined hotel identities.
Another implementation in the attempt to provide authentic experiences is the approach to storytelling and personalisation that has found itself at the centre of many contemporary hotel experiences. An example of this is the Anantara brand by Minor Hotels in which every Anantara Hotel has its own storyteller. A bi-lingual individual whose purpose is to provide that personalised experience. Whether it be speaking Spanish to a South American couple in Africa or to share the history and traditional practices of the country to a group of guests intrigued by the destination they have travelled to. It is this type of personalisation that is helping these hotels stand above the rest in the eyes of the guest.
Something that I have noticed during my time in Zambia is that guests are spending more and more time outside of the hotel than inside it. With this, Hotels are now branding themselves as travel experiences, as opposed to simply a place to sleep in response to the fact that tourists are defining themselves by where they stay, as much as the location of their travel plans. Additionally, experiences are becoming multisensory. Interacting with the locals, eating local cuisine and listening to traditional music, all form part of the experiential travel our guests are seeking.
So I believe that, while hotels have become somewhat a means to an end to achieving experiential travel, they are still an integral part of the guest's journey and can have a considerable impact on delivering these experiences but we as hoteliers need to pay close attention to what our guests are wanting from their hotels.
Bradley Barrett | LinkedIn