Hospitality Across Generations: Move Over Black Tie, Hello Blue Jeans!

By Rob Rush CEO, LRA Worldwide | April 08, 2011

The first sign of the times, you ask? Perhaps it was back in 2006 when Ritz-Carlton looked in the mirror and realized that “Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen” didn’t exactly apply to a 32-year-old CEO in jeans and a t-shirt. In a nod to the changing demographics of those who consumed “luxury,” Ritz loosened up a bit, recognizing the need for a generational component to its time-honored and revered operational and guest service standards.

That shifting mindset has only grown in our industry, as virtually every facet of a hotel operation has needed to step back and take a look at how it does business based on ever-widening generational needs. A byproduct of this trend, of course, has been the proliferation of brands aspiring to a laser-like focus on the language and needs of one specific generation; however, those who can rely on that true niche strategy are few and far between. Most of us need all the bodies we can get, whether they use Western Union or Wi-Fi.
Full disclosure here for a moment - take my credentials on this subject with a grain of salt. I don’t tweet, I don’t “friend,” and I’m barely Linked In. But I have a fairly keen sense of what impacts the customer and employee experience. For the first time ever, four generations are actively represented in the workforce, and given that “65 is the new 55” and that 401Ks have withered in the last 18 months, a fifth generation is certainly still a consideration as both employee and certainly as a vigorous and active consumer. For the record, the generations in question are:

  • Traditionalists (1915-1945)
  • Baby Boomers (1946-1955)
  • Trailing Edge Baby Boomers (1956-1964)
  • Gen-Xers (1965-1981)
  • Millenials (1982-2001) (1)

Without a doubt, this changes the way we market, sell, operate and train, forcing everyone to realize that there may be no “best” way to do things that we had previously taken for granted. Instead, we must collectively come to grips with the realization that there are multiple constructions of what is “best,” depending on the activity and the audience.

Sales & Marketing

Be careful of what you think you know and how you might have stereotyped the generations outlined above. While it is clear that Gen-Xers and especially Millenials (or “Gen-Y”) consume their information via a range of media , with few limitations on when or where that digestion takes place, it would be foolhardy to assume that the old guard is still tethered to the newspaper and a landline. Most studies place internet usage – in its varied forms – for Traditionalists at 33-percent; that number rises above 50-percent if you just look at the younger end (62-71) (2) of that spectrum. In keeping with that thought, this older group is no longer looking to be tucked away someplace to play shuffleboard; once again, with “65 as the new 55,” these folks are looking to be challenged and expand their horizons via travel and hospitality and should be marketed accordingly. Likewise, it would be unwise to assume that this group is retired, as “semi-retirement” is becoming a more realistic state of being given the desire of this generation to stay engaged in some form of work... and quite possibly the need to do so based on the current economic landscape.

Of course, the need to market and sell differently to Gen-X and Millenials has been well documented, and not just in the smorgasbord of alternative communications required to reach them. It’s not just that you blog or Tweet... but how you do it. While the conventional wisdom is that Gen-X really wants to understand how a product or service is going to enhance their lifestyle or their enjoyment of such, Millenials are more interested in how a product or service is going to enhance... them... or their wallet. (Really, they’re not all egotistical and self-absorbed. Just in the textbooks.) So creating a Facebook page just for the sake of having “friends” doesn’t serve much purpose; loading it with information that speaks to these friends in a way that helps them understand how your product can enhance their lives is a must.

Coming up in January 2018...

Mobile Technology: Relentless Innovation

Technology has become a crucial component in attracting and retaining hotel guests, and the need to enhance a guest’s technology experience is driving a relentless pace of innovation. To meet and exceed guest expectations, 54% of hotels will spend more on technology in 2018, and mobile solutions in particular will top the list of capital investments. Many hotels are integrating mobile booking, mobile keys, mobile payments and mobile check-in into their operations. Other hotels are emphasizing the in-room experience, boosting bandwidth and upgrading flat screen TVs to more easily interface with guest mobile devices. And though not yet mainstream, there are many exciting technology developments on the near horizon. The Internet of Things (loT) is taking form in some places, and can be found in guest room control systems, voice activation systems, and in wearable sensors that can be used for access and payment options. Virtual reality headsets are available at some hotels so guests can enjoy virtual trips to exotic locations or if off-property, preview conference facilities and guest rooms. How long will it be before a hotel employs a fleet of robots for room service, or utilizes a hologram as a concierge, or installs gesture-controlled walls that feature interactive digital displays? Some hotels are already using augmented reality for translation services, or interactive wall maps, or even virtual décor. This pace of innovation is challenging property owners and brands to stay on top of the latest technology trends while still addressing current projects. The January Hotel Business Review will explore what some hotels are doing to maximize their opportunities in the mobile technology space.