What if Your Guest Had $86,400 Every Day to Spend at Your Hotel?

By Bonnie Knutson Professor, The School of Hospitality Business/MSU | January 29, 2017

Okay. I admit it. Patience is definitely not my strong suit. If the car in front of me at the stoplight doesn't move precisely when the light turns green, I'm on my horn. If, after making a reservation at a restaurant, I'm asked to wait when I arrive, I'm pacing the floor. And, if I have to make more than three clicks on your website to get the information I want, I'm closing you out. I'm not proud of my level of impatience, but I apparently am a victim of the old cliche that Time is Money. And I'm probably just like every guest that walks through your door.

When you stop and think about it, time is probably the most valuable thing we have. And we never seem to have enough of it. In today's complex, over-communicated world, it seems as if everyone is time-strapped, time-poor, time-starved. No matter what you call it, they all mean the same thing. Or, as a friend of mine often quips, I don't even have enough time to do the things I want to do, let alone what I have to do.

Unlike money, time isn't fungible; no matter how long or hard we try, we can't make any more of it. So while we might be able to reallocate our time, we can never increase our supply. That is why time is becoming such a luxury; why we value it so much. In fact, it may be the ultimate luxury. But while it may be a luxury for every one of your guests, different generations view it differently. It is a major differentiator. Research conducted by Unity Marketing, found that the three major consuming generations – Baby Boomers, GenXers, Millennials – view time in their own way.

The 76 million Boomers are still the largest consuming generation. They are the "old guard" and think in terms of an 80 year lifespan. Passing their half way mark, and having "been there, done that," they are trying to figure out what they want to do with the 20-30 years they have left. Because they have fewer day-to-day obligations, they have more spare time and are looking for new experiences and challenges. So here are a couple of ways that your hotel can think about time for this group. First, rethink ordinary experiences and make them extraordinary.

For example, in your restaurant, birthday desserts could be served on Waechtersbach's You are Special Today cherry red plate or served on a rimmed dinner plate with the celebrant's name written in chocolate script around the rim. When it comes to leisure, the weekend getaway and extended family vacations are continuing to gain steam. After all, this generation is becoming grandparents and everyone know that the most important thing for any grandparent is building memories with their grandchildren. But when targeting this group, always remember two things. First, with age often comes health challenges making it harder to turn a door knob (think levers instead), read text (nothing smaller than 14 point font), or walking on uneven surfaces (think floor coverings, walkways, landscaping). And second, of course, 60 is the new 40; "old," "senior," and "mature," are bad words.

GenXers live in a pressure cooker, 24/7. They are in the heights of their careers and wondering if they will accomplish what they thought they would. Often they are the sandwich generation, with both commitments to and responsibilities for children and aging parents. They would love to have an 8 day week with 36 hour days to get everything done they want and need to do. The key for these guests is to make everything as easy as possible. When these folks travel, they want a little peace, some relaxation time, and the ability to reconnect – which are all captured in the word expedient. Or, as my dad always told me, make it easy for the customer to spend money. Wi-Fi that is available throughout your hotel (with no "dead zones"), easy to connect to, fast, and provided at no extra charge is a must.

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Coming up in June 2019...

Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.