Jellystone Park or Yankee Stadium?

By Bonnie Knutson Professor, The School of Hospitality Business/MSU | July 22, 2018

About a month ago, I was talking with one of our former students who had graduated last year and was now working as an assistant manager in Chicago.  We had spent about 30 minutes pontificating about emerging hotel trends, about the challenges of attracting and engaging the Millennial market, and about of the rising tide of competition (think Priceline, Trivago, Orbitz, and Airbnb). All of a sudden, he stopped, cocked his head to the side, and with that quizzical look that only the young can give, said, "Well, you've been around and hospitality for a long time, where do you think the hotel industry will be in five years?"

I quietly smiled, because his question brought to mind a long ago TV segment where a reporter asked a well-known economist a similar question about where the U.S. economy would be five years down the road.  The economist stopped for a moment and almost chuckled when he replied: "We can't even get tomorrow's weather right!  What makes you think we have any clue about what the economy will be five years out?"  That about says it all.  If anyone tells you that he can prophesize what the lodging industry will be like a year from the day you read this, let alone five years into the future, I wouldn't bet the same numbers on a lottery ticket that he does.  The only person I know that had it right was not Yogi Bear, but famed Yankees manager, Yogi Berri, when he said: "The future ain't what it used to be." 

And if I can add a caveat to Yogi's wisdom, it is that the "future" is changing faster than any of us have ever experienced.  Consider these facts:

  • The 88+ million people born this year will be born into a data and algorithm world.
  • There will be more than 208 Billion devices connected by 2020.
  • Information generated and available to us doubles about every two years.
  • Half of what students learn in their freshman year in college will be obsolete by the time they are juniors.
  • For the first time in history, there are four generations in the workforce and they communicate differently.  (More on this in a future article, but for now think: write me, call me, email me, text me.)
  • We are currently training people for jobs that don't even exist yet, using technologies that haven't been invented yet, to solve problems we don't even know we have yet.

And you want me to tell you what the hotel industry will be like in five years?  While there is no way I can prophesize that, I can give you three keys to help unlock your hotel's future for you.   

1. Continually keep your radar up

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Coming up in February 2019...

Social Media: Getting Personal

There Social media platforms have revolutionized the hotel industry. Popular sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Tumblr now account for 2.3 billion active users, and this phenomenon has forever transformed how businesses interact with consumers. Given that social media allows for two-way communication between businesses and consumers, the emphasis of any marketing strategy must be to positively and personally engage the customer, and there are innumerable ways to accomplish that goal. One popular strategy is to encourage hotel guests to create their own personal content - typically videos and photos -which can be shared via their personal social media networks, reaching a sizeable audience. In addition, geo-locational tags and brand hashtags can be embedded in such posts which allow them to be found via metadata searches, substantially enlarging their scope. Influencer marketing is another prevalent social media strategy. Some hotels are paying popular social media stars and bloggers to endorse their brand on social media platforms. These kinds of endorsements generally elicit a strong response because the influencers are perceived as being trustworthy by their followers, and because an influencer's followers are likely to share similar psychographic and demographic traits. Travel review sites have also become vitally important in reputation management. Travelers consistently use social media to express pleasure or frustration about their guest experiences, so it is essential that every review be attended to personally. Assuming the responsibility to address and correct customer service concerns quickly is a way to mitigate complaints and to build brand loyalty. Plus, whether reviews are favorable or unfavorable, they are a vital source of information to managers about a hotel's operational performance.  The February Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to effectively incorporate social media strategies into their businesses.