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 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.