Creating the Experience for the New Traveler
By Walter Isenberg President & Chief Executive Officer, Sage Hospitality | June 05, 2016
It's not just the baby boomers and it's not just the millennials, it's everybody. Over the past few years the travel experience has changed across the board. Heads in beds is the cherry on the top but it's no longer the goal, and that's because our guest wants more, and we want more for them. This is the "new traveler" they are the young business professional by day, silent-disco seeker by night and they are the older tourist with a camera who still needs full strength wifi for all of their devices. The lines are starting to blur but there is one constant.
What we call the new traveler doesn't just want to work, sleep and eat. They have to do those things but what they really want to do is live, experience and belong. And they're not afraid to do it in cities where they've never been before. In fact it's expected of them, and they in turn expect their hotel provide this for them like typical amenity. Like extra towels. Daunting? Absolutely not, this is the fun part.
The consumer in general has evolved. Not just the traveler but in all elements of customer service. Take Apple for instance and the Apple Store, we no longer buy things off the rack. We schedule an appointment to try it first, we want our questions answered by a person not a customer service line and with all of our options we need to feel like we made the best choice. We want to know it, understand it and feel something for it. As stated in The Experience Economy, we've gone from commodities to goods to services and now we've landed ourselves at the level of experience. We don't buy it, we experience it. Hospitality is no longer just required to provide a clean room or a plate of food. The new traveler, the new diner, the new customer, requires a connection to the service. And the experience creates the connection.
So how do you create something more than what your four walls are used to containing? First you watch. Sage Hospitality has been studying the millennial generation since they were old enough to book a hotel room on their own, and I for one find them fascinating. Most want to skip the traditional front desk, completing the check in process and even possessing a room key all through an app on their phone. By doing this they bypass the main moment in which human interaction happens in a hotel, yet strangely enough this is the same generation that craves community. Community tables, community work spaces, coffee bars and evening socials. They've skipped the customer service interaction and now just want to interact with one another, what an immense shift.
The baby boomer business traveler is starting to get in on the fun as well. Room service numbers haven't shown tremendous growth over the past few years, and if the millennial traveler is already in the lobby at a community table, this leads us to believe that people are coming out of the comforts of their hotel rooms and looking for a little more adventure. In reaction to that, some of our restaurants have moved away from traditional room service and have started using more of a "to-go" model. The Crawford Hotel at Denver Union Station offers in-room service by restaurant partner Snooze, an a.m. Eatery in to-go boxes and containers, giving it a more casual and flexible feel.