Over the past few months, we’ve seen glimpses of the future, showcased through hospitality.
- Marriott has been on a spree, collaborating with MIT launched a prototype to help explore and visualize the “6 degrees” of separation between its (mostly business) guests, with Oculus Rift to provide virtual travel experiences, and with its guests to crowdsource new ideas
- Starwood has an app for Google Glass, was featured in the Apple Watch announcement, and is opening a new innovation lab – “StarLab” in New York City
- Fairmont Hotels partnered with BMW to offer guests emission-free transportation through the new electric i-series.
- …and the list of collaborations goes on…
Yet in too many industry conferences, in too many articles we see hotel owners and brand executives seemingly content with incremental technology upgrades – and seemingly struggling to imagine ground-breaking, oh-wow-that’s-cool consumer-facing innovation in the context of their businesses.
That’s a pity, since hotels are the ideal testing ground for next-generation technology.
> Hotel leaders that recognize this and partner with next-generation technologies will not only earn media attention and hotel marketing benefits, but improve their guest experience
> Creators and designers that recognize this intentionally partner with hotels as ideal testing grounds and catalysts for product adoption
Travel heightens awareness and makes people more engaged with their surroundings
“It sounds ridiculous, but I am just as excited to go to [nearby city] as to [someplace halfway around the world]. From the moment you arrive in a foreign place, every sense is heightened: sight, smell, touch, hearing. In some ways, travel is an altered state of consciousness where you are transported not only to another place, but another dimension. There is no other human activity that has greater potential to alter your perceptions.” – Gully Wells
“The traveler on the move is perpetually a soul in wonder.” – Phil Cousineau
Attention is the most valuable commodity in the world. For any innovation, attention is vital for product engagement, feedback and sharing. Travel is an immersive experience that earns attention unlike almost any other industry, and hotels are uniquely positioned to be a platform for introducing new products to this environment.
Travel changes perspective
For many, travel has been the genesis of new ideas and personal breakthroughs. There is nothing like stepping into the unfamiliar to change the way you think and live. You start to see things in a new light. Creativity can flourish.
This “travel as transformation” could be intentional or unintentional, but as psychologist Jeffrey Kottler notes in his book Travel That Can Change Your Life, a journey inwards often accompanies the travel experience. (That’s why organizations like Cayuga play a critical role in changing not only their communities, but guests’ perception of things such as generosity, community development and personal wellbeing.)
If you’re in the business of proposing new ways of doing things, you need to understand the right time to introduce your innovation. And what better time than when people are most likely to see things in a new way?
Travel is when people are more likely to step out of their day-to-day routines and try something new
Trips are time-limited activities, and trying something new during that time limits my commitment. As my friend Tyler Elick says, travel and hotels provide the chance to “try on a lifestyle” for a limited time.
This has different implications whether you’re creating a new mobile app, a new wearable technology, or a new piece of clothing. Anytime you are trying to offer an alternative to status quo, travelers are the people in the best possible mindset to try what you’ve created.
Travelers are an appealing demographic as early adopters
Travelers can be ideal ambassadors of innovation because of their openness to new ideas, and tendency to take their discoveries back home with them.
“Product evangelism” been happening for millennia – from coffee & tea to paper & the printing press – all new innovations that spread through travelers. Today’s globally-connected world hasn’t eliminated this from happening – and by hosting travelers from around the world every night, hotels are ideal for demonstrating new experiences and products that their guests will remember and take home with them.
Travelers want to share the new things they’re experiencing
Experiencing new things is the #1 motivation for leisure travelers today. We are on the hunt for the cool, the attention-grabbing, the noteworthy. That “Instagram moment.”
Anytime you launch something, you want people who not only use the product, but will talk about it. People talk on the social web when traveling – perhaps more than any other time. Why not have them talking about your innovation?
Hotels provide an unrivaled, experiential platform for engaging with travelers
While the travel experience is an opportunity for the spread of innovation for the reasons above, hotels are perhaps the best portal for introducing new products and technologies to travelers. Few other businesses offer the immersive experience a hotel can. It becomes the homebase for the traveler while away from home, and has increasingly become the curator of the travel experience.
Why not use this opportunity to strategically introduce new products and services into the travel experience – and to spread them into the world?
Creators: How could hotels become a cornerstone of your product testing and marketing strategy?
Tip: There’s a precedent. Brands like citizenM, Morgans Hotel Group, Ace Hotels, Virgin Hotels, and others have demonstrated their appetite for these collaborations.
Hoteliers: How could you partner with innovative companies to improve your guest experience?
Tip: These organizations probably don’t promote themselves to the hospitality industry at all right now. You may have to hunt for them, as they won’t be at the next big industry conference.
Let’s create something truly remarkable together.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this: Tweet me @Hotel_Intel