Hotels as innovation accelerators

Over the past few months, we’ve seen glimpses of the future, showcased through hospitality.

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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

Why?

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


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Each month, thousands of people visit my website, Hotel Marketing Strategies, to be inspired by how others are creating better travel experiences for hotel guests and driving revenue growth for hotel owners. With your free email subscription, I’ll send you the most interesting ideas and examples from there each weekend.

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Josiah Mackenzie
Publisher

Welcome home

I don’t know about you, but by the time I show up at a hotel, I can be pretty cranky. Exhausted from waking up far too early, spending hours on the plane or in the car, catching connections, finding my way around….I’m ready for a sanctuary from this chaos.

That moment I finally arrive and step foot on your property, I don’t just need a “hotel” – I need hospitality. A true welcome. We’ve been looking forward to your visit. The feeling of being expected  and among friends.

Real friends – and great hosts – anticipate needs and state of mind. 

This is completely dependent on where I’m traveling and what my expectations are.

Am I traveling overnight on business? Just get me to my room as quickly as possible, please. Make sure I’m aware of options for unwinding at the gym, with a swim in the pool, or with some yoga.
Am I staying a week on my vacation? Welcome me with a drink, whisk my bags to my room, and have the general manager give a tour around the property to make me feel like a VIP.

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That’s exactly what happened when my wife & I recently visited Cayuga Collection‘s Harmony Hotel in Costa Rica. Andres, the general manager, met us at the entry and personally oversaw the whole check-in process. Explaining the history of the hotel, sharing which amenities he enjoys the most, and introducing us to staff throughout the property. (I firmly believe that just taking a few minutes to say hello and talk increases the odds of someone liking you 5,000%)

By being genuinely excited to see us, and taking time out of his busy day to do this tour, we felt like VIPs. Yes, the room and hotel amenities were incredible, but it’s the personal expression of hospitality that set the tone for the rest of the stay.

Andres understood that.

Your welcome – and check-in process – set the tone for the rest of the stay.

If you start out the stay with a very warm, welcoming, personal experience like Andres did, your guests will spend the rest of their stay looking for other things you do well. Beginning with the personal connection puts me on your side. It creates a mindset where I’ll start looking for other things you do well,  and give you the benefit of the doubt if anything doesn’t go well. I like you, I like the hotel, and I’m going to find everything I can to confirm that.

A great welcome is like giving your guests a pair of rose-colored glasses to look through for the rest of their stay.

How do you make your guests feel like they are the long-anticipated arrivals that you are so happy to have? That they are truly welcome home?

Hostmanship is considerate giving: of yourself, your time, your energy and your personality. A willingness to share the best of yourself. – Jan Gunnarsson


Liked this? Want more fresh hotel marketing ideas?


Each month, thousands of people visit my website, Hotel Marketing Strategies, to be inspired by how others are creating better travel experiences for hotel guests and driving revenue growth for hotel owners. With your free email subscription, I’ll send you the most interesting ideas and examples from there each weekend.

If this sounds interesting, I encourage you to give this subscription a try. You can unsubscribe at any time with one click, so there’s nothing to lose.

Best regards,
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Josiah Mackenzie
Publisher

Beyond luxury, beyond experience: the new frontier of hotel differentiation

For more than a century the apex of hospitality was luxury. Ornate buildings. Gilded interiors. White glove service. The Waldorf New York. The Taj Palace Mumbai. Savoy London. Raffles Singapore. Ritz Paris. Only the best.

But then came the backlash. Luxury was stodgy. Luxury became a concept burdened by so much: culturally, politically, psychologically. Conspicuous consumption became the root of all evils – an opinion voiced by far more than just the Occupy movement.

Criticism is coming from an unexpected corner of the market: the rich, the taste makers, and even the Louis Vuitton Don himself, Kanye West. “My goal in lifestyle, in everyday life—to change the idea of what luxury is,” said West. “Because time is the only luxury…These brands …are somehow selling our esteem back to us through association….They want to make you feel like you less than who you really are.” [Time]

 

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As the golden era of luxury began its decline, a new one was rising in the late 1990s. “Welcome to the emerging experience economy” – wrote Joseph Pine and James Gilmore in the July 1998 issue of Harvard Business Review.

An experience is not an amorphous construct; it is as real an offering as any service, good, or commodity. In today’s service economy, many companies simply wrap experiences around their traditional offerings to sell them better. To realize the full benefit of staging experiences, however, businesses must deliberately design engaging experiences that command a fee. …Unless companies want to be in a commoditized business, they will be compelled to upgrade their offerings to the next stage of economic value.

The tides changed. Distinctive, boutique, original, bespoke, tailor-made, popup – these are the labels of a new generation of hotels. But even these can become the mundane. So many hotels that constantly try to out-do each other with luxurious amenities, celebrity designers, more exclusive bars & clubs, lifestyle upgrades and EPIC experiences.

Diminishing returns eventually kick in for any experience. It’s harder and harder to out-do the next hospitality group or travel experience provider, and harder and harder to make the same “WOW” impression on someone as the bar gets set higher and higher in luxury or distinctive design.

While the “Experience Economy” is still very much in effect, a new frontier for distinguished hospitality seems to be emerging. Travelers who not only want to have more, not only want to experience more, but want to be more.

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Chip Conley wrote about this in his must-read book for any hospitality professional, Peak. “Peak experiences create lasting impressions.”

Providing these can happen a number of ways, including:

(1) helping customers meet higher goals, (2) allowing customers to express themselves more fully through using this product or service, (3) connecting the customer with a larger cause, or (4) offering something completely different that the customer never imagined was available.

Using an example from his company:

Essentially, in making a purchase decision, our Hotel Vitale customer is sending a message to herself like “I’m not getting older, I’m getting better.”

Cayuga Collection founder Hans Pfister reflects on how the “new luxury” looks at his hotels and resorts:

…The real luxury is created by…the interactions with the local culture and people. Our guests comment that for them it is a luxury to be so close to wildlife, without disturbing their natural habitat and behavior.   They love experiencing the elements and spending time being active outdoors.  They love the connection created with our staff by participating in local soccer games or going fishing at the beach with them during their afternoon break.  They define luxury as eating fresh tropical fruit for breakfast, having fish tacos and a cold local beer for lunch while their bare feet touch the warm sand and taking part in a cooking lesson (preparing fresh ceviche) with the kitchen staff before dinner.

My wife and I were able to experience this first-hand on our recent trip to Costa Rica, where Cayuga’s approach to sustainability – moving far beyond hotels’ typical “we’ll-only-wash-your-towels-on-the-floor-to-save-water” – and towards creating a flourishing community through backing socio-cultural activities and financially supporting the wellbeing of people in the neighborhood and surrounding communities.

Cayuga works towards creating a flourishing community and surrounding area, but they also work towards the flourishing of their guests as people.

Their physical wellness.
Their sense of connection.
The sense of awe and wonder at the natural surroundings.
The sense of home.
The sense of belonging.
The sense of mental clarity.

…And that’s what I remember weeks, months, years after I stay there.

I’d like to see more hospitality and travel companies aim beyond luxury, beyond experience to setting the stage for a flourishing heart, mind, body and soul for their guests.

Fostering relationships, and acting as embassies of beauty and creativity in their neighborhoods. Facilitating personal breakthroughs. Acting as a catalyst for transformation that not only changes the travel experience, but changes me as a person long after I’ve left the hotel. That is something I will not be able to forget, because I am the one who has changed.

Remember, luxurious design and superior service are only one part of what your guest will experience during their stay on your property. The guest’s mental and physical state play an equal, if not larger, role in what they remember their encounter with your brand.

Luxurious privilege becomes hollow unless you feel nourished in your heart, soul, and mind. And that’s why investing in guest wellbeing is one of the smartest activities a hospitality company can do.

Let’s compete on making our guests better people, more in-tune and in-touch with themselves and their surroundings – and helping them thrive personally and we work to create thriving brands and businesses.


Liked this? Want more fresh hotel marketing ideas?


Each month, thousands of people visit my website, Hotel Marketing Strategies, to be inspired by how others are creating better travel experiences for hotel guests and driving revenue growth for hotel owners. With your free email subscription, I’ll send you the most interesting ideas and examples from there each weekend.

If this sounds interesting, I encourage you to give this subscription a try. You can unsubscribe at any time with one click, so there’s nothing to lose.

Best regards,
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Josiah Mackenzie
Publisher

Everything is Hotel Marketing

Everything is a place to differentiate your guest experience.
Everything is an opportunity to share the personality of your brand.

The way people find out about your hotel.
Your website.
Your mobile experience.
The number of ways people can contact you.
The booking process.
The upselling process.
Your entire pricing model. (including rate optimization and ancillary revenue strategy, in industry-speak)
The reservation confirmation email.

The first impressions I have on arrival.
How I feel about myself when I step into your hotel.
The location of the hotel.
The architecture.
The interior design.
The lighting.
The colors.
The scents.
The soundtrack.

Every single person on your staff: from housekeeping to the general manager to the reception.
The words the staff use with me.
How staff communicate with each other.
How long it takes to check-in.
The process of check-in.
How much of a hold you place on my credit card.
The valet.
The uniforms.
The doorman.
The hallways.
The elevator.
The room key.
The room doors.
The moment when I walk into my room for the first time.
The cleanliness of the room.
The coffee and coffee maker in the rooms.
The TV/entertainment system.
The placement of electrical outlets and charging stations.
The in-room literature and messaging.
The paper & stationary.
The bed.
The linens.
The bathroom facets.
The soaps & toiletries.
The toilets.
The shower.
The water pressure.
The towel racks.
The bathrobes.
The iron and ironing board.
Your laundry service.
The view from the room.
The lamps and in-room lighting.
The artwork.
The minibar.
The furniture.
The snacks in the room and what’s available in the minibar.
The fitness center.
The pool. (including the art & music under the pool)
The lobby and common spaces.
The restaurant.
Room service: what is available, how much it costs and how long it takes.

What is available for free.
The books and movies available to borrow.
The way my expectations are met, disappointed or exceeded.
The way you surprise and delight guests.
Your other guests – and how much I interact with them.
The hotel-provided transportation.
How you tell the story of the hotel’s history.
How staff answer questions.
Your approach to dealing with service lapses.
How the General Manager interacts with guests.
The meeting and conference rooms.
The presence (or absence) of technology.
The computers in your business center.
The WiFi. (speed, reliability, cost, router locations)
How you measure and work to constantly improve my satisfaction.
Your guest satisfaction survey questions.
The way you respond to online reviews.
Every single Instagram, Twitter & Facebook post and response.
The way you collect, save and use my preferences.
The way you define VIP guests.
What VIP treatment means at your hotel.

The multilingual fluency of your staff.
The freedom staff have to go off-script and act like real people.
The way you answer your phones.
The maps you provide of the neighborhood & city.
The activities you (and your partners) offer.
The wellness amenities you offer.
The number of free amenities you offer.
The sustainability initiatives you have in place.
Your social responsibility program.
What locals in the neighborhood think of you.
Your hiring practices.
The job titles you have for each staff member.
Your treatment of staff.
Your staff satisfaction levels.
Your staff retention.
Your key performance indicators and success metrics for the hotel.
The businesses & brands you partner and align yourself with.
The things your guests Instagram and tweet the most.
The last impression I have walking out the door of your hotel.
How you stay in touch with me after I leave.

In short:
Your attention and imagination in every single detail.
The type of person you say that I am.
The type of person you help me become.
Your generosity.
Your hospitality.

Great hotel marketing does not require massive budgets.

It’s about personality-per-square inch.

This is #HotelMarketing


Liked this? Want more fresh hotel marketing ideas?


Each month, thousands of people visit my website, Hotel Marketing Strategies, to be inspired by how others are creating better travel experiences for hotel guests and driving revenue growth for hotel owners. With your free email subscription, I’ll send you the most interesting ideas and examples from there each weekend.

If this sounds interesting, I encourage you to give this subscription a try. You can unsubscribe at any time with one click, so there’s nothing to lose.

Best regards,
sig
Josiah Mackenzie
Publisher