Airbnb, exit stage left. Your time as hoteliers’ biggest nightmare is over. So is the home sharing service’s tenure as a guiding light for more conventional hospitality companies to follow and learn from. As Hilton president and ceo Christopher Nassetta put it, even if his guests do occasionally stay in an Airbnb, they want to come to Hilton and get the package of services hoteliers are known for. “I believe in focusing [on our core business],” said Nassetta. While that’s a longtime viewpoint for him, the 41st Annual NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference was all about being a better mousetrap. Hoteliers are diving deeper into narrower target markets, refining their best practices and figuring out how to use their toolkit to better respond to macro factors.
Right now, said Jonathan M. Tisch, chairman and ceo, Loews Hotels & Co., the critical issues aren’t out-there theoretical concerns. From the challenge of recruiting employees during a period of low unemployment (in the U.S), to building a more diverse workforce, the hospitality industry can both serve its own good and a larger good by using its power wisely.
Rising labor costs are another top concern for many hotel ceos. In an exclusive Coffee Talk at NYU, Choice Hotels International ceo Patrick Pacious said it’s driving a focus on modular construction. Designers need to be prepared for everything that “need for speed” means, from becoming more mindful of labor required in installation techniques, as well as mastering a new source list based around the needs of modular projects, where proximity to the module fabricator and ease of transport once installed (many modules ship more or less fully furnished) are key drivers in supplier decisions.
Designers, owners, operators and suppliers will have to work together to keep pace with their markets on all kinds of inclusion. That means not only making sure buildings are ADA-compliant, but using insight and forethought to accommodate guests. “We’re researching what types of conditions our guests might be dealing with so we can better suit their needs,” said Hyatt Hotels Corporation president and ceo Mark Hoplamazian. That means that color schemes might have to be adjusted toward more neutral shades to avoid overstimulating someone on the autism spectrum. It could also require a rethink around the needs of anyone traveling with a caregiver. And, it’s important to understand that none of this means “dumbing down” the design (our team has stayed in some nightmare ADA-compliant rooms that evoked hospitals more than hospitality).
Those are overarching trends and must-knows. Breaking out what’s happening sector by sector gives a more detailed study guide for your next response to and RFP. For upscale properties, flexibility is key. What was once a monolithic sector with clear boundaries among upper midscale/upscale/luxury has become much more fluid. Yes, it still means upscale has more extensive public spaces, some F&B and meeting space. But, scale, footprints and exact market positioning are now more responsive to individual hotels’ situations and the target psychographic is more playful. Namecheck Graduate Hotels, Radisson RED and Best Western Hotels & Resorts’ Aiden SM for some case studies from companies of all sizes. Midscale hotels are trending toward more eco-conscious small touches (think refillable amenities) and a few key investment-piece choices, such as LVT flooring.
The upshot? Whatever your role in the industry, time to do your homework. Dig into the resources available to you for more, better, deeper information on what your colleagues, clients and team members want.