It’s the year 2019. Globalization and affordable travelling options mean that more people than ever can now be tourists. What used to be considered a “normality” in the travelling industry no longer is adjusted to the needs of modern society and, especially the millennial generation. If before travelling was strongly associated with luxury and abstentions wealth, nowadays over 65% of millennials (18-34-year-olds) would consider luxurious hotels and casinos “depressing”. And in order to keep up with the needs of the current generation, hotels need to change their visual codes.
Not only the millennial generation does not find the luxury aspect of travelling appealing, but also they tend to experience the feeling of guilt when travelling to less developed countries and being served by locals. That means that hotels need to reassess their current offerings in order to make travelling a more sustainable experience.
Let’s take an issue that is most on the surface – billions of half-used hotel shampoo bottles are thrown away each year. As an example, Ritz-Carlton and Marriott are adding bulk dispensers to hotel rooms offering premium soaps and lotions yet avoiding the issue of throwing away the packages. That is a great example of a step towards more sustainability in the Hotel Industry.
Looking at the social aspects and the shift in modern society, we also see that more and more people choose to either stay single or marry at a later age. One in four young adults in the US now chooses to travel solo. In order for the hospitality industry to stay up-to-date these trends need to be reflected in the offerings of the resort hotels, many of which used to target families coming for vacation and seeking for a more passive and comfortable way of relaxation. Since more and more singles are staying in hotels alone the need for connecting people on the location becomes more and more evident.
Automatization and progression of the technology make human contact at the hotel reception not mandatory, and room service obsolete, yet the very basic human need of socializing becomes even more clear. Technologies need to be outbalanced by human connections, and hotels could be a perfect ground for such connection-making. While a new-style hotel can have a robot concierge, at the same time it can offer a solution for single travellers, people on work trips, as well as locals, cowering in a hotel lobby or having a drink in a hotel bar to connect with each other.
As Rami Zeidan, the CEO of Life House said: “If you think about hotels, they’re just big boxes filled with people that do not know each other”. It takes just one step to get to know someone staying in the same hotel, and this step can lead to many culturally engaging moments as well as productive networking. However, this step is also incredibly hard. In the times where human contact gets substituted by social media interactions, making the first step to introduce yourself to a stranger can be a frightful experience to many of the millennials. However, if you use technology as a tool to connect people, this step could be easily eliminated.
Such a trend in the hotel industry is known as “Serendipitous Hotels” – hotels where by means of technology and organized events making unexpected connections becomes the new norm. As an example, The Park MGM Hotel unveiled a series of vignettes inspired by travellers’ real-life experiences, each telling a story about a fleeting romantic encounter. Other hotels are creating virtual lobbies to help fellow guests make unexpected connections.
- Life House enables guests to explore who else is staying and interact with them in advance of checking in.
- The Lobby app by The Standard encourages solo travellers to create a digital alliance, revealing as much – or as little – about their identity as they wish.
- Radisson Blue and Ibis Styles hotels in the Netherlands are already using Seats2meet software to provide spaces for coworkers in the hotels’ lobby and let travellers match and connect with coworkers based on their tags, and interests.
The technology was always the one to blame for the alienation and decreasing the amount of human contact, but at the end of the day, technology is just an enabler. And by using it hotels can enable people to meet, network, get more insights on local culture by matching with the locals, organize events and announce it to the hotel visitors through online platforms, and many other opportunities that would make travelling a more fulfilling experience.