The hospitality industry is at an inflection point. Consumer expectations have evolved, technology has infiltrated every part of our lives to add efficiency, and the pandemic has introduced a new way to live work and play.
As the dust settles on a rollercoaster 2020 and 2021, furnished-apartment and home rentals are emerging as the stay of choice for a growing group of travelers. Those who can deliver on a tech-enabled, customer-centric experience are going to come out on top.
The notion of “travel” has seismically shifted over these last two years for white-collar workers. The idea that you have to live next to your corporate headquarters and have all your business meetings in person is going to continue to be debunked. Work-from-anywhere and hybrid work are going to become a larger part of the pie – changing the demand for “stays” and “homes” forever. Spaces where you can both stay and live comfortably already have a competitive advantage and that advantage will only continue to grow.
As this revolution plays out, brands can expect “loyalty” to be driven less by points, or really, kickbacks, and more by experiences. It will be as much about the spaces and how seamless a stay is. The catalyst behind this seamless stay experience will largely center around technology.
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It should go without saying that contactless check-in and digital keys are here to stay (although, still worth saying because it is still the exception, not the rule).
Next up, redefining the food and beverage offering through third-party vendors. Companies like DoorDash, Uber Eats, and Instacart have reimagined food delivery by bringing more options to people’s doorsteps.
This type of experience will be seamlessly embedded into the staying and living experience as brands build it into their platforms and physical spaces are updated to accommodate it more effortlessly. Tech advancements will replace the need for traditional staples, like hotel restaurants and room service, to drive important income to the bottom line. Companies will move from “what is your F&B component” to “what is your guest experience.”
True innovation within the hospitality industry will be driven by better spaces and optimized through software and machine learning algorithms. Right now, hospitality is all about the “human touch.” That is because “experiences” are based on information sharing by people at a front desk, or a bell cart, or the in-house restaurant.
But with a generation of consumers now used to their phone being the most efficient way to deliver information, hospitality for guests and residents will come to mean a more personalized, customer-centric experience. And that experience will be delivered through their phone, not from a person they stand in line to talk to.
Let’s put this in context with a customer we will call Lindsey. We know that Lindsey loves a good bottle of pinot noir, frequently enjoys Italian dinners, prefers to shop for groceries at Whole Foods and is an exercise fanatic.
Now, Lindsey can drive her stay experience. She can be prompted to select whether she wants her favorite bottle of wine or her go-to protein shake waiting in her unit when she arrives. She can be texted in the afternoon to see if she would like a reservation made at a walkable Italian restaurant. She can decide à la carte whether she wants her standard Whole Foods’ set of fresh fruits and egg whites in the fridge for her arrival. The concierge role will be virtual, and the entire experience will be repurposed to center around each individual guest.
It would be shortsighted not to speak to the importance of technology in the physical product. That includes the design of buildings to accommodate this changing world, such as features that make deliveries and access-control super easy, as well as smart-home features in units.
Your unit will be controlled by the apps you use at home, whether you’re setting the temperature, playing music, streaming your favorite shows or even preheating the oven. People will continue to work from anywhere, so we’ll seen innovations in furniture, fixtures and equipment where a sleeping area converts into an office.
The physical and locational aspects of short-term rentals will continue to drive consumer demand. People want space. They want amenities. They want the comforts of home, such as full kitchens and laundry.
A 250-square-foot hotel room is not going to be able to compete with the type of stay delivered by apartment or home-style units. People want to be in sought-after neighborhoods, where they can walk or quickly Uber to the best bars, restaurants and attractions in town. So, when faced with the option to book a fully furnished apartment or a traditional hotel room at the same rate and in the same neighborhood, it’s going to be hard for traditional hotels to compete.
If we look at the
shift in consumer expectation over the past few years, we see that brands who
get this right are poised to
not only win big business, but to win over the hearts and minds of the next generation of
consumers. Brands who lean into a seamless, tech-enabled set of services
anchored in experience—and can
meet the physical demands of a changing set of customer needs—are sure to see loyal consumer growth and be huge winners
in this new world.
About the author...
Jason Fudin is founder and CEO of Placemakr