[first of 2 part blog series]
Part of the perks and woes of my job as a consultant is the frequent travel. It’s the easiest conversation starter that sparks passionate debate with the people I meet. While it definitely helps rack up the loyalty points and has it’s adventurous allure, the reality is that constant travel is grueling, and has been lacking in freshness in recent years. The expectations of business travel have also evolved – with company travel bans and more frugal budgets, the days of decadent schmoozing trips are long gone. The new business traveller, especially millennials, have developed a new set of expectations, and the industry is finally starting to catch on.
Here’s the first of a two part series on the hospitality industry’s much needed innovation refresh.
The new business traveller still wants unique experiences that can make work trips more delightful and story-worthy, but they want smart finds that show they are sensitive about the way they spend the company’s money.
Jetblue recently launched Jetblue mint, a premium coast-to-coast flight service that got tech execs all excited, even warranting a tweet from LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner. Boasting lie-flat beds with massage function, a small-plates menu created in partnership with new York restaurant Saxon + Parole, and a take home Birchbox amenity kit, the service is available on two routes: JFK to SFO, and JFK to LAX. Starting from $599, it is stunningly half the price of traditional first class tickets.
Non-traditional players like Airbnb are also targeting the business traveller with its corporate program, a great option for longer trips which give travellers a more home-like experience with kitchen and laundry facilities, which could help companies save in the long run.
New Millennial lifestyle brands
The big hotel brands are also taking notice of the shifting landscape, launching new lifestyle brands with the millennial traveler in mind, such as Hyatt Centric, AC Marriott, Aloft hotels, Radisson Red, and Canopy by Hilton – all of them aiming to become destination hubs for both locals and visitors, featuring convenient locations, bold, modern design and technology, cocktail culture and mingling spaces, with special attention on health and wellness. They are a welcome breath of fresh air for those looking for an alternative to the usual expensive, overly corporate and stuffy, dated options.
Co-creating with a tech-fluent generation
It’s accepted now that the modern traveller is tech-obsessed and always connected. What the travel industry is also recognizing is that this techy generation is opinionated, and not shy to share their ideas. Connected guests will not only know all about your brand but will have formed an opinion about your brand way before they even step foot in your door.
So rather than innovate for them, why not innovate with them? Especially with those who are your self-appointed brand ambassadors.
Take Starwood for instance, who recently launched Starlabs (an innovation incubator space blending design, technology and luxury), where associates, owners, developers, customers and partners can converge and scope out the latest guest technology shaping the hotel of the future, such as keyless entry, BotIr robotic butlers, Oculus bikes, smart mirrors & vanities and more.
Marriott Hotels also launched an online co-creation platform where anyone can submit new ideas, and fellow travellers can vote on which ones are most brilliant. The winning idea of 2014 is a bartenders in residence program, which is now being launched at select Marriott properties.
With the emergence of these new co-creating platforms, hotels are positioned to launch successful experiences that will resonate with their guests.
Stay tuned for the second part of the series to learn other ways that hotels have been innovating hospitality, through bleisure and convenience maximus.