Why hotels should be wary of adopting global trends

Q: I’m an independent hotelier with a small property; I’ve always shied away from adopting global trends, but my general manager is talking about introducing some interactive technologies into our guest experience and setting up a whiskey bar? Are either of these a goer?

A: I always advise to beware of trends. They can be a great added-value experience for guests and can generate significant revenues for you, but they can also be an overall expense if they don’t take off. Before ever adopting a trend, take a step back and look at the whole development, rather than focussing on the details. What this allows is for you to assess the relevance of the trend for your particular circumstance and frankly, whether you even like it.

Obviously, some things are here to stay. For example, televisions in every room, then later colour TVs and then flat screens, WiFi and room service were all technically ‘trends’ in their day, but are now expected by hotel guests far and wide. Yet at the other end of the scale, hyped-up trends have included the QR code, underwater sound systems and mood-enhancing coloured lighting, all of which are very niche, and many no longer have a place at all. Each trend will have a cost to adopt and unless they become the mainstay of a guest’s experience, you risk adopting an expensive fad where the cost to your business far outweighs the benefits.

Here’s what to consider before adopting a trend:

  • For me, the single key thing for you to consider is whether you actually like the trend? If you (or your manager) are a whiskey-lover, have a passion for it and actually struggle to talk about anything else, then adopting the ‘niche bar’ trend could be right for you. It’ll draw in a particular audience, allow you to exercise your expertise and it will be a unique selling point for the business. It’s also not dependent on its status as a trend – even if other hotels move on, building your reputation on it will still attract a specific clientele.
  • Size of the market should also be a key factor; you are a small independent hotel and whilst you can set yourself apart and build your reputation, you don’t have to be an industry leader to do so. No one will expect you to be ‘cutting-edge’; instead, they will expect you to offer everything a big hotel struggles to – personalised service and a personal experience. Before adopting a trend, look up any stats on its performance, market value and potential income to give you a good idea of whether you can actually compete. Interactive technologies are a good example here – on the one hand there is a trend for wearable tech and being ‘plugged in’, but then again there is also an ‘anti-technology’ movement such as the ‘digital detox’ service from alldayPA and in one hotel in Germany, they have installed a unique copper grid which is able to block out 96% of all wireless signals, giving guests a rest.
  • It probably goes without saying, but cost should be a huge factor. How much is it going to cost you to implement any trend and can that cost be passed on to guests, or will it become a cost for you to incur? Some things like WiFi is a necessary expense and can in fact drive business to your hotel, whereas other things will simply be a cost with no real benefit.
  • Competition is the final point to keep an eye on; sometimes you will need to adopt a trend to keep up with your competition and ensure you are still sought-after, but sometimes if your competition is adopting a trend then that becomes the exact reason that you shouldn’t. Coming back to your whiskey bar, if lots of the venues in your area choose to adopt this specialism then it’s probably best you don’t, but if you are going to be the only one, you have the chance to drive demand.

Other things you should do is to survey your loyal guests and see what they are looking for, identify other hotels in other areas of the UK who have adopted a trend and see what they think. It can also be helpful to chat to your professional association and see what they have to say about it.

Some of the current trends to keep an eye on are ‘health and wellbeing’, with people looking for restorative stays that provide additional wellbeing treatments alongside their break, specific dietary requirements, particularly in light of the recent allergen law changes, environmental awareness and stewardship, for example including organic produce in your restaurant or putting emphasis on low carbon emissions, as well as ‘bring your pet’ and ‘keeping it niche’.

How long each trend will last is anyone’s guess, but ultimately, if you can create a unique, interesting and very real experience for your guests, it’s likely you’ll be able to build and sustain a demand for your hotel.

By Angie Petkovic. This article first appeared in the August 2015 issue of Hotel Owner

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