HB ON THE SCENE: Flexibility, Customization Help Properties Evolve With Guests

ATLANTA—As hoteliers attempt to figure out how to evolve with guests, one thing is certain: Being flexible is essential.

“The ever-evolving guest is no different from the guest from 10, 15 years ago because we’re all moving at the same pace,” said Peter Clarke, VP of operations – West Coast, IHG. “They’re looking for quality service. They’re looking for an experience. They’re looking for a reason to come back, whether it’s points or something we’ve done to make their stay memorable.”

Hosted by Hotel Business and sponsored by IHG, the roundtable, titled “Moving Forward: Evolving a Brand for the Next Generation of Guests,” examined how hotels can meet today’s guest expectations—and prepare for tomorrow.

“From a meeting planner perspective, it’s really two things we talked about,” said Jeffrey Emenecker, GM at Cvent. “It’s be flexible. They’re looking for flexibility, and be unique. Give them a way they can have their meeting attendees take something unique from the meeting. That’s the stuff that’s definitely winning meetings.”

Flexibility is also important in the guestroom. “I guarantee you if you walk into every one of our residences, they’ll all be different,” said Craig Strickler, managing director at Valor Hospitality.

An example of properties being flexible in the guestroom can be found on the bed. To accommodate preferences, properties oftentimes provide guests with a variety of pillow types.

“To remain flexible and still try to provide that residential feel, it’s all going to come down to the person who you’re dealing with,” he said.

Tying into flexibility is customization and personalization. “An example of this is something that we’re working on at Crowne Plaza, a huge meetings and events business,” said Meredith Latham, regional VP, Crowne Plaza Hotels and Resorts, IHG. It’s not a request for proposal, right? An RFP. It’s a request for collaboration because we aim to collaborate with you to deliver the guest experience you want and the planner experience you want, the price that you need it to be, and there has to be something in it for us, right? If we collaborate together, we all meet each other’s needs, and that’s, in my view, really the way of the future is how we’re going to succeed is really to figure out the best ways to customize and personalize.”

Ultimately, the key to evolving with guests is having a welcoming culture.

“Culture crushes everything,” said John Belden, CEO, Davidson Hotels & Resorts. “Making those connections with people that they do want to come back.

Full coverage of this roundtable will be in the May 15 issue of Hotel Business.

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