Tech, Millennials, Experiences Drive Future of Hospitality

BLUCHE, SWITZERLAND—Hotels are having a moment. Driven by design, globe-trotting millennials, Instagram-worthy F&B moments, keyless entry and a keen sense of luxury, there are many reasons to look at how hospitality will continue to evolve into the future. Sonia Tatar, CEO of Les Roches Global Hospitality Education, has her finger on the pulse of what’s trending now, hospitality predictions and how hoteliers can take advantage of these insights right now.

A curious and adventurous millennial generation continues to drive and shape the travel and tourism industry in the U.S. and abroad, according to Tatar. “They are flexible in their preferences; shift between homestays, hostels and traditional hotels; and combine luxury with mundane. They want to become immersed in a destination’s customs and cultures, while relying on easy-to-use technological solutions to facilitate their travel experiences,” she said.

According to a study by BNP Paribas, the millennial demographic are becoming entrepreneurs, creating and starting up new companies, managing larger, more agile teams, and targeting higher profits and returns than previous generations.

Tatar noted that this generational shift not only affects hotels and travel agencies, but also higher education institutions. “Les Roches has to adapt its training to remain relevant in such a dynamic environment, both in terms of course content and also the way we transfer knowledge,” she said.

Les Roches recently published a study titled “The Future of Hospitality Entrepreneurship,” which examined five key trends that are disrupting the hospitality industry and creating opportunities for entrepreneurs.

“Among the trends identified are the growth of the ecosystem around accommodation sharing and category leader Airbnb, the importance of digital services for the hotel guest experience, the concept of ‘living like a local’ and how food and beverage are driving the hospitality standards of the future,” she said.

In addition, Tatar noted that food is playing a different role in the world today, thanks to cultural phenomena such as travel-themed food shows, food-focused Instagram accounts and the growing popularity of celebrity chefs. 

“More and more travelers plan their trips around food, and shun businesses with subpar food offerings, leading hospitality businesses to rethink their approach,” she said. “In the past, guests chose a destination, then a hotel, and ultimately ate at a selection of on-site restaurants. Today, that process is playing out in reverse. Some of the hottest resort concepts started out as vineyards, craft beer breweries and farms, before offering accommodation. This renewed focus on food and drink has caused traditional hotels to revise their F&B offering, some partnering with food-focused start-ups or local suppliers to try and breathe new life into their food services, others questioning the role of the minibar.”

Immersive dining experiences are here to stay, too. Whether it’s bunny chow in South Africa, papa a la huancaina in Peru or pho in Hanoi, millennials are not afraid to go out and truly discover a destination, mixing with the locals in their search for the latest foodie experience, explained Tatar.

Social media has also given rise to a group of travelers who crave innovation, newness and experiences that can be captured and then shared with friends and family back home.

“More than 130,000 pictures of food are shared on Instagram every day in the U.K. alone, with a third of those aged 18 to 34 regularly posting pictures of their meals on social media, according to the latest food report of Waitrose supermarkets. With more than 4.3 billion mobile phone users worldwide, the ‘mobile revolution’ is also transforming many industries, and the hospitality sector is no exception. The smartphone is becoming travelers’ de facto hotel ‘remote control’ to handle everything from ordering hospitality services to finding local information,” she said. “Staff at the W Hotel in Paris use mobile messaging service WhatsApp to answer guest queries, while guests of Virgin Hotels’ flagship property in Chicago use their mobile device to control everything from room temperature to ordering room service. A range of entrepreneurs and established hospitality companies are using these technologies to develop new concepts to create revenue streams and offer additional value to guests, while competing against home stays and Airbnb.”

Les Roches has an entrepreneurship specialization where students develop an understanding of the latest market trends and learn to come up with their own hospitality business ideas. With the influx of designer and retail brands coming into the hospitality arena, should hoteliers have concerns about this particular trend? Tatar believes there is room for everyone.

“With a forecast annual growth of 4%, the global travel and tourism industry is attracting new players trying to leverage this growth. For traditional hotels and luxury brands, as well as peer-to-peer solutions and other newcomers arriving on the hospitality scene, it is all about finding your niche and responding to a specific segment of travelers and customer needs,” she said. “With the amount of innovation taking place in today’s hospitality sector, this an exciting time to be part of this industry. The key for brands is to leverage hospitality expertise from within and stay true to their values.”