Choose the Update

ImageThere has been a television commercial running recently for the new Toyota Rav 4 that I find to be both humorous and thought provoking.

The commercial features a young couple preparing to leave for a short trip and uses the common perceptions of today’s youth by an older generation to showcase the features of the new Toyota Rav 4. The commercial says, “You say we can’t carry the weight of the world,” while showcasing the large cargo area of the Rav 4. My favorite part of the commercial features the automatic cargo door. The announcer says, “You call us lazy,” and as the actor pushes the button to close the door, he turns to the camera and says, “That’s not lazy, that’s just smart.”

When I see this commercial, it reminds me that this generation is now the better part of the leisure travelling public and an even larger percentage of today’s road warrior population.

They are the winds of change. As a hotelier, we have to make sure that we do not allow our preconceived notions about what we were as young people to influence how we serve this new generation of travelers.

They are called the “lost generation,” but nothing could be further from the truth. The young people of today have never been disconnected in their lives. They have grown up with hundreds of television stations, computers in their homes and schools, two income families and an Internet that has never required a telephone line to access. Young people today think Dial-Up is only a punch line for Internet jokes. These millennial youths can now add “surviving the worst recession in American history” to their list of accomplishments. They will only be lost by choice.

Access to information has never been faster and easier than it is today. Connectivity is as key to their well-being and as ingrained in their lifestyle as color television was in ours. No matter how much we believe that unplugging is essential to our generation they insist on connectivity, sharing, and engagement.

Fortunately for us hoteliers, most of the industry innovations are revolving around speed and mobility. We are seeing the emergence of mobile phone check in and checkout, cellular guest room access, wireless network and security advancements, that enable a guest to stay connected wherever they may roam.

I recently heard Oliver Bonke, CCO, Americas for IHG tell a great parable regarding a strategy for maximizing your market share of these new travellers as well insuring you are always one of the most attractive packages on the shelf. He said to “think of your hotels as an app.” Most software companies choose to do new releases and fixes annually, while Apple and Android, through the use of apps, are able to provide upgrades as soon as they are available.

Apps enable these companies to receive instant feed back from the users, put that information into the hands of developers and provide either an instant fix for a problem or and improvement to give the customer what they are looking for in a product.

So, look at your hotel like an app, gather the feedback, take appropriate action and “always choose the update.”

by Larry E. Collier, Jr., Director of Operations for H.I. Development Corporation

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