With an ever-growing and pervasive mobile-connectedness taking over our lives, the needs and demands of hotel guests are entirely different to those of previous generations. Today’s growing consumer preference is all about unique experiences and products where authenticity trumps “standardization.” “The impact of rising affluence, globalization and technology has led to modern hotel guests valuing experiences and the feeling of ‘being connected’ over traditional hotel luxuries,” says HVS Global Hotel Consultancy, London.
These evolving consumer habits have contributed to the growth of boutique and independent hotels. As guests are becoming more selective they are trading globally recognized brands for independent hotels, hoping to enhance their stay with truly unique and memorable experiences that large chains cannot provide. “The interest in independent hotels is rising, particularly among younger travellers. Independents are doing very well against brands,” says Andrew Mantis of MasterCard Advisors. “Chains were created around the idea of safety and consistency… The no. 1 thing people are seeking now is something different. Younger travellers, in particular, are looking for the contemporary and unique, which they are more likely to find with independent properties,” says Bob van Ness, Exec VP Preferred Hotels, for the Americas.
Boutiques and Independents engage with the local community and they can deliver the things guests need, the way guests need them – coupled with the fact that they have no restraints imposed by the bigger hotels companies allowing them to be more flexible. This fact allows them to embrace technology and appeal to the new breed of mobile traveller. While they are more than likely to have limited budgets in comparison to larger brands, this has resulted in more nimble operations. They understand that smart use of the latest technology will not only help decrease costs, but increase guest satisfaction.
Hotels such as Zoku, Citizen M, Yotel and Z Hotels pride themselves as a home away from home. They have services that include one-minute check-in and check-out, free Wi-Fi, no concierges (but local ambassadors), communal lobbies with no front desks, no mini bars or chocolates on your pillow (instead they provide baristas and ‘canteens’), and there’s no bellhop – it’s all about self-service. They have removed redundant services that guests no longer expect and evolved their guest experience by using technology to streamline time-consuming processes. With the use of cloud-based, mobile PMS, boutiques and independents can manage, multi-task, and service guests more personally and efficiently – while allowing the guest to get on with their stay.
Technology is a game changer for the hotel industry as a whole. And while boutiques and independents are ‘smaller’, they know investing in evolving technologies can mean a bigger competitive advantage.