Maulina Gupta, GM, Hyatt Place Gurgaon tells Vinita Bhatia, Editor, Hotelier India, that if hotels want to capture the mindshare of millennials, they need to rethink their business strategies from the scratch
In her two-decade long experience in the hospitality industry, Maulina Gupta, GM of Hyatt Place Gurgaon, has seen several trends emerge. While some faded after few years, others became a force to reckon with over time. One of these has been the evolving profiles of the traveller. Whilst certain guests prefer to stay loyal to luxury properties that offer distinct amenities and experiences, and others stuck to economy hotels due to budgetary reasons, a new breed of customers have emerged. These are the millennials, who are compelling hospitality brands to rethink the way they present their service offerings. According to Gupta, this strategic rethinking is especially pertinent for upscale hotels, so that they can strip away the unnecessary frills to offer a functional, seamless experience that is the quintessential requirement that contemporary millennial travellers seek. This includes access to mobile and digital tools, given that millennials are eager beavers when it comes to new technology and crave the convenience of constant connectivity. Gupta also pointed out that they seek a friendly, yet no-nonsense, hotel where they can be themselves while getting their work done with ease. Often, a millennial guest walks into a luxury property that has an ostentatious ambience and finds there is a big disconnect between their expectations and what is being offered. Hence, they feel that an upscale hotel suits their needs better as these are smaller units with a multi functional approach.
EDUCATING THE GUESTS MATTERS
At the same time, in hotel chains like Hyatt Hotels Corporation, guests of every hue â€“ millennials and otherwise â€“ often confuse a Grand Hyatt with a Hyatt Place and expect the same level of amenities and luxury at both properties. This is especially the case in cities like Gurgaon, Mumbai or Bangalore, which are like feeder markets for the rest of the country, since there is a huge amount of inflow of domestic travellers. At times like these, the onus falls on the hotelâ€™s associates to help guests understand the branding difference between Hyatt Place and Grand Hyatt, or a luxury property from an upscale one. This messaging has to be communicated by all hotel members at every customer touch point. For instance, Guptaâ€™s team informs millennial guests that Hyatt Place offers them the comfort, the technology, and all the facilities that they need, though the hotel might not necessarily have a spa or five restaurants. These conversations are driven by everybody â€“ from the housekeeping attendants to the GM â€“ across multiple levels.
ENJOYING THE GOOD LIFE
Millennials like spontaneity and processes that will make their life easy and if that means spending a little extra, they are happy to do so. Hence, hoteliers have to let their business strategy be driven by this consumer segmentâ€™s behaviour. For example, Gupta explained that some hotels now permit web check-in as an option so guests can check into a room even before they have arrived at the property. And there are no prizes for guessing that majority of the users who click on this online option are digital natives in their late 20s and early 30s. Now, given that this generation is quicker to embrace apps, hoteliers can probably have apps for guest facilities like laundry collection or use WhatsApp to communicate with the guests. The latter could work like a digital butler, since these tech savvy guests often like to be left alone and donâ€™t like to have hotel staffers to be in their face â€“ something that they might often experience in luxury properties in the name of exemplary service. This is especially important in the case of millennial business travellers, who spend a lot of time living out of a suitcase and need some downtime in solitude to work or relax in peace.
CREATING PERSONALISED EXPERIENCES
Millennials crave experiences and in their quest for novelty, they are not bound by brand loyalty, as their predecessors were. According to Gupta, hoteliers can bring on uniqueness by more by personalisation, because there is only so many times one can reinvent the wheel. It is instead better to find the finer differences between each customer and individualise services, as much as possible for them, after understanding what they are looking at. That is the best way to create a distinction for oneâ€™s brand. The way to do this is by having a team that communicates with guests without being intrusive, can spot the opportunity to customise experiences without it being a massive project, and create a memory that the guest will carry with them for a long time. Gupta gave the instance of a lady guest who was staying at Hyatt Place Gurgaon while attending a conference. An associate learnt that she was the keynote speaker at the event and everyone in the hotel kept wishing her luck when they met her to boost her morale. She was so touched by the gesture, she stayed almost 30 times with the property since then. Similarly, while checking in, if the front desk realises that it is the guests birthday, the housekeeping staff will decorate their room or the chef will prepare a candlelight dinner. These tokens go a long way in catching
the guests goodwill, especially those of millennials.
REIMAGINING MEETING SPACES
Hoteliers need to understand what millennials need. They are more comfortable socialising with strangers so setting up a community table in a restaurant is a fine idea, with some live music or karaoke to help break the ice. Also, they do not like to work in cubicles but prefer lounge seating style as their workplaces. So how about having lounges with workstations, and even meeting rooms with beanbags? Even banquet spaces can be reinvented so that the pre-function areas can become social zones with sofas and coffee machines, so people can network in between their meetings. Since they are also health conscious and prefer to snack, the F&B offerings can be lite bites with microgreens and organic produce rather than large portions.
Unlike Gen X, they are also less unlikely to walk into a business centre to take a printout. It might help if a computer is made available in the lounge area for guests to take a print, of maybe their flight boarding pass. These are small utilities, but hoteliers who provide this kind of environment will surely reap the best rewards for it. In fact, even hotel chains with a traditional perspective and long-standing legacy are showing a growing inclination to recreate their persona to become less stodgy and more approachable in a bid to grab the attention of millennials. They have realised that the best way to do it is by introducing upper upscale luxury brands under their aegis that will address the needs of millennials, which is unique, functional and aesthetically appealing. This generation relies greatly on social media for their informational needs and reviews matter tremendously to them before they make most of their buying decisions â€“ which includes their travel and stay choices. Hence, it is important for hotels to leverage social media platforms to stay connected with these customers and keep them informed about their latest offers and let them know what’s happening in the hotel.
Several hotel chains have shown great alacrity to capture the loyalty of this new tribe of millennial guests and are already reaping its benefits with an upswing in their business. Are you all set to jump on to the bandwagon too?