How has the guest experience landscape changed over the last 5 years?
The guest experience landscape is rapidly shifting, especially from consumer behavior, and the dynamic organizational capabilities required to deliver on every changing guests’ needs. Companies are no longer placing products in the centre of their strategy. Engaging branding campaigns, a wonderful environment, and excellent service quality is just an invitation to the party. Today, the best companies are placing their customers in the centre of the business and are shifting their focus from making the best products to satisfying customer needs. This means companies, especially in hospitality, have the check-out their egos and check-in their collective unconscious.
In your opinion, what is one key technological innovation that the hotel industry will experience in the next couple of years?
I always look at technology as an enabler to satisfy a human need; hence I think it is wiser to anticipate the emerging human needs a new technology can address. One need that immediately comes to mind is education & training. People learn differently today. We don’t only learn by sitting in a classroom. We learn a new skill from a YouTube tutorial, get inspired by a new idea from a Ted Talk, hear about a new business opportunity on LinkedIn and keep informed by following a trending hashtag on Twitter. The hospitality industry is significantly behind the curve in its ability to transfer in-person training to digital platforms. Many hotels still rely on in-person orientation for new hires. I am sure there is an opportunity for some aspects to be delivered embracing the new media channels while still not losing the key component of our brand. Virtual reality or hologram projects are already here, and the innovation lies in how we use it.
How do you think the hospitality industry can create guest experiences that are appealing across generations, and how will this influence the future of the industry?
I try to stay away from looking at experience design purely based on trends, generational differences, economic, or socio-demographic attributes. I prefer to approach it from the universal evolutionary needs and human values. Values influence behavior. Schwartz’s theory of basic human values is a great framework to follow. For instance, people want social recognition. In hospitality, this translates to how we recognize our guests. The ritual of recognition varies based on what the brand stands for. Minimalist yet warm design of the Muji Hotel Ginza may call for a symbolic recognition ritual as the hotel is part of the larger lifestyle center. The Parisian grand dame The Ritz, on the other hand, may opt for a lavish gesture reflecting the “high culture” Parisian way of life. One of my favorite poets, William E. Channing said it the best “…to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion…this is to be my symphony.” Human values are refined, and great hotels fulfil them elegantly.