Don’t get too sucked in by millennial fever

The word ‘millennial’ is used about 15 times per person per day in the business world of 2017. For the uninitiated (though you must be hiding under a rock not to have heard it), it refers to a person reaching adulthood in the early 21st Century.

They are tech-savvy, mobile, restless and go through life with an enormous sense of entitlement. Well, that’s the much-mooted reading of the generation before them anyway. Businesses of all types now devote enormous energy to ‘engaging’ with the idiosyncrasies of this population group, leaning on social media, apps and streaming services to try and get their message in front of the young and screen-obsessed.

But in a rare moment of what I thought was excellent clarity, it has been suggested this month that hospitality brands should not overdo it on the technology front. There is no need to make your hotel a spaceship replete with voice-activated room service, automated check-in and programmatic marketing on the in-room TV screens.

Marketing firm CAB Studios ran a survey that found 60% of guests “still prefer having a conversation with some on the reception desk when you arrive”. It may sound like a small thing, but this says something fundamental about the experience of staying in a hotel and what it is supposed to mean. An interaction with a human being is actually an essential component of what it is to provide hospitality – done well, it is the human touch that actually makes the stay special. Compare two identical hotels both beautifully appointed and well equipped, and then show me the one that has warm, friendly, proactive staff who anticipate their guests’ needs constantly. Then I’ll show you which of the two hotels is performing best on RevPAR and occupancy.

Technology is good – it is making out lives easier, it is entertaining us, and today the smartphone really is an extension of the self for many people. But a smile and an offer to carry the luggage makes for a much more memorable hotel stay than hotel room that unlocks because you ask it to.

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