The original premise of Airbnb was an “air mattress bed & breakfast.” It catered to “couch-surfing” travelers that were looking for the most economical accommodations. Since then, it has grown to be a multi-billion dollar a year global conglomerate that has been used by more than 300 million people in 81,000 cities in 191 countries. Where once, travelers preferred Airbnb merely to cut down on travel costs, they now pay as much or even more than they might for a hotel room.
As the hospitality industry embraces technology that helps it operate more smoothly and seamlessly than ever before, it is essential to not lose the most critical aspect of the industry: hospitality. It turns out that in a world that is more connected than ever before, people are lonelier than ever. Loneliness is poised to be the next public health crisis on par with obesity and drug abuse. In a world where guests can create their reservations online, check in with their smartphones and even be sent a room key via smartphone, the time may quickly arrive where guests have little to no interaction with hotel staff whatsoever.
What good does that interaction do, however, if that interaction itself is cold, businesslike and impersonal? It’s easy to check a guest in and issue them a room key without engaging in any personal interaction. To be sure, not everyone wants to participate in witty banter or even have a long, friendly chat. Some guests may arrive exhausted and just want to check in and get to their room as quickly as possible. An aware staff member, however, can help facilitate that in a way that lets the guest know their specific needs are being seen and attended to.
There is no doubt that the hospitality industry is a booming business, which is not going to decline any time soon. The question is, however, whether traditional hotels will be able to compete with the rise in a hospitable industry offering a much more personalized – or inter-personalized – experience. While hotels may pride themselves on providing exquisite and nearly invisible service, it may be that what guests are looking for is more connection.
I discussed previously that focusing on providing excellent hospitality starts internally with hospitality managers. While service is undoubtedly crucial in the hospitality industry, hospitality may be even more so. It is imperative more, now than ever, that hotels keep this in mind, along with the impact younger generations are having on the hospitality industry as a whole.