Chicago – The hotel industry is constantly on the lookout for new, fresh talent. Chris Nassetta, Arne Sorenson, Steve Joyce, David Kong, Eric Danziger—they aren’t going to be CEOs forever, so finding and cultivating young talent is an utmost priority for the sake and sustainability of the hotel industry.
Luckily, there is no dearth of talent, some of which was displayed during a panel session at November’s North America Hotel Investment Conference. “The Next Generation” panel included Jordan Langlois of Vantage Hospitality; Austen Bierl of Pacific West Hotels & Resorts; Ravi Patel of Hawkeye Hotels; and Brandon Springer of Wyndham Worldwide.
Picture: A panel composed of four younger people in the hotel industry spoke on a litany of trends and concerns the industry is facing today and will tomorrow. Shown here, from left, are Jordan Langlois of Vantage Hospitality; Brandon Springer of Wyndham Worldwide; and Ravi Patel of Hawkeye Hotels.
The quartet touched on a myriad of topics, including long-term industry trends, where technology is headed and today’s consumer preferences.
Coming off a recession, the panel was still wary of the economy’s sometimes violent swings. “The economy is so cyclical,” Springer said. “We are going to go through the same things.”
But when? Most believe that the hotel industry will have rather clear sailing through 2017. But one never knows. “The spikes get me nervous,” Langlois said. “When will the next one happen? And how will it affect hotels?”
While Bierl said “preparation is key,” Patel augured that “history will repeat itself.”
He also said he is seeing a shift in development. Hawkeye Hotels owns and operates over $400 million in assets across the Midwest. “We are in a capital-intensive industry,” Patel said. “The industry is going more toward certain brands; pushing developers to only do certain brands. The others need to select different niches the bigger brands aren’t in.”
While development is key to the long-term health of the industry, how the industry is adapting to changing guest tastes, particularly of younger people, is also a priority.
“The brands have made strides to stay relevant,” Patel said. “Sometimes they come in a hair too late; when trends are already gone.”
Though much focus is being put on the younger crowd today, turning your back on the older set is not an option. “You can’t forget about baby boomers,” Langlois said. He added that, today, it’s “all about the experience, especially in boutiques.”
The seemingly ever-changing technology landscape was also in play. “It’s huge,” noted Langlois. “The CapEx expense is going to be a big ordeal. Who will put up the expense for technology conversion?”
Pacific West’s Bierl indicated that mobile bookings are still blossoming. “People are looking via mobile, but the conversion rate is still low. People will research on mobile then call or book on a PC.”
It’s still not an exact science. Not every product is right for everyone. Besides, Wyndham’s Singer said, “You can’t make generalizations about millennials.”
Picture: Hawkeye Hotels’ Ravi Patel touched on how hotel brands are trying to stay abreast and in front of changing guest preferences.