Cracking the code on the international traveler sure ain’t easy. Not only are there myriad cultures involved, but there’s no definitive through line simplifying understanding as to what the typical global customer wants other than a clean, comfortable room. Which as we already know is the baseline for any hotel in existence.
So as the global middle class traveler evolves, decoding desires must be broken down by cultural and generational boundaries. No shortcuts, no easy definitions here. Different cultures respond to the desire to stay at a hotel in different types of ways. That means hoteliers must look to inherently understand the culture of the country in which the hotel is located, as well as the cultures and desires of the hotel’s intended audience.
“Travelers keep changing and we all have to expect different and evolving demands,” said Tarek Hegazy, Principal and Creative Director of the forward thinking hospitality design firm Living Design, during a panel discussion at BITAC® Global.
BITAC® of course is the lodging industry leading one-on-one meetings and relationship building event in the United States. And now we’ve taken the event overseas to the amazing city of Monte Carlo, Monaco, to bring together the crème de la crème of the international lodging industry. It’s the ultimate group of global insiders and decision makers representing 21 different countries all gathered in one place. And they all came together for the most exciting BITAC® to date to problem solve, network, sign deals and swap their thoughts they believe will move forward the quality of experiences for hotel guests while adding profits to the bottom line.
“It is critical to know the flavor of the country and its culture and traditions,” said Ghassan Sader, CEO Sader Hospitality, a global hotel management firm.
For example, Sader said that in Russia, for example, vodka is such a cornerstone of its citizen’s lifestyle it is more important than water at the dinner table.
But the hotel experience must also successfully meld a local design aesthetic while servicing ethnic habits and traditions. Not just in regards to which country the hotel is located but to those the hotel is appealing to.
Hegazy said that by understanding the psychology of the customer, hoteliers can better please their guests while also making more money from them.
“In some regions mini bars and room service are used in very expensive ways,” said Hegazy noting the travel patterns of Arabic and Russian travelers. “We can see how guests are hitting the bottom line in a very dramatic way.”
He said the typical European business traveler will pay for a room and occasionally make a mini bar purchase, but when a Russian is in the room it will need to be filled daily. Russians also spend a great deal in the hotel’s F&B outlets, while Americans traveling overseas are completely the opposite. Americans want to go out all day and explore while dining in local eateries.
“Room rate is nothing compared to what [Russians] generate from F&B. We have to tap into these [cultural] demands and desires,” said Hegazy.
Meanwhile, Sader said learning cultural behaviors and its nuances is just the start. Hotel executives must constantly train employees to maximize guest loyalty by reemphasizing cultural differences.
“We look at the guest profile of a hotel and we train employees about the culture of the country and about the cultures of those visiting the property. We invest in human resources and train again and again to understand the cultures,” said Sader.
But understanding cultural differences also helps before a guest even steps foot in the hotel. That is, different culture choose hotels differently too said Benoit Eymard, Sales Manager with Market Metrix.
“While in the U.S. loyalty programs have a much higher influence as well as location and price, in Asia personal recommendation from a friend or colleague is more important,” said Eymard.
Sader agrees. “We specialize in boutique hotels and take business from chains because of the experience we can deliver. We find people will pay for experiences and forget about points.”
Technology too is being used differently, but in this case it is more generational then cultural. Young people around the world are more apt to use new technologies, our experts said, while older folks are more reticent. One thing is crystal clear though, people want hotels to enable them to bring their own technology.
It’s why companies like Electric Mirror are including Bluetooth functionality in their products. Now guests can watch their own content in additional to whatever television stations the hotel has to offer.
“People want ways to better use their technology in their guestroom. Bluetooth empowers that to happen,” said Chris Bruce of Electric Mirror.