Q&A with Diego Lowenstein, CEO of Lionstone Development
What region do you expect to see a strong increase in business and leisure travelers this summer? Why?
South Florida, in general, has evolved in a proactive way in the past decade, and will continue to do so this summer and beyond. It used to be almost solely dependent on traffic from the Northeast and Latin America, but in the past decade has opened to the world, with significant penetration of travelers from Europe and Asia now sprinkling in as well. We are also able to segment our business and diversify other channels in a more significant way than a few decades ago. This bodes well for tourism. Aside from South Florida’s great weather, the region has evolved into a culinary, cultural and arts destination, and expanded certain industry sectors, like technology, financial services, and startups, paving the way for not only leisure guests, but business travelers, too. Regions of the Caribbean that were not affected by last year’s hurricanes will see significant growth throughout this year as many hotels in these hard hit areas remain closed for full and extensive renovations.
How do millennials and baby boomer travelers differ when it comes to summer travel? What are their motivations?
When it comes to summer travel for baby boomers, a new study by AARP found that this demographics’ main travel motivation is to relax and rejuvenate followed by simply getting away from their normal everyday life. They also tend to travel for multi-generational family trips and bucket-list trips.
On the other hand, millennials are looking for unique and customized experiences for their summer travels. They are looking to experience the road less traveled, and to get a taste of the culture, rather than simply seeing the most popular tourist spot. That same AARP study found that millennials are more likely than baby boomers to travel for adventure, the chance to try something new and truly unique, and to improve their health and wellness. I can attest to this as my children are millennial young adults and gravitate to this type of travel, which also aligns well with my and my wife’s objectives in travel – we are not into the relaxation mode vacation just yet!
How can hotels cater towards millennials and baby boomers to enhance their summer vacation experience, and meet their needs/expectations?
Both baby boomers and millennials are using technology more during their travels. To create an unforgettable and customized summer stay, it’s important for hotels to stay ahead of new trends in technology, and how guests want to use them. Hotels can create an opportunity for guests to have full control of their experience through app-based technology which lets them check-in, change the room temperature, order room service and more while freeing up client-facing personnel to spend more time providing top-of-class service to guests. More and more hotels are doing this. For example, with our current renovation of the Ritz Carlton South Beach, we are looking to more fully develop guest experiences through added technology offerings, newly designed spaces in the public areas and amenities in the pool and beach areas. Summer is about sun, fun and water, and the offerings of a resort product have to have an aesthetic that is pleasing and that also stimulates all senses.
A strong driver for millennial travel, in particular, is the opportunity to experience something new and authentic. This often means excursions or activities beyond hotel grounds, particularly in urban areas such as Miami or Chicago. This can be leveraged by a hotel when it trains its team to be conscious and proactive in providing these options to guests. The concierge and other staff should be able to offer guests a selection of restaurants, popular attractions and activities with local flair to appeal to this generation. By demonstrating customized attention and knowledge of nearby attractions and experiences, the hotel can enhance the guest’s experience, thus increasing the chance for positive recommendations and return visits.
What ways can hotels appeal to locals to give them a summer staycation experience?
To create an unforgettable staycation experience this summer, hotels must have something special that differentiates them from other nearby competitors which is especially challenging in urban locations where there are plenty of options. One way to accomplish this is by breaking away from a cookie-cutter experience and delivering exceptional food and beverage offerings, a unique onsite spa experience or in the case of resorts, beach club access. Certain amenities can’t be overlooked for locals like proper changing facilities and showers.
In addition to unique dining options, a fantastic way for hotels to engage with locals and provide a customized experience is through exceptional spas. For example, the Exhale Spa at the Ritz-Carlton Bal Harbour appeals to locals looking to get away from their day-to-day life, and enjoy a relaxing, vacation-like experience through innovative spa treatments. More spas are recognizing the importance of appealing to groups in their local area, leading to new options such as preparing a group for a night out on the town, and giving them a taste of vacation right in their backyard. Hotel spas that do this right create a memorable experience that keeps local guests coming back for regular services throughout the year.