Stand out from crowd - red appleThe chasm of differences between big box and boutique hotels has recently found a very comfortable place in the spotlight. Travellers of all ages are not afraid to say they are craving a new kind of vacation – one that’s unexpected and original.

Historically, hotels have had to cater to traditional consumer expectations- cleanly pressed sheets, nice smelling soaps, reliable WiFi and other basic necessities. However, it is now becoming quite apparent that consumers expect more. Travellers are looking for unpredictable design and style within the décor of the hotel, unique experiences, and above all else exceptional customer service. So how is a hotel that has run the exact same way for 40 years expected to compete with these new and increasing standards? To find the answer we must first determine who is demanding a new type of travel.

As they grow older, the amount of travel booked by millennials increases. According to the WYSE Travel Confederation, young travellers now represent more than 20 percent of international tourism. MMYG Global says that one in four millennials planned more overnight leisure trips in 2014 than in 2013 and, when analyzed, youth spending “vastly outstripped” that of other international travelers (WYSE). Buy why the sudden surge in youth travel?

Millennials have been brought up in the age of social media – where sharing their every experience is not only accepted, it’s expected. Experiences turn into competitions; meaning millennials are looking for the best possible vacation to share with their followers and fans. They are in search of photo-worthy destinations- whether it be a hotel’s swanky interior design, the turquoise waters (with no filter needed) at a nearby beach, or adventurous activities to boast their inner bravery – anything Instagram worthy. Australia’s1888 hotel has targeted this habit, going as far as implementing a “selfie space” in the lobby, in-room media hubs, and letting guests with 30,000+ Instagram followers stay for free.

By nature, boutique hotels have the luxury of being able to change their property to cater to these evolving needs more rapidly than big box hotels. Which brings us back to our original question of how big box hotels are able to compete.

It’s no surprise that big box hotels don’t have the capability of being able to alter the physical appearance or offerings of their property on a whim. So what’s a chain to do?

1. Personalise the experience

Partner with local clubs and organizations to offer a myriad of experiences for guests to choose from when they arrive. If you’re an outdoors-focused property, organized hikes, waterfall tours and ropes courses are among the favourites of guests. If you’re in the city, matinees, city tours, and restaurant suggestions can always win over the curious and excited traveler.

2. Personalise the customer service

Now more than ever we live in a world of immediate gratification. Guests expect the best and anything less than that is unacceptable. Make sure your hotel staff knows the guests coming to stay at your hotel, even if they have to use the front desk software as the “cheat sheet” to remember. Address them cordially by name, offer them a glass of fresh pressed local juice upon arrival, and ensure all staff is trained to meet all requests. Passing a guest off to a coworker looks unprepared and impersonal.

3. Personalise the property

Conscious businesses are all the rage these days. A recent survey conducted by that compared travel habits from 2014 to those of 2015 said that travelers are three times more likely to book ‘green’ accommodations, and 50% more likely to book luxury. Tout your hotels’ environmental awareness by sourcing high quality sustainable products when possible. Provide historic facts throughout the rooms when applicable. If you’re a chocolates-on-the-pillow kind of property, make it locally sourced, and leave a little bit of information about the producer along with the chocolate.

While millennials are emerging as a growing sector of international travelers, there are still the traditional travelers to be aware of. No matter the size or classification of your hotel, consumers of all ages care about three things: safety, cleanliness and customer service. Whenever possible, reinforce your hotel’s awareness of these three traits and you’ll find your property will continue to attract travelers of all ages for years to come.

About the author

Lori MainLori Main is the Training Manager at BookingSuite. A hospitality professional with decades of management experience, Lori has worked in General Management, Food & Beverage and Sales leadership roles with hotel groups such as WestCoast Hotels, Pan Pacific Hotels and North Pacific Management.