Four Blended Traveler Expectations & How Tech Can Help You Meet Them
As professionals continue navigating a post-pandemic work environment, there is a continuous rise in blended travel models such as remote work, "bleisure" travel and professional nomads. Last year, the blended travel market was valued at $497.5 Billion. As this trend continues, hotels will need to adapt their strategy to cater to these travelers and support new systems with user-friendly technology.
Below are four expectations of blended travel guests that lodging concepts should be paying attention to:
Increased Focus on Livability of the Space
Spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, the lines between working and living arrangements have blurred. As the global workplace environment continues to evolve, extended-stay lodging providers have the unique opportunity to appeal to the needs of professionals by offering both in-unit and community amenities that are conducive to a productive work environment, such as conveniently placed electrical outlets, strong internet connections and aesthetically pleasing backgrounds.
Livability extends further than just the appearance of the temporary work environment – technology and guest service updates will also aid in upping the livability value to “bleisure” travelers. Adding centrally managed cloud applications will aid in not only raising the bar on cybersecurity, leveraging enterprise class security delivered exactly where it is needed the most, but it also provides a number of other benefits. These benefits allow for easier staff (and guest) deployment, training and ease of access capabilities along with reduced management overhead while minimizing potential on-premises issues when it comes to telephone, Internet, TV, and any other prioritized guest service deliverables.
Another way to improve livability is to make changes to room access technology to increase the safety of guests’ personal belongings. Employing a door system using radio frequency identification (RFID) and Bluetooth room access reduces the cost of the traditional keycard and allows for future app integration which makes for a smooth mobile check in. This upgrade means adopting greater security over traditional access methods and provides intelligent occupancy management and contact tracing. Guests can stay with peace of mind that their families and possessions are safe and secure—and for some of those living the blended travel lifestyle, that could mean all or most of their possessions.
Allowance for Stay Flexibility
Traditional accommodations are not typically what blended travel guests are looking for— they’re looking to stay somewhere that gives flexibility of the duration of stay without the commitment of a lease. Adapting your offerings to provide guests the ability to live life on their terms with no long-term commitments is one way to better appeal to this not-so-new blended travel audience.
One rising trend that hospitality concepts can adopt is embracing technology for guest flexibility through the development of an instant booking platform for both short term and longer-term stays. Individuals looking to schedule stays for three to six months in unfurnished suites can book instantly online, like booking a hotel. This allows work-from-anywhere professionals, relocations, or those with short-term work assignments to bring their belongings and make their new suite a home.
Adaptation of Network Accessibility for Changing Consumer Profiles
The consumer profile of blended travel extends anywhere from guests on ‘workcations’ and ‘bleisure’ working from anywhere to digital nomads and influencers. Employees are no longer tied to one location or desk—and as they move around, they need accessibility to support their work from wherever they are. For those looking to extend their stay, increased network and Wi-Fi capacity across the board is required.
Making the switch toward a personal area network in each guestroom will allow for maximized flexibility and roaming capabilities on the hotel property. With this configuration, guests can enjoy a wireless experience, similar to their at-home connection. An enhanced security portal provides guests peace-of-mind with customizable passwords; no more insecure combination passwords using room numbers and last names.
A typical hospitality configuration delivers Wi-Fi with isolated endpoints, meaning casting from a phone to the TV would be an impossibility, but by making guests their own private secure network across a single Wi-Fi deployment, this design tolerates enhanced flexibility and allows for casting, IoT devices (including Alexa or Google Home) for any/all guest devices. This adapted offering delivers a wireless experience as close to a “home network” as possible, which is important considering the extended length of stay for blended travel guests.
Design that Reflects an Enhanced Sense of Community
Traveling can be both a thrilling and stressful journey: leaving the comforts of home behind for something new and unexpected. However, extended-stay accommodations have the unique opportunity to provide a balance of home and hotel by incorporating elements of familiarity. The inclusion of common spaces within the building that serves as an extension of guests’ living spaces allows for more familiarity and homeliness that basic or stagnant hotel common area designs are lacking.
As the economic outlook of the country changes and consumers seek out more cost-effective ways to live and work, the trend of bleisure travel will only continue to rise. Hospitality concepts that accommodate accordingly through an improved livability of their space, flexibility of stay offerings, accessible technology and community-centric design will be better prepared and set themselves apart in the space for this section of travelers.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mimi Oliver, Chief Executive Officer of WaterWalk, joined the WaterWalk team in 2016 shortly after the inception of the brand. She is considered a true ground up WaterWalk expert and has driven the strategic direction of the company over the past few years. Her grandfather and founder of WaterWalk, Jack DeBoer, was a key mentor to her during her initial years at the company. Prior to WaterWalk, Oliver was recruited to Deutsche Bank and worked on teams in the New York, London, and Dusseldorf offices. She worked for the Commercial Real Estate Credit Team, where she discovered her passion for hospitality and commercial real estate development. She also spent a short amount of time working in the Finance department at Woodspring, the family’s brand prior to WaterWalk. Oliver graduated with honors from Dartmouth College with a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics. She is an active member of the YPO Kansas, St. Louis and Aspen chapters and serves on the leadership board of a non-profit she founded, Action in Africa.