During the 2023 Hotel Technology Forum, Daniel Kornick, CIO, Loews Hotels moderated a fascinating panel discussion among seven university students:
- Boran Kim, University of Nevada Las Vegas
- Ilayda Zeynep Niyet, University of South Florida
- Halyna Horpynich, University of South Florida
- Dallas Jarrett, West Virginia University
- Chloe Johnson, West Virginia University
- Noah Stalnaker, West Virginia University
- Maggie McCarthy, West Virginia University
Kornick asked the students to share their thoughts on topics such as: How should hotels market to your generation? How do you feel about automation and self-service? What role should robots play in hotels? How important is a brand’s loyalty program in your decision to stay at their properties?
The chatty group of university students had quite a bit to say on these topics! Here are a few key takeaways.
Marketing that Resonates
Gen Z has $140B worth of purchasing power, so it’s important for hoteliers to know what marketing tactics will draw them in. When asked what they look for, panelists overwhelmingly responded that they care about fun, unique and new experiences. So, when marketing to them, be sure to highlight what’s happening in the city where your hotel is located, create unique experiences that they can participate in while on property, and partner with local museums, restaurants or artists to create a special experience that only hotel guests can book and participate in.
Self-Service or High Touch?
Kornick also asked panelists how they view self-service and automation technologies. Panelists responded that like other generations, they want the ability to opt in or out of automated technology.
“Gen Z isn’t automatically tech-savvy just because we’re young. In fact, in many rural areas, Gen Z doesn’t have the same affinity for technology that metropolitan residents might. If a hotel were to remove the human element entirely, this could lead to shame and anger among this demographic which could easily lead to poor reviews.”
Robots, Alexa Get a Lukewarm Response
When asked if they’re all in on robots in hotels, panelists were only interested in seeing robots have a back-of-house role.
“I want to see a human at the front desk greet me with a genuine smile not a robot,” one panelist said. “Robots are very limiting because they can’t go beyond the codes they’re programmed with. However, I don’t mind if they’re cleaning a room or delivering a room service order.”
“I have a low tolerance for technology, and robots screw up a lot. That’s frustrating and not something I want to experience during my hotel stay,” said another panelist.
On a similar note, when asked if every hotel room should have an Alexa – the Gen Z panel was highly divided.
“Alexa is so annoying! It’s always talking at the wrong time and interrupting conversations.”
“I love Alexa! I have them everywhere – even in my car. The fact that Alexa is always listening doesn’t bother our generation. We’ve grown up with everything listening to us and using our data. So, it’s not scary to us, it’s just normal.”
“Our generation is more interested in voice technologies because it’s more convenient than having to constantly pick up a phone.”
Free Hotel Nights Don’t Excite Them
Kornick also asked panelists what they’re looking for in a loyalty program. Free hotel nights were notably absent from panelist responses.
“We want rewards that are meaningful to me as a consumer. That means the brand needs to get to know me. Instead of a hotel night, give me a free ticket to a local experience while I’m staying on property or a discount at a local restaurant that serves my favorite food.”
These were just a few of the insights that came out of this super insightful panel. To hear the session in full, check out the video below!