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Trends in luxury hospitality: high-tech / high-touch

This year, millennials will overtake baby boomers in the business traveler population, and they will continue to grow in importance. This is especially true in Asia, where 60% of all the world’s millennials live (1/3 of those in China or India).

An important subset of this group are the so-called HENRYs (high earners, not rich yet): these younger, digitally powered customers will bring new expectations for the luxury experience. HENRYs value experience over material ownership; they seek out off-the-beaten-track, unique cultural experience, opportunities to interact with locals, and organic, locally-sourced regional dishes over more traditional luxury fare. 

The new customer experience (CX): what millennials want

Airline lounges can meet the requirements of this growing “experience economy,” by focusing on two key demands – technology and personalization. Looking to the future, it’s time to ask: Are we prepared for these high tech / high touch requirements? To drive innovation in your airline lounge, focus your changes on:

  • moving everyday transactions into seamless, tech-enabled, self-service functions 
  • Increasing the human touches on hyper-personalized, engaging interactions.  Essentially, make someone smile by showing you care about THEM. 

High-tech innovation: learning from luxury hotels 

Lounge operators should always look beyond airports and lounges to the wider luxury hospitality market for inspiration to stay fresh and engage the next generation of travelers.

Mobile devices have changed the landscape of CX in the hotel industry, coming into everyday use not just for reservations, keyless access and payment, but also to interact with smart rooms and IoT to allow personalization of room features and environmental condition on arrival. 

AI and VR lead the way in creating seamless CX. Here are a few examples:

  • Chatbots and robots for check-in, room service and concierge dramatically reduce the need for human assistance in answering routine questions and resolving common problems. 
  • Delta and Finnair have completed successful trials of biometric identification at check-in, and Delta made a splash with its announcement of an AI that uses machine learning to improve services during major weather delays. 
  • Virtual reality is making an impact from hotel room previews to virtual tours of cities and attractions; Gatwick airport is making use of the technology to improve wayfinding. Qantas shows travelers the lounges that await them at their destination, and Virgin Atlantic previews its Upper Class service through an Immersive Digital Adventure. Its Digital 360 Drinks Experience allows guests to visit iconic bars from around the world while sipping their signature cocktails. 

High-touch innovation: how to create an “experience”

Reports show that 70 percent of millennials think that trips where you have new experiences are more important than those where you see “all the sights.” Christine Gray, Editor-in-Chef at Luxury Travel Magazine, writes:

“I think authenticity is becoming a rare commodity around the world, so having authentic experiences is the essence of luxury travel. It’s important to support local communities and sustainable tourism.”

43% percent of business travelers regularly share reviews of their experiences online, and millennials in particular covet exclusive experiences they can post about on social media

These customers increasingly seek exclusive access to limited time offers (LTOs) in food and beverage, retail, and events from art exhibits to celebrity meet-and-greets. The LTO creates desirability through limited availability and elevated concepts, and LTOs with visual appeal have great potential to go viral. For example, a special exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago inspired whimsical hotel packages, restaurant menus and custom cocktails reflective of Andy Warhol’s distinctive aesthetic. Successful LTOs in food and beverage feature trending flavors, seasonal and local organic ingredients, and house-made menu items.

Continual innovation

Concepts in luxury hospitality are continually evolving, be it in subtle or dramatic ways.  The days of a hotel establishing a look and feel, and sticking with it for 10-15 years until the next big refurbishment, are over.

Learn more about how Sodexo can help you meet modern travelers’ needs for your airline lounge.

February 13, 2020

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Interested in how we can help you build traveler loyalty?

Lynn Knight, Global Head of Business Development Airline Lounges


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