How do you know whether you’re a leisure guest or a business traveller? It may seem like the company you keep might give it away, but according to Marriott CEO Tony Capuano – and just about all industry commentators – soon we’re going to look an awful lot like both and if nothing else, it’s great news for Easyjet’s startling luggage charges, because that one pair of shoes isn’t going to pass muster for the many purposes of your trip.
Chatting at the Bank of America Gaming and Lodging conference, Tony said that on his recent trip to Europe for IHIF, he’d hit both the current hip trends: extending his stay and blending it. But Tony doesn’t have to worry about his shoe allowance; one suspects he has encrusted titanium status.
In days of yore, he said that IHIF would be a couple of days’ travel. Now, however: “This time I thought, if I’m making the trip across, if I’m getting my vaccine status notification in place, I’m going to extend that trip”.
So is blending and extending a trend of the future, or just something we’re doing while travel is a faff? Tony acknowledged that it was all more complicated for hotel staff, adding: “It just might be a little more difficult for you and I to sit in the lobby of one of our hotels and know with absolute certainty every guest that walks by. Are they a business traveller, are they a leisure traveller, are they a group meeting attendee, or more likely some blend of some or all of those trip purposes?”
It’s a nightmare out there and, as we have noted before, one imagines easily resolvable through a chat with the multifaceted guest in question.
You might think; does is really matter? We’re all humans, man. Well, no. And away from the days stayed and rates paid, it seems that the corporate guest is getting short shrift. Tony explained the changes that Marriott had been making since it realised it had to fish in the leisure pool.
The hotels were being “a bit more creative on the offerings that we have in our food and beverage outlets, in our room service menus, to try and tailor a little more”. One hotel, he said, “had gone out and acquired a bunch of bicycles to make available to leisure travellers that wanted to explore that city”.
Corporate travellers don’t want interesting food? They pay higher rates, after all. And maybe they’d rather cycle to their meeting? Or at least have the option?
It was certainly all having an impact on Tony, who commented: “I’ve been on the road a ton over the last month, 45 days”. That’s one hell of a month and his owners are lucky to have him. Maybe less blending and extending might keep it more under control.
For all the bicycles and nicer food, Tony was eager to get back to regular service, although the crystal ball was looking opaque on that one. The good news was that he felt Marriott had a brand for every occasion, so no need to get into any of that Starwood business again. Maybe something to fill in some regional gaps – he spoke highly of the AC deal – but nothing too stressful. As Tony said, you don’t need to adapt the property itself when you have a shift towards leisure. Just the “creativity and the adaptability” of the team. And their ability to access bicycles.
So for all Tony’s blending and extending, it appears that he doesn’t feel a permanent change is in the air. If he did, maybe he’d be thinking about more extended stay, more adapting hotels to family and group use to take the heat out of Airbnb, more ways to make business travel more relaxing and delicious.
But what do we know about the future? It’ll probably be just like the past.