Summary of the interview at the 2017 Stay Boutique Leadership Conference with
Gabriel Haigazian, Vice President, Creative Travel Group
Stacy Small, Founder & CEO, Elite Travel International
Nicholas Kontis, Circle the Planet
At this year’s Stay Boutique conference we had some great experts in the travel industry joined together for a panel discussion on the current travel trends they are seeing throughout the world. The conversation began with their thoughts on technology and how hospitality businesses can keep on top of it. Stacy Small, founder, and CEO of Elite Travel International shared how helpful it has been to her clients that some hotels will now text with their guests to make communication easier. “Technology is here, it’s going to stay, and it’s going to be more impactful in the future.” agreed Gabriel Haigazian, Vice-president of Creative Travel Group.
To illustrate his point, he introduced the audience to a global wifi service called Skyroam that costs only $10 per day and allows travelers to stay connected and reachable all day. One thing that all the panelists agreed upon is that paying extra for internet in hotels has got to go! They also agreed that hotels need to have plenty of power outlets and USB plug-ins in the rooms to accommodate today’s technology. People are tired of crawling behind furniture to find an outlet to charge their devices. It’s all part of making people feel like they are at home even when they are away.
When asked how hotel properties can maintain relevance while still encouraging guests to go off property, Nick Kontis, of Circle the Planet, reminded us that, “Experiential travel is here to stay.” Arranging for guests to go on a truffle hunt or lending a guest a Bentley to sightsee around the area are examples of how some hotels are offering location-specific experiences. Gabriels added, “Find something that is unique that people might not find out about on their own. Immersing themselves in with local families is something people love to do.”
“First impressions are lasting ones,” Gabriel told the audience when asked to share a favorite VIP experience. “I remember a hotel in LA, at the check-in counter, were flowers that you could pick and put into your room.” Stacy agreed that it’s the things that don’t cost that much that often stand out the most. She shared an account of a hotel in Palm Springs that had looked up her profile on Facebook and used a picture of her three dogs to personalize her hotel key card. That experience was over five years ago but has still stuck with her as a great memory of her stay.
Gabriel, Nick, and Stacy, in unison, impressed upon the Stay Boutique audience how important it is for hotels to empower their employees to be helpful and invested in the care of their guests. “Remove can’t, no, and I don’t know from their vocabulary.” Gabriel pleaded. When staff goes above and beyond for a guest it doesn’t go unnoticed. In today’s world of social media at your fingertips, if one client has a bad experience, a thousand people will hear about it. Like Nick said, “Good news travels. Bad news goes viral.”