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Nothing Takes the Place of Face-To-Face

For years, the hotel industry has heard it would soon become obsolete (at least the meetings side of the industry), as business would increasingly be conducted through some form of videoconferencing. That’s never happened and never will. While virtual meetings software is great for reviewing plans and PowerPoints, it rarely works in a sales situation and never takes the place of face-to-face meetings.

That not-so-original revelation came to me last week at the 4th annual Lifestyle/Boutique Hotel Development Conference, sponsored by Lodging Hospitality and held at the Fontainebleau in Miami. The vast majority of the 300-plus attendees walked away from the event with something they didn’t have beforehand. It may have been a contact to help them finance a new boutique hotel; it could have been a tip on how to better operate their existing lifestyle property; it might have been a better understanding of the promise and limitations of social media marketing. It could have been a hundred other things.

While every industry conference has value that can’t be replicated in any other way, a specialized event like the LBHDC particularly resonates with attendees, as well as speakers and sponsors. It can be argued boutique hotels have been around for a long time (after all, before the advent of hotel chains, weren’t all hotels boutiques?); however, in the last 10 years or so this segment has blossomed and has already reinvented itself a couple of times. Keeping up with these changes and anticipating more to come is best done in community, and conferences are a perfect venue to do so.

You only needed to listen to some of the panelists at last week’s event to realize more changes are afoot in the boutique and lifestyle segment. In response to a question by moderator Jeff Higley of HotelNewsNow, panelists on the conference’s opening session gave their thoughts on where the boutique segment will be in five years. My guess is their predictions will come true well before a half a decade.

Jay Coldren, vice president of lifestyle brands for Marriott International, sees a “seismic generational shift toward lifestyle experiences.” As the Baby Boomer generation wanes, Gen Xers are becoming the primary consumers of travel and other discretionary goods and services. The Xers, explained Coldren, are a significantly smaller group than Boomers, but within five years Gen Y, which is double the size of the Boomers, will take over consumer buying power.

“This generation looks for lifestyle travel experiences, sensory travel experiences and discovery travel experiences,” he said. “As a result, we’ll see a significant shift in hotel preferences.”

Jason Pomeranc, co-chairman of Commune Hotels, added another wrinkle, saying Boomers are “shifting their tastes and are skewing toward a more independent, youth-oriented culture. They don’t want to stay in what they perceive to be their parent’s hotels.”

As these remarks demonstrate, change happens quickly and often, and one of the best ways to keep on top of those shifts in the hotel market, or any business, is by meeting face to face, and events like LBHDC are great options.

We at Lodging Hospitality thank the attendees, speakers, sponsors and our partners who helped make this LBHDC the best one ever. See you next year.

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