Technology reliance drives HSMAI conference

A growing reliance on digital technology, consumers who
“want it all and want it now,” and the future of the resort industry fueled the
agenda of the 7th Annual Resort Management Conference, just held at The Broadmoor in
Colorado Springs, CO.

With a record attendance of 240 professionals from the resort industry at-large, the
two-day conference of education, debates and lively discussions was presented by the
Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI) and the University
of Denver’s School of Hotel, Restaurant & Tourism Management.

“The information presented was the perfect balance of ideas and education, with an
overall focus on the most critical issues and ideas facing the resort industry: new
technologies, future trends, an evolving marketplace, and the power of the
customer,” states Robert A. Gilbert, CHME, CHA, president and CEO of HSMAI.

Following are highlights of the keynote addresses and panel discussions.

“We are standing at the threshold of a global era,” said Michael Tchong, one of the
most influential trendsetters in America and founder of Ubercool, in his keynote
address on “Reaching Your Market: Trends of the Future.”

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“We are in the midst of social transformation, led by our growing reliance on
digital technology,” stated Tchong. “Instant gratification is now not fast enough,
and time is now more valuable than money. A huge new social dialogue is evolving and
marketing is going to become entertainment driven - it’s the only way to break
through the clutter.”

It is a digital lifestyle, said Tchong, where digital amenities are going to be key.
“Internet phones will double the size of Internet use and texting is a new layer in
our communication toolbox. The laptop culture is expanding and inserting itself into
real-life relationships and mobile phone lifestyle stores are opening.”

Discussing how some of the biggest Ubertrends - society’s “supertrends” - fuel
sub-trends and how these affect the travel market, he noted:

á Time compression: the speed of life.

á Unwired: the thumb generation.

á Generation xtasy: I want it all and I want it now.

á Control freaks: controlling their media and wanting it instantly.

á TMI (too much information) is growing like wildfire and life has become a blur.

Tchong noted that, “The singles trend, a growing market, will have a huge impact on
the travel industry, and that double occupancy is a thing of the past.” And, in
keeping with the “fountain of youth” trend, med spas are a growing trend and we will
see this at more resorts.

“To break through, one needs a new dialogue.” Examples are lifestyle-friendly rooms
at Marriott’s Springhill Suites, Hyatt’s blackberry balm hand massage, a Star Wars
room at the Ramada Phuket, WiFi in every seat on Virgin Atlantic, and
time-compression hotels, where rooms are available in four-hour blocks.

In his keynote address on “Travel Trends in Business and Leisure Travel,” Peter
Yesawich, president and CEO of Yesawich, Pepperdine, Brown & Russell, stated that
the business of travel is listing toward leisure, and that in the resort business,
we are competing for a share of the consumers’ clock. “Consumers are saying: you
want to do business with me, you’ll do business on my terms.” He also noted that as
prices become more transparent, brand clarity becomes more important, and the
incidence of utilization of the Internet to plan travel is no longer growing.

Yesawich presented highlights from YPB&R’s National Travel Monitor:

á Converging forces are: the revolution of electronic research; changing social
values (travel with family growing); new consumerism; demography - baby boomer aging
and transfer of wealth; owning the experience.

á Consumers will use technology differently. More people are checking prices online
before booking offline (51%). There is growing suspicion about search, and 4 out of
10 travelers go online to read visitor critiques/reviews; 31% read journalist
reviews.

á 8 out of 10 leisure travelers are “togethering:” they’ve formed ad-hoc groups to
take vacations; interest in cruising is up from 46% to 60% from 2005-2006;
alternative accommodations: 14% said in 2006 they wanted to own timeshare, up from
11% in 2005; 76% want to visit a place they’ve never been to; cocooning is out.

á Personalization is the new service strategy. People want to customize what they
buy, and 38% of users are willing to pay 20% more for customized products and
services.

á The resort business has avoided points programs, but consumers will demand it.

In an insightful general session on “Resort Operating Research and Statistics,” Mark
Lomanno, president, Smith Travel Research noted: “Hotels and resorts are getting a
smaller share of the pie, but it’s being camouflaged because the pie is getting
bigger. There are more choices now then there used to be when traveling and needing
overnight accommodations.”

Presenting an overview from Smith Travel Research’s latest findings on operating
statistics for resorts, Lomanno noted that the psychology of the marketplace is
great. But, he questioned how long the prosperity is going to last, citing that the
last 12 months mark the first time since 2002-2003 that occupancies are declining on
an annualized basis. Demand numbers have slowed somewhat, but ADR is still very
strong; 2004-2006 are the highest RevPar numbers ever - it will be hard to keep it
that strong.
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