Behind every hotel CEO contemplating millennials, mobile, and mergers and acquisition activity is undoubtedly a leader of a hospitality advising company coaching CEOs on how to best tackle these opportunities in the workplace and in the guest room.

Here are some of the new, key thoughts from four hospitality executives who addressed hotel industry issues during a June 2 press conference at the NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference in New York City.

Elie Maalouf, CEO of IHG Americas:

On balancing digital and physical experiences: “Digital technology innovations across all dimensions of a stay is very important to us and to our guests. But let’s not forget that you still have to worry about the stay. You still have to win on the physical experience so it’s important to continue to invest in the integral technology experience and the physical experience.”

On the rise of cities: “Cities are of course a big focus for us and it’s easy to understand why. About 250 families move to a large city around the world every 15 minutes so the growth in cities is increasing every day.”

On classifying travelers: “We don’t make the distinction of whether someone’s a domestic traveler or an international traveler. We call all of our guests ‘global travelers.’ Someone could mostly travel domestically but then take one or two international business trips a year so we don’t want to get incorrectly classify people.”

Bill Ferguson, chairman and CEO of Ferguson Partners Ltd:

On millennials: “In my lifetime I think millennials are the most misunderstood group of people. There’s this view out there that millennials aren’t as hard-working as older generations. We explain to our clients that they are hard-working but that they need something more in response. They ask a lot more questions and are very interested in the business and they want to know more holistically what’s going on in the business.”

“One way to retain millennials is with mentorship by sharing life experiences. I think they want to understand more broadly whether it’s cross-functional or cross-geographical and putting those ideas together at an earlier age and really allowing them to understand the business. Also talking through the cycles with them since this is a very cyclical business.”

“This is a group that wants to make a contribution and wants to make a difference but you have to engage with them. You can’t just tell them to go into their offices and work hard and come back in two years, that’s just not the case with them. I would say that millennials gravitate more towards the upscale brands, that’s the reality of what they’re experiencing and what they like.”

Cyril Ranque, president of Expedia Lodging Partner Services:

On mobile: “I read recently that of the 145 million people who traveled in the U.S. last year 90% searched for travel on a mobile or tablet device at some point and about 25% of Expedia transactions are now mobile transactions. From our perspective it’s much bigger in the U.S. than China as about 50% of our Chinese customers access us on a mobile device.”

“Thinking about the latest innovations, we think mobile connectivity with the customer needs to go from the search to the booking to the guest experience and we want to accompany them all the way to their stay. The undecided consumer has a great appetite for a new product.”

On guests’ instant review habits: “Obviously a lot of brands are thinking about this now and we are too when we launched our new product real time review. With this when the customer checks in and gets to his room he gets a notification asking how happy he is. He will get these several times during the stay and we are feeding that data back to the operating team at the hotel and they can address any problem as it happens and not a couple of months later.”

“The question for the industry is whether that type of seamless experience will be differentiated brand by brand and always be closed for everyone except program members or whether there will be some collaboration with all players to make the guest experience really good.”

On consolidation: “It’s time for consolidation when investments in supply and technology for our customers and top partners becomes so big that it’s kind of harder for the smaller guys to follow. We’re trying to remove friction with our top partners and I don’t think consolidation is a bad thing. Acquisitions will continue as part of our strategy and I wouldn’t say they’re done yet.”

David Kong, CEO of Best Western International:

On hotels investing in digital: “You can’t pick up a trade publication and see investments that hotel groups are making in the digital space. Sometimes I struggle to understand the dollars that are being spent and where they’re being spent. As hoteliers we own the guest experience and I agree with Cyril’s point that it’s no longer about discussing your stay two weeks later at a cocktail party. You do it instantly. And I’d also like to add that the millennial segment is not homogenous.”

Tags: execs, ihg, wyndham
Photo Credit: From left to right: Adam Weissenberg, Global Travel, Hospitality & Leisure at Deloitte & Touche LLP; David Berg, COO of Carlson; Bill Ferguson, chairman and CEO of Ferguson Partners Ltd; David Kong, president and CEO of Best Western International Inc.; Elie Maalouf, CEO of IHG Americas; Cyril Ranque, president of Expedia Lodging Partner Services. NYU School of Professional Studies