Gen Z has arrived

Move over Millennials… the post millennials are here!

A recent article published by Bloomberg says this is the year that Generation Z becomes the biggest consumer cohort globally, displacing millennials as a top obsession for investors trying to figure out how to cash in on their unique shopping, eating and media habits. While the older lot have entered the workforce recently, the majority are still studying; but boy, do they have the spending power!

Investors have always been interested in young consumers and how their habits might open up new opportunities, but much of the long-held thinking on college kids and tweens—invest in beer stocks or TV networks or junk food—don’t hold up today. Gen Z, roughly between the ages of seven and 22, were born after the internet went mainstream and occupy a world where anything and everything can be delivered to their front door with a swipe of a finger and they grew up on platforms like Facebook and Instagram, where the influencer culture has taken hold.

For investors looking to factor Gen Z into their portfolios, here are some broad trends they may want to consider

1. They Can Be Influenced 

That means influencers—celebrities or everyday people with big social media followings who are paid to promote products—can have an outsized impact with this cohort where nearly six out of 10 self-diagnose spending too much time on their phones. 

2. They Have Different Vices

Younger consumers are wary of nasty hangovers and eager to wake up on the weekends feeling fresh so they can get outdoors and capture selfies. In the US and Canada for example, Marijuana is perceived healthier than alcohol. As more states legalize and stressed out, tired Americans look to cannabis compounds to alleviate insomnia and anxiety, or just unwind after a hard week of work.

3. They Don’t Have to Go to Stores

It’s worth noting that the oldest members of Gen Z are barely out of college by most measures, not exactly peak grocery-buying age. Still, they’ve grown up in a world where digital shopping is ubiquitous. Gen Z could be the first generation to truly embrace online grocery shopping.

4. They Choose Their Brand Loyalties Carefully

The rise of Gen Z could be bad news for traditional clothing retailers. Apparel brands looking to connect with younger shoppers have tried embracing edgier brand ambassadors, a departure from the days when consumer companies went to great pains to avoid politics. That’s because Gen Z actually wants corporations to take a stand on issues, with 40 percent saying they’d pay more for a product if they knew the company was promoting gender equality issues and 42 percent for racial justice initiatives.

5. They Eat (Somewhat) Differently

Gen Z consumers are more likely to skip meat than the older U.S. cohorts, the latest dining disruption with big implications for fast-food restaurants and packaged-food giants. 

As Gen Z eventually enters their prime earning years, some of these trends could start to become more concrete and visible.

Mobile Etiquettes at work

Mobile phones are ubiquitous and research shows that although most users think they have good mobile manners, many people report being irritated or annoyed by the handling of these mobiles. Good mobile phone etiquette is similar to common courtesy. Conversations and text exchanges have a tendency to distract people from what’s happening in front of them. Mobile users should be thoughtful, courteous and respect the people around them. Clearly there’s a lack of understanding of what is and isn’t acceptable in terms of mobile etiquette.

I’ve put together a pop quiz each one of us may want to answer and rate ourselves on our mobile etiquettes at our workplace:

  1. When engaged face-to-face with others, either in a meeting or a conversation, do you avoid giving them your complete and undivided attention by texting or taking calls?
  2. No one wants to be a captive audience to a third-party phone conversation or to sit in silence while their colleague texts with someone. Are you in the habit of leaving your ringtone on and placing your phone in front of you on the table?
  3. When you must use your phone in public, do you take the call where you are instead of respecting your colleague’s personal space and moving to at least three metres between you and others?
  4. Nothing is more irritating than to be cut off while calling someone. It is akin to being snubbed in a conversation. Rather than putting the phone on silent immediately (in case you have not done it earlier) and allowing the phone to continue ringing silently, do you disconnect a caller ringing you when you are busy?
  5. In case you send a standard auto reply message while receiving a call which you do not want to pick up, do you often forget to call back as promised?
  6. While in a meeting, are you in the habit of picking up a call and then informing the caller that you are in a meeting?
  7. Do you answer calls at work on your speaker phone?
  8. Do you keep your phone on vibrator mode during meetings and yet keep the phone on the table, so that the sound is as disturbing as a ring tone?
  9. Do you make calls from the bathroom, ignoring the fact that it is an extreme put-off?
  10. Do you use your phone as a watch? If so, then are you tempted to check your messages whilst checking the time?

A “Yes” answer to any of the above, as you may have guessed, is a no-no!

To how many of the above have you answered “NO” to? The ideal score is 100%… how much have you scored?

Voice Commands – The New Disruptor

Some studies have anticipated that voice will account for 50% of searches in under two years. What seems unquestionable is that users will be searching the net very differently before too long. Using voice commands to search for and book hotels is going to be disruptive in the hotel industry.

We have come to yet another turning point where hotels are forced to “adapt or die” in the fight to defend and boost direct bookings. Voice search poses a new threat for those who are lagging behind, but it also represents an opportunity for the more active businesses that are ready to act fast.

The new priority now involves connecting your direct channel to the end user right from their first point of contact with the Internet, which increasingly means the voice assistants available on phones (like the Google Assistant or Siri) and home devices like Google Home or Amazon’s Alexa. This unstoppable shift in user behaviour is likely to shake up the traditional online distribution model, starting with OTAs who will have to reinvent themselves, and also direct channels that need to find their new place.

Travellers have many more options…

Recent research conducted by Booking.com has revealed that Travellers today have more options than ever when it comes to booking their next getaway. Some of the most talked about and on the rise accommodation types around the world are:

Luxury Tent: Driven by the desire to make camping a more enjoyable experience for everyone, recent years have seen a significant increase in interest for glamorous camping – or glamping – with almost a third of global travellers stating that they prefer unique and quirky accommodations while on holidays, such as luxury tents.

Riad: Stemming from the Arabian term for garden, a riad is a type of traditional Moroccan house or palace built around an interior courtyard. These palatial stays offer beauty in their architectural and floral design.

Holiday Homes: While travelling is often about branching out and seeing new places, some of us still look for the comforts of home. For many travellers a holiday home offers the best of both worlds and the opportunity truly embrace their chosen destination.

Capsule Hotels: From one small stay to another, capsule hotels offer perfectly formed accommodation options for budget-conscious travellers. These extremely small “rooms” are often found in more casual accommodation offerings and are stacked high, side-by-side with steps for access and is also one of the fastest growing categories of accommodation.

Chalet: As picture perfect as a souvenir postcard, a chalet offers an alternative alpine accommodation. The wooden houses with overhanging eaves often form part of skiing resorts. In fact, cabins and chalets are the desired accommodation for almost a sixth of global travellers and are also amongst the fastest rising in relative popularity

Apartments: These self-contained units often provide the perfect balance of escape and home comforts for city living.

Tiny Houses: The tiny house movement sees people embracing a smaller and simpler existence. A property that’s less than 500 feet would technically constitute a tiny house and these small dwellings are popping up for travellers across the globe to provide a peek into the trendy and eco-conscious way of living that’s simple, uncomplicated and cosy.

3 Bad Habits Sabotaging Your Productivity

Peter Drucker was  consulting for a CEO of a major bank in US. For every meeting the CEO used to assign Peter a time slot of 90 minutes. A highly effective person, the CEO was delivering  consistent results for his bank year-on-year. During the one-and-half hour meeting the CEO refrained from taking any telephone calls and asked his secretary to handle the same which enabled him to pay undivided attention to Peter Drucker. When asked for the reason behind his time management strategy, the CEO replied, “Mr. Drucker, nothing significant happens if I do not devote a minimum of 90 minutes for an important task. However beyond 90 minutes, the grasping power of the mind reduces. Only two people are allowed to call me when I am in a meeting; the first is the President of USA and the second is my wife. The former will not call me and the latter dare not call me. I return all my calls once  the meeting is over.”

Discipline is the most important aspect for executives to attain optimum productivity. 

Here are three productivity-killing habits you should avoid:

Impulsive Web Browsing: Since most of us have access to the Internet at work, it’s easy to get side-tracked looking up the answer to a random question that just popped into your head. That’s why Quora user Suresh Rathinam recommends writing down these thoughts or questions on a notepad. This way, you can look up the information you want later, when you’re not trying to get work done.

Suresh, a sales executive was making an important offer for his client. While on google search he gets digressed into social media and loses focus. There are two types of tasks a. What is right for me & b. What is right in-front of me. Quite often the latter takes over the former. Please refer the figure. When you are on facebook, twitter or a joke on Whatsapp (right in front of me) the activity  is going to take away your time in making that important offer or handling an angry customer (right for me). The more there is overlap in these two areas (the common green portion called as focus area) the better it will be for you in working effectively.

Putting off important tasks till later in the day: People often start off their day by completing easy tasks to get themselves rolling and leave their difficult work for later. This is a bad idea and one that frequently leads to the important work not getting done at all. Let us go back to the case of Suresh who has to make a project report which needs a lot of technical understanding and calculations Such a task consumes a lot of intellectual and mental energy. If he does this in the morning when his energy levels are high, he will be able to do justice to his task. However he starts doing the mundane and routine things in the morning (like seeing all the cc/Bcc emails) due to which there is a mismatch between his energy levels and task complexity (refer figure below).

Checking emails throughout the day: Constant Internet access leads people to check email throughout the day. Sadly, each time one does this, you lose several minutes of work time. What’s more, the constant checking of email makes you dumber! Instead, strategy consultant Ron Friedman suggests quitting Outlook, closing email tabs and turning off your phone for 30-minute chunks of ‘deep-dive work’.

In his book, ‘The Four Hour Work Week’, Timothy Ferriss suggests to his readers that he looks at the mail only at 11 AM and then clears them all in a batch. We shall talk a great deal about that in my next update.

Rajan Parulekar – Director, Hospitality Paradigm

The importance of Hotel P.R.

In a market as competitive as the hospitality industry, an effective PR strategy is essential and it must be creative, agile and adaptable. For smaller hotels without the benefit of a corporate engine, PR tactics are vital both in terms of positioning and creating valuable partnerships to help the hotel expand and grow.
PR as an art is about telling a story or creating a memory, and if word of mouth was always a valuable currency, social media platforms have made it more so, with customers sharing and interacting with one another and directly with the hotel as individual brands and hotel groups. The degree to which customers trust influences decisions has never been higher and is clearly rising. So whilst every brand behaviour is on public display, customer interaction and building trust is more important than ever. 
To an extent, a brand’s story is now out of its control – the internet put paid to that – so we must recognize the customer as an author and fabulist exploring the possibilities of what they can give towards your overall PR effort, rather than take away from it and build outwards on that.
Hotels need to utilize as many platforms as possible and engage with as many of our customers as they can on a daily basis, developing conversations and points of view to enable a differentiated position in the market.
Hotels need to continually collaborate on ideas and innovations to keep their stories fresh and different, trying to stay a step ahead so they can be at the top end of any adoptive curve! You may not win the game by deploying PR, but you will definitely lose without it.

The two concurrent challenges for hotels

The principle challenge faced by the industry is the availability of motivated associates. Hotels cannot deliver excellent hotel stays if they are understaffed or are experiencing disruptive associate turnover. To overcome this, they must start treating employees as critically involved members of communities. They need to be trained and supported as individuals.

The second challenge is how to adopt technology in a thoughtful and practical manner. The past decade has seen an unprecedented acceleration in consumer technology, and this pace is unlikely to slow. To this end, hotel brands must be careful to adopt proven technologies that enhance the stay experience rather than provide a flash in the pan. Technology solutions are expensive when rolled out across hundreds of rooms, so their impact must be measurable, experiential and centred on driving guest preferences.

Vitual Reality for Hotels

Ever-increasing investments in virtual reality technologies have created an opportunity for consumer-focused brands—including hotels—to create distinctive virtual experiences for their guests.

Ecommerce giants like Amazon and Alibaba are already creating immersive VR shopping experiences for their customers, and hotels can (and should!) pay close attention to how consumers respond to the ability to experience brands and their products—and even complete transactions—in virtual environments.

But global brands have an additional challenge: how can they create immersive virtual experiences localized for any global language to serve their international audiences in authentic ways?

The same technologies that allow brands to provide in-language experiences for customers online may soon be capable of translating VR-based experiences, from product voiceovers to text and imagery displayed in virtual worlds. And content translated for central digital channels like websites may someday be easily repurposed for VR environments using the same technology.

China – The Emperor of outbound tourism

In only three decades, the Chinese have gone from easily stereotyped, rube, new tourists to conquerors of the industry. After hundreds of millions of visits and billions of dollars showered around the world, Chinese tourists now hail from the middle, rich and the very rich classes. Fewer travel in groups. Some still enrage destinations with their thoughtlessness. Others are welcomed for their enthusiasm and unique points of view. Above all, the Chinese are changing tourism around the world.

The travel numbers are astonishing. For the fourth year in a row, the Chinese are the world’s biggest group of international travellers, taking 142 million international trips in 2017. In the next decade, that number is projected to jump to 390 million, according to the China Outbound Tourism Research Institute.

And Chinese tourists are the biggest international spenders: $258 billion last year. All this has been accomplished at a time when only 7% of Chinese citizens hold passports. On the inbound side of the equation, China is expected to become the No. 1 travel destination sometime in the next five years, knocking out France and solidifying its dominance over tourism.

Chinese tourists can lift economies seemingly overnight. Chinese visitors to Europe improved the Continent’s trade balance by $4 billion.

Wealthy Chinese shoppers among the haute couture shops of Avenue Montaigne in Paris are a common sight. There is so much money involved in Chinese tourism that Anna Wong of the U.S. Federal Reserve recently warned that what looks like tourist spending overseas might actually be money laundering to conceal asset investments from the Chinese government.

It’s hard to wrap one’s arms around this ever-growing Chinese tourism juggernaut, but its emergence is clearly the most important milestone for the industry since globalization kicked off the modern explosion.

Pop-up Hotels

Permanence is passé. As any trend-conscious urbanite will attest, bars, restaurants and stores no longer require longevity in order to achieve success. In many cases, the shorter their shelf-life, the more popular they become.

Pop-up outlets have – with a certain irony – turned into one of the more durable trends of the past few years. Typically they give fledgling brands a showcase, maximise cheap rents and offer customers a sense of having bought into something unique. But can the world of short-lease fashion stores and week-long cocktail bars translate into the hotel sector?

Of course it can. The concept of pop-up hotels has become more prevalent in recent times. This is partly due to clever branding (temporary accommodation, after all, being far from a new phenomenon) and partly due to some highly creative advances on the part of providers. In an era when differentiation has become all-important, there’s value in being able to market an overnight stay that doesn’t fit the usual mould.

Pop-up ‘hotels’ tend to fall into one of a few categories. Many are essentially luxury tents, soft-shell spaces erected for a few days at a time in desirable locations and fitted with as many mod cons as can realistically be managed. The ever-more-popular notion of festival ‘glamping’ also fits here.

Other pop-up accommodations are more functional but no less viable, making use of existing structures that are currently empty. These might be anything from shipping containers to untenanted buildings.

The premise behind the idea is simple. When high-rise residential buildings are completed, it can take them up to two years to secure long-term tenants. WhyHotel, which recently secured almost US$4m in seed funding, makes the most of this period by selling as-yet-unfilled units in these new developments as hotel beds.

“We’re on site for guests 24/7,” explains President and Co-founder Bao Vuong. “We generally start by using around 50% of a building’s units, so early on we have by far the predominant number of people in the building. That percentage gradually falls as the months go by, and by about 20% we pull out.”

The pangs of Over-Tourism

The term “overtourism” is a new one and denotes the phenomenon of a popular destination or sight becoming overrun with tourists in an unsustainable way. We have seen it occur across Asia for much longer than the word has been commonplace, and the reality of it looms large as tourism continues to grow on a global scale. But whose fault is it?

Having acknowledged the issue earlier than most, a British travel company has come up with a list of offenders that includes the expected as well as the unexpected. Those belonging to the former camp include: airlines, which have transformed countless holiday hotspots into honeypots by offering affordable flights without a thought to the environmental costs involved; cruise lines, which have been accused of not only polluting the atmosphere but also giving little – financially or otherwise – to the ports at which they call; tourist boards, which for too long have been concerned with volume over value; and, of course, travellers themselves.

Among the more unusual suspects, however, is the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, nominated for having stated that, “Tourism is not the enemy. Growth is not the enemy, numbers are not the enemy. It’s how we manage growth that matters,” in response to anti-tourism protests in Barcelona, Spain, last year. Arguably, in the case of overtourism, both tourism and growth are the enemy, something that a leading global institution would do well to admit.

The media is also singled out, “mainly because they are resistant to publishing negative stories on their travel pages.” The best beach articles declaring the top 10 Instagram spots are hackneyed, repetitive and guilty of funnelling travellers to the same tiring destinations. Travel publishers, editors and writers could also be pulled up for not acknowledging the issue of overtourism until it becomes impossible to ignore.

Expected Changes in Biz Travel – 2018

The travel industry is being heavily disrupted – The rise of the sharing economy, changing demographic expectations, big data, political turmoil, AI, and currency shifts are just a few of the many forces that are putting pressure on the industry. Here are some changes we can expect in 2018.

Travel growth expected: According to the Global Business Travel Association report, expected business travel spending is to grow by 6.1 percent in 2018, up from the expected 5.1 percent in 2017 and this optimism in the business travel industry is driven by accelerating global trade, despite echoes of the recession, in recent memory. Growth in manufacturing and in emerging markets is also major factors. There will be an increase in travel costs, with airfares expected to rise by 3.5 percent and hotel prices 3.7 percent.

The sharing economy completes its transition to business mainstream: In 2014, small business owners chose taxis over Uber by a factor of 3 to 1, but by late 2017 that number has flipped, with small businesses choosing Uber over taxis by 3 to 1.

Airbnb may also be approaching saturation. In 2014, small business owners chose hotels over Airbnb by a factor of 16 to 1. By late 2017, that lead is down to 6 to 1.

Clearly, there is some resistance to embracing the sharing economy when it comes to sleeping arrangements, but even those going the hotel route are likely to see changes in a more casual direction. This is part of a larger trend towards the “consumerization” of business, which is likely to become increasingly important for business travel, especially for businesses hoping to hold top talent in recruitment, negotiation, and other travel-heavy positions.

Self-driven cars begin to play a real part: Uber surprised everybody in August of 2016 by launching a fleet of self-driving cars in Pittsburgh. While humans in the driver seat monitored the cars, it was much sooner than anybody thought a major company would be going commercial with self-driving cars, in any capacity.

The gravity of how quickly this shift could take place hit home in late November, with the announcement of a deal that would put 24,000 Volvo self-driving cars in Uber’s fleet. The cars will begin to hit the streets in 2019, but the fact that this major deal was brokered should have important implications for the direction of the business travel over the next year.

AI hits the industry in a big way: While the influence of self-driving cars is more likely to be on the horizon in 2018 than on the front doorstep, the broader world of AI will likely be making a big impact. According to an IBM report, more than a third of travel industry leaders will have four or more cognitive projects underway in 2018, and 41 percent plan to launch a cognitive project. Most of the investment is currently going towards chat bots to assist with customer service, whether in the form of messaging or call centre service.

IBM’s report found that the most cognitive-ready businesses in the industry considered personalization of the traveller experience one of the most important points to focus on. The report stated that an unnamed global airline was investing in a Siri-like AI that would communicate with travellers in natural language to put together a personalized travel plan. That personalization would be bolstered by analysis of interactions with other travellers and large data sets about preferences.

Meanwhile, Quantas Airways is already using self-service tech to cut check-in times by 90 percent, the Watson Virtual Assistant is improving call centre performance, Hipmunk has rolled out an app you can talk to like a person, and Amadeus is building custom offers for people based off of their social media profiles (with permission, it should be noted).

Death knell for Room Service?

Traditional room service is becoming a service fewer travellers are demanding. Instead, they are looking to be able to order food the way they do at home. And hotels are responding by forming partnerships with food-delivery services.

Hyatt Centric has partnered with a food-ordering company to let guests order from restaurants selected by hotel employees. Orders can be made through a customized landing page. Residence Inn, part of Marriott International, leaves guests grocery-request forms in their suites. Employees will shop for the requested items, which are added to the final bill with no mark-ups. The rooms have fully equipped kitchens including refrigerators, microwave ovens and dishwashers.

Hoteliers say they are responding to travellers who crave an experience that resembles their home life. The popularity of cooking competition shows has also made many people enjoy the art of making their own meals.

Many travellers believe being able to cook in their hotel room would make them feel more at home while traveling. Millennials — those travellers in their 20s and early 30s — were more likely to want to cook. Growing up, they’ve been watching cooking competitions and they are into celebrity chefs. They view cooking as a form of relaxation and a form of entertainment.

At the same time, traditional room service has not been a money-maker for hotels, and many have decided to suspend it. Travellers, meanwhile balk at in room dining prices. According to the American Hotel and Lodging Association, 37% of hotels offered room service in 2014 vs. 22% in 2016. Meanwhile, 71% of luxury hotels offered alternatives to room service last year.

Some Hilton brands have moved toward pantry-style grab-and-go markets in their lobbies as an alternative. The shops offer hot or cold sandwiches, salads, snacks and sometimes beer and wine.

Even travel review website TripAdvisor has gotten into the food-delivery game, and has integrated Grubhub into its website in the USA and Canada. It recently also aligned itself with London-based Deliveroo to expand globally.

The food-delivery services are much more practical in extended-stay properties that have kitchens, which in general is a rapidly growing segment in the industry.

Games Customers Play

Have you noticed how our guests have become smarter over the years and are now able to wangle better deals from you? As much as the world gets smaller, travel has become much less complex and affordable and today’s guests can be geniuses at negotiating much better deals than earlier. Besides, a larger supply of hotel inventory as well as destinations has tilted the scales in the favour of the guest.

Following are some of the most popular tactics that used by Guests

  • Shortage of funds/ limited budget/ more than estimate
  • Complaining from the time of check in /event
  • Never appreciating the positives during his stay
  • “I am too busy now, meet me later”
  • “Your competitor is offering me better rates than you”
  • Praises the competition
  • “What is your best offer?”
  • “I’ll book with you only if you quote me a discounted rate”
  • Referring documents to make out as if he is comparing your quote with competitors, but not specifying any comparison
  • Asks you to give him a minute and keeps on doing other things for a long time
  • Does not pay proper attention – talks to others around – Leaves in the middle for a while
  • Raises his voice on the phone with the person he is talking to in front of you
  • Showing off that he will be favouring you if he commits in your favour
  • Asks for a complimentary stay to check quality (in case of a large residential banquet query)
  • Makes out that he is very pressed for time

I was used as a catspaw!

Children’s author Aesop in 1919 relates a fable of the monkey, the cat and the chestnuts.

Once upon a time a Cat and a Monkey lived as pets in the same house. They were great friends and were constantly in all sorts of mischief together. What they seemed to think of more than anything else was to get something to eat, and it did not matter much to them how they got it.

One day they were sitting by the fire, watching some chestnuts roasting on the hearth. How to get them was the question.

“I would gladly get them,” said the cunning Monkey, “but you are much more skillful at such things than I am. Pull them out and I’ll divide them between us.”

Pussy stretched out her paw very carefully, pushed aside some of the cinders, and drew back her paw very quickly. Then she tried it again, this time pulling a chestnut half out of the fire. A third time and she drew out the chestnut. This performance she went through several times, each time singeing her paw severely. As fast as she pulled the chestnuts out of the fire, the Monkey ate them up.

Now the master came in, and away scampered the rascals, Mistress Cat with a burnt paw and no chestnuts.

Hence the phrase – ‘he used me as a catspaw.’

How often have we been used as a catspaw in our jobs?

As a General Manager, I was given to sign termination letters and file cases against various employees. Sometimes I may not have agreed with the harsh step taken, but job insecurity out of fear, may frankly have led me to comply… not my proudest moments for sure!

We all have our values, our code of ethics, our ways of looking at life… yet moments come when we find ourselves being used as a catspaw. You may relate to situations like these:

  • Your colleague convinces you against your better wishes to go along with his/her plans or ideas…
  • Your subordinate entices you into signing off his/her leave form with flimsy excuses and you do so in order to gain his/her approval…
  • Your boss gets you to do his/her work using flattery to keep you motivated…
  • Your boss takes your idea and implements it without giving you due credit…
  • People are nice to you only because they need something off you and not necessarily because they care for you…

All of the above may happen, but at a cost to you. Remember how pussy’s catspaw was singed while pulling out chestnuts from the fire for the monkey?

So keep a watch and be aware of such situations!

How many time have you been used as a catspaw recently?