Thought leadership.

Traditional hotel paradigms set for major disruption in 2024

The hospitality industry is headed for major disruption in 2024 as millennial preferences are driving significant changes across the board.

Hotels are revisiting longstanding traditions like 10am checkout times, room service ending mid-evening and rigid all-inclusive packages bundling amenities people rarely use. Even daily housekeeping is being scrutinised for its relevance in the current hotel landscape.

“I told my team the old ways we learned back in hotel school won’t cut it any longer,” says Guy Stehlik, CEO BON Hotels. “Today’s travellers expect greater control in customising every stay and they insist on pricing transparency.”

In 2024, we can expect hotels to increasingly offer a menu of services, where guests can opt in or out of services traditionally included. This shift, Stehlik says, doesn’t mean traditional corporate hotels won’t be offering all-inclusive options. “What’s changing is that guests are being given the choice to be cost savvy or environmentally conscious.”

Some examples of this new à la carte approach? “Do you need housekeeping daily or every three days? Do you need high speed Wi-Fi or just basic internet? Do you want a full English breakfast or just a croissant? Do you need room service? There are so many components that could be variable to give transparency around what you pay for,” Stehlik says.

Millennials are at the forefront of these changes, demanding customised travel experiences. Stehlik notes the specific preferences of this demographic: “Millennials don’t want check-in at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. They want to be able to check-in at 9 in the morning. They insist on 24-hour room service, and they want to have the option to select their breakfast preference.”

There are advantages for both hotels and guests in this shift. “There’s been this syndrome called amenity creep, where hotels keep adding things like luxury bath products to keep up with competitors, even if they can’t afford it. A lot of these amenities end up not used but are still factored into room rates,” Stehlik points out. “If hotels strip out the excess, this can save huge amounts while offering lower rates that appeal to more travellers.”

This shift isn’t limited to specific market segments but is being observed across the board, including luxury lodges. Stehlik remarks on this broader trend: “Upmarket lodges offer significant rates per night to include things like game drives and private chefs. At the high end of the market, there’s very little price resistance. And still, we see this market increasingly insist on price transparency. They might ask for two game drives instead of three per day and they want to see that reflected in the rate.”

He adds: “People have become more sceptical and educated at evaluating hotel rates by components, because so many, especially millennials, book online now and build the pricing on their own. They appreciate visibility into what they pay for. The more price sensitivity increases across segments, the less attractive rigid all-inclusive deals become. Customisation rules.”

According to Stehlik, mid-scale hospitality brands globally will soon adopt online customisation menus allowing travellers to re-bundle room types, housekeeping frequency, amenities and meal plans to their needs. Pay-as-you-go flexibility will become the new norm as millennials and seasoned guests alike demand an end to one-size-fits all packages.

The future of hospitality seems to be a balancing act between offering bare-bones accommodation and providing value through thoughtful, personalised services. Stehlik notes: “It’s about knowing your market and including those little things that are meaningful and worth it.”

As we move into 2024, the hotel industry, particularly in South Africa, is embracing a new era of personalised service. Millennial preferences and the demand for transparency and customisation are reshaping how hotels operate, market, and cater to their diverse clientele. As Stehlik aptly puts it, “We can’t be all things to all people. This is the way you attract a wide range of potential clients and give them deals that they want instead of a standard package.”

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