Who are the future travellers visiting our cities and destinations? And how do we connect with them?

These big questions were answered at the Choice Hotels Asia-Pac annual conference earlier this month in Hobart, an action-packed three days that drew more than 200 delegates from the hospitality industry.

Expert speakers from across Australia presented their insights, including keynote speakers Mark McCrindle, one of Australia’s leading social demographers, and John O’Sullivan, Managing Director of Tourism Australia. Both spoke about the next generation of travellers in Australia and how to connect with them.

In his session, Mark spoke about how important the year 1997 was – and it had nothing to do with Melbourne’s Crown Casino opening its doors for the first time.

1997 was the year that people started to spend more time interacting with screens rather than humans on an average daily basis. This is important because it means that the majority of Gen Z (people born between 1995-2010) will be more familiar with screen interaction compared to human face-to-face interaction.

The advance of technology and advent of the ‘screen age’ has therefore made Gen Z:

  • More global – knowing more about the world they live in;
  • More digital – with global information at their fingertips;
  • More social – able to interact with other travellers in different countries via social media platforms;
  • More mobile – with technology facilitating Gen Z to travel more than their parents.

These effects will clearly have a strong, positive impact on the travel and tourism industry over the next decade.

So, can the tourism industry sit back and watch travellers from all walks of life flood their business on a daily basis? Not quite.

Whilst the number of people visiting Australian cities and destinations will increase, the number of hotels that they can choose from will also rise. During his presentation, Mark McCrindle explained that while the consumer is ‘ever changing’, the rules and ways of connecting with them largely remain the same:

  • Be real – speak to customers in a genuine way;
  • Be relevant – tell customers about the things they want to know about, on the social platforms they use;
  • Be responsive – digital customer service should be as helpful and timely as face-to-face customer service;
  • Be relational – whilst the screen age might change the way travellers are choosing hotels and destinations, as soon as they step through your door good old-fashioned face-to-face communication should take over, and a relationship should be forged to ensure repeat visits. 

Mark’s insights into how to connect with future travellers were supported by John O’Sullivan, Managing Director of Tourism Australia, who revealed some techniques of how Tourism Australia is remaining real, relevant, responsible and relational.

To ensure that Tourism Australia remains real and relevant, the organisation engaged actor Chris Hemsworth as an ambassador and produced a series of popular social media videos. As John said during his presentation, “nobody tells a story better than others”.

During the annual conference, Choice was able to present to their franchisees a fantastic example of how the hotel group has itself remained real, relevant, responsive and relational this year with their recent TravelGrammer campaign.

Photo: Jules Ingall (@JulesIngall), winner of the #ChoiceTravelGrammer2016

The Choice Hotels Asia-Pac annual conference welcomed a range of expert speakers from across the hospitality industry, who each gave franchisees new insights and tools so that they could continue to be one of the leading hotel groups in the region.

Whilst it’s clear that ‘the screen’ has changed the way Gen Z will select their travel destinations, the rules of engagement with these younger travellers will remain the same. If Choice continues to be real, relevant, responsive and relational in their communication, the hotel group will continue to have success in Australia and across the globe.