How many companies in hospitality do you know that invite outsiders to re-shape their executive committee and inject a different perspective? At Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts under the leadership of CEO Olivier Chavy, this is exactly what has taken place with the creation of the Executive Committee – Generation Y. The reason is that millennials represent around one third of the population, form a significant customer base, and are simply too important to overlook when the big decisions are being made.
As the demographic influence of millennials continues to grow, it makes perfect sense to tap into their opinions. “Currently the tourism industry does not always reflect the demands of the younger travelers. Many decisions and strategies are made by Executive Committees and Boards without an understanding of the experience younger travelers or employees are seeking,” explained Olivier.
To acquire that better understanding, Olivier has formed the Ex-Com Y Committee to recruit talented millennials from both inside and outside the organization. The result is a diverse group comprising three members from Asia, three from the Middle East and Africa, three from Europe, and one from the United States.
Benchaphan Phala is a front office manager of Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts Pattaya who met the criteria for Ex-Com Y. She believes that being Thai and having worked in Thailand offering Thai hospitality could be advantageous for the team in adding cultural value to the company. “With the strength of Thai hospitality added to the famous Swiss hospitality of Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts, I think we have the advantage in moving to the next level,” she said.
Ex-Com Y is currently working on the guest experience. Benchaphan said that one thing she wanted to see improve for guests is the length of time it takes to check in and check out. From her own experience she said guests should be able to relax at the check in, without having to worry about finding their passport, handing it to the staff, waiting for it to be copied, and standing in line. “The arrival experience is very important, it’s the first impression and the very first interaction between guests and the hotel,” she added.
Meanwhile, another member of the Ex-Com Y Committee is Maxime Friess, the Co-Founder & Director of LifeTree Capital SA, who hopes to see Mövenpick adopting a “user-centered” approach. This will involve putting the user at the center of the experience. According to Maxime, the challenge is to adopt technologies that really achieve that objective and are not just used for the sake of “having an app”. However, it will also be important to take into account the need for human interaction which many travelers still prefer. This requires the collection and retrieval of as much data as possible over all stages of the journey in order to personalize the delivery.
Achieving these goals means adopting the best practices from the most forward-thinking industries and steering clear of the belief that the hospitality industry is in some way unique. “This industry can really be at the forefront of innovation if it takes risks and bets on the right technologies,” explained Maxime.
When asked whether or not all the different backgrounds in the Ex-Com Y Committee can be a barrier to contributions, Benchaphan said this was not the case at all. “Having a non-hotelier as a member is an advantage for the team – I can see things from the guests’ point of view. In hotels, we have procedures for doing things and sometimes we forget those procedures take time. It might not take a lot of time for us, but for guests who travel across the world on their paid holidays and then have to wait for us – their one minute isn’t the same as our one minute. Being able to sympathize with guests is very important in our work.”
Although Ex-Com Y status isn’t a paid position, Maxime said the reason he was eager to join is because this is not simply a PR Stunt. “Ex-Com’s commitment to cutting red tape and forward thinking is clear. Based on the meetings we’ve had so far, we can see that there are no sacred cows and that Ex-Com Y can have a genuine impact. It’s not just a marketing token. It’s very enriching to break down cases and rethink processes in a working group with talent from multiple industries, age groups, and cultural backgrounds.” Benchaphan was quick to concur. “I know my voice is heard,” she said.
The program has another supporter in Senior Vice President Human Resources, Craig Cochrane. “Ultimately, we want to make sure that the company is prepared for the future, that we hear the millennial voice and understand what this group of guests and employees want from a hotel experience, and we want to challenge traditional thinking,” he stated. “We also expect them to contribute to strategic projects, such as our guest experience review.”
Olivier was also perfectly clear about his own expectations for the program. “I expect everyone to contribute to the company agenda as Ex-Com Y members and to bring a different perspective, fresh ideas and important considerations into the thought processes of the existing Executive Committee and the Board. They will prevent some mistakes, bring flexibility, and help us to be ready to face new challenges,” he elaborated.
With a positive response from those involved, and the full support of the senior executives at Mövenpick, it would appear that this particular initiative has every chance of delivering exactly what is intended.