Over this past weekend I could not help but notice articles that covered purchasing trends in the highly competitive markets of today. Although the articles themselves dealt mostly with the retail sector, I realized that ‘meaningful purchasing’ has permeated nearly all aspects of our lives.

In the retail sector many of the large brands are seeing disappointing results despite aggressive mark downs and sales. Why is this happening? According to the article the reason is that the new breed of customers is no longer interested in adding superfluous items to their wardrobes. They do not want to buy a new pair of shoes just because they can. They are choosing where to spend their hard earned money much more carefully than before, and they want ‘meaning’ with their purchase. The retail articles they do buy may be chosen for ‘fair trade’ practices or other reasons that elevate the item in their mind to ‘purchase worthy’.

How does this translate into the hotel industry?

I have written about this before but would like to elaborate.

While there are of course still vacationers looking for a sun filled, relaxing holiday on the beach somewhere, there is a rising new breed of travelers looking for that ‘meaningful purchase’. This comes in a wide variety of features that prompt the client to buy into a particular vacation.

Some are looking for active vacations that contribute to both fitness and well-being. Others will look at hotels that have the lowest impact on the environment, and actively prove that they are doing their best in this important area. Another feature that attracts is originality. More and more people are looking for hotels and inns that are historic, or that have an original theme that runs through the establishment. This could be the décor, ever changing artist exhibitions, photography, lighting and many more well thought out features to separate the property from the competition. In other words, a meaning.

Another important selling point comes with hotels that are involved in the community, and that give back to their towns and are once again actively becoming the centers that they once were. This may take the form of upkeep and support for community centers, or perhaps disadvantaged children’s exhibitions on the walls of the hotels with all revenue from sales going to the homes.

I believe that the new customers, led chiefly by the millennials, have opened up huge opportunities for the independent hotelier to get back onto a more level playing field with the large brands. There are so many new ways and opportunities to stand out, not necessarily involving major investments, to be unique and underline the different identities of our independent properties. The large brands cannot move as fast as the independent operators and policy will not allow franchisees to create a completely new and ‘meaningful’ identity for properties.

‘Meaningful purchasing’ is giving independents a great chance to fight back against the generic brands, a chance to get better rates and begin the shift away from the OTA’s, and the chance to attract better clientele.

It is time to grab those opportunities!