Now that we’re just past the year’s halfway mark, it’s a great opportunity to take a look at the hospitality industry from a bird’s eye perspective. What are the trends and new ways of conducting business that are defining 2019?
Technology encompasses and cuts across all aspects of hospitality, from operations and marketing to customer service and in-room design. While technology is not a specific trend, it is the main driver behind most, if not all, of the trends that are transforming the hospitality industry. With that said, the following are five key trends that are experiencing serious momentum in 2019 and are fundamentally changing not only how hotels and resorts compete for guests but also how they turn them into loyal and enthusiastic ambassadors.
Top 5 Trends in 2019
1. Niche markets
This year the hospitality industry is realizing that size does matter. Increasingly, hotel guests are drawn to hotels that cater to specific audiences with unique wants and needs. Hotels are cultivating their brands and are defining themselves by the niche audiences they attract. Some are highlighting their eco-friendly features or culinary expertise, while others integrate music or art into their environs and offerings. Other hotels are marketing themselves to adventure and experience seekers, to the LGBT community, or to families that have been affected by autism. Perhaps most prevalent of all is the rise of hotels that are reorienting, and sometimes remodeling, their lobbies and rooms to appeal to millennials, the two billion consumers across the globe. Born between 1981 and 1997, they are driving many of the technological and experiential trends we are seeing in the hospitality sector.
2. Mobile services
In 2019, more hotels and resorts are heeding the call from a Google study that indicated that when guests go online to plan a trip, they spend 87 percent of that time on a mobile device. As a result, hotels are working to ensure that their websites and booking engines are optimized for mobile-centered customers for all stages of the journey, from planning to booking. Priority areas of focus include speed, navigation ease, and quality content.
Hotels are also using their mobile websites to target spontaneous travelers with last-minute offers. Recent data underscores a trend that has the attention of hotel marketers: Consumers using mobile devices are more likely to make a last-minute booking compared to desktop users. Millennials, again, are driving this trend. Because they are relatively young and have fewer commitments, they can afford to be more spontaneous than previous generations. A Hotwire study indicated that 84 percent of survey respondents, ages 23 to 38, had booked a trip within seven days of their arrival date, and 40 percent said they had booked a same-day excursion.
People who plan their trips with more lead time are more likely to use a desktop computer, while spontaneous travelers are more likely to book their trip with a mobile device. In fact, according to one study reported by ABC News, 60- to 70-percent of same-day hotel bookings are made on a smartphone or other handheld device. This explains hotels’ current focus on generating more bookings via mobile services and using design elements like large click buttons and icons to facilitate mobile conversion.
3. Eco-friendly offerings
A booking.com sustainability travel report revealed that 55 percent of global travelers are more committed to taking an eco-friendly vacation than the previous year. It makes sense when you consider the data. A Mandala Research study indicated that 60 percent of U.S. travelers had taken an eco-friendly trip over the past year.
In 2019, hotels and resorts in the U.S. and throughout the world are answering the call with energy-efficient building systems, green building ratings and certification systems, and by promoting themselves as eco-friendly hotels. Some hotels are instituting towel-reuse policies and are using sensors to monitor in-room electricity output; lights and air conditioning turn off if guests leave their room, and on again when they return. Other hotels are reducing their carbon footprint by going paperless and adopting cloud-based property management systems like StayNTouch.
Travelers this year are not just requesting but demanding that hotels reduce their carbon footprint. In fact, we’d venture to say that sustainable tourism is more than a trend – it’s on its way to becoming the new normal. Hotels that embrace sustainable values and enact sustainable practices are not only earning their guests’ long-term loyalty – they are also reducing their utility expenses and becoming leaner, meaner, and more profitable enterprises.
4. Personalized guest experience
In 2019, we have learned that the personalization movement in the hospitality industry is no fluke, it is here to stay. The under-40 millennials, not to mention the even younger members of Generation Z, are seeking a personalized and personal experience at every point along their journey. To meet this demand, the hospitality industry is rethinking its role. In 2019, hotels and resorts are becoming facilitators and curators of personalized guest experiences inside the hotel and extending beyond the hotel environs.
Hotels are investing in technology that personalizes, simplifies, and automates every facet of the guest journey from beginning to end, smoothly and seamlessly.
In 2019, hotels are beginning to simplify the check-in process with some hotels streamlining or even phasing out the conventional check-in desk and replacing it with self-serve kiosks or remote check-in. Hotels and resorts are utilizing automation and artificial intelligence – for example, chatbots – to send personalized messages, offers, and recommendations to guests. Others are creating one-of-a-kind, in-room experiences, like directing the drapes to open automatically in the morning (that’s right, alarm clocks are becoming old-school), along with a freshly brewed pot of coffee. Personalization requires data collection. Guest profiles must be continually updated to include individual preferences and idiosyncrasies. Personalization is not merely a nice thing to do, it’s absolutely essential. In fact, there’s no better way to damage a brand or a hotel than to offer a one-size-fits-all approach to the guest experience.
5. Social media/influencers
In 2019, the social media universe has only become more important and influential for the hospitality industry. According to research, millennials are 50 percent more likely than previous generations to book a hotel based on what they see on social media or read in a blog-post. The key for hotels is not just to promote their offerings but to authentically engage on social media and to respond to questions and complaints in an expeditious manner.
Hotels are leveraging social media not just to increase bookings, but also for reputation management. In fact, hotels that are not part of the social media conversation are putting their reputations at risk. Before social media, a hotel guest who had a bad experience might tell close friends and family, but the damage could be contained. Now if that happens, one of the first things a millennial does is share it on their social media networks, where word of mouth spreads like wildfire. This is why, in 2019, more hoteliers are not only leveraging their social media presence, but they are also employing artificial intelligence to quickly scan and analyze in real-time what people are saying about their brand across various social media networks. Hotels that identify issues before they escalate can address them and put out any fires before they hurt their reputation.
We are also seeing a shift in social media strategy from macro-influencers to micro-influencers. The conventional wisdom used to be that, in order to reach the broadest market possible, brands sought out mass-market influencers with massive followings. In 2019, the theme is all about being small, intimate, and real; quality over quantity. This sensibility is driving hotels’ influencer campaigns as well. Instead of setting their sights on the Kardashians of the world, hotels are leveraging social media influencers – vloggers, bloggers, and Instagrammers – with 10,000 or fewer followers. When they post reviews and photographs of your property, micro-influencers can be very effective ambassadors because of their street credibility among a focused audience. Also, because the cost involved is virtually zero, save for a free hotel room or meal, hotels find they can develop relationships with numerous social media influencers. It’s a low-cost and powerful tool available to hotels of all sizes.
At the midyear point of 2019, we see clearly how rapidly and fundamentally technology is reshaping and redefining the hospitality industry. As you take inventory of everything your team has accomplished during the first half of the year, now is also a good time to identify what new initiatives you want to undertake for the remainder of the year. What niche market can your hotel cultivate? How is your mobile strategy going? Are you engaging on social media, reaching out to micro-influencers, and monitoring what’s being said about your brand? Is your property conforming to eco-friendly policies – and if so, how are you promoting it? And finally, are you facilitating personalized guest experiences throughout your hotel and in your local community?
As you can see, there’s a good amount of work to be done in the second half of the year. But not to worry: There’s elegant and affordable technology available that seamlessly automates these projects and processes, saving you time and money.