Hospitality is one Industry that has stood through thick and thin, and is here to stay as long as humans exist. With every passing decade, travel ecosystem keeps on getting upgraded and advanced. However, over the last decade there has been a phenomenal shift not only in the travel landscape but in the travel behavior as well. More than 30% travelers make bookings for travelling over the next 1-3 months. A decade ago most of the impromptu trips were business related. With Millennials emerging as the largest bunch among the travelers, about 50% of all the travelers, the way bookings are made has seen a major overhaul.
The preferences have evolved, decision making parameters have reformed and booking medium has changed. Travelers no longer travel when they have time and they no more rely on pre-planning and advanced bookings. They travel when they want to and plan and book for the same, based on what best is available at that moment.
Based on these transformed user preferences and myriad technological advancements in the travel ecosystem, here are the top ten trends to watch out for esp. if you are a hotelier.
1. Social Listening
With the burst of travel bloggers, Influencer Marketing has emerged as a strong promotional gimmick. Let that alone, word of mouth has never been more important. Travelers believe in the reviews by their friends, family, colleagues and other fellow travelers so much so that the choice of place, hotel, local travel plans and food selections are all a reflection of the reviews.
2. Localized and Experiential Plans
Who wants to stick to comfort of luxury hotels and resorts or just hang out in the touristy spots! Travelers now look for engaging experiences available locally. Travelers prefer getting the feel of the place by doing what locals do, living how the locals live and having fun how locals enjoy. It’s all about when in Rome, do as Romans now.
3. Unique and Customizable Offerings
People invest time, money and efforts on a vacation. Serving what they paid for and expected is no more the norm. Going the extra mile to make the guests feel special by offering them that special delicacy that the chef worked on or inviting them in an in-hotel event like ball dance or wine tasting, works wonders. Oblige them by little surprises like gifting free passes to an event in the city or offering a movie night. There’s a lot that can be done here. At the same time, keep in mind that no two travelers are same, like no two hotels are same. Understand your customers well to get a grasp of what a pleasurable holiday for them is. A newlywed couple and a family with teenage kids need different treatment. Track your customers, know their preferences and up sell them packages they cannot refuse. Increased revenue and delighted customers, what else can one hope for!
4. Focus on Health and Well Being
Holidaying mean no exercising and eating to your heart’s content, right? Wrong. Well, not anymore. Travelers want to eat healthy even when they are out to have fun. They no longer want to get out of their fitness routines. Instead, it is appealing to the visitors when they get innovative options for fitness. Well designed and equipped yoga and fitness centers, meditation spaces, spa experiences focusing mind over body go a long way. Special menus for diet conscious people just adds to their delight. Hotels are now even coming up with vitamin enriched showers and room air purification systems to give a very nature like experience.
5. Online Content and Reputation
Live streaming is the latest in thing. Youtube still has a strong hold on video generation and Facebook has now aggressively started giving preference to video content. Content marketing has gone to the next level of integrating videos with write-ups.
As a hospitality and travel company, there is no limitation to the type of videos that you can generate to catch hold of the customer’s attention. Experimentation will eventually lead to success.
Online Content and reputation go hand in hand. It’s imperative to have a strong hold on all online reputation platforms. It is undeniably a good practice to reply on all reviews. After all in digital space its only the words and promptness that matters the most.
6. Reactive customer review management
A guest’s first reaction to dissatisfaction is a complaint or a negative feedback on TripAdvisior, Facebook, or Twitter. It is a mandate of the hotelier to appease the disgruntled guest with a satisfying reactive response or in few cases giveaways. Getting across a careful response and proper engagement with customers through these forums not only calms the guests and build a good relation with them but also has a positive impact on prospective customers.
7. Mobile Marketing
As per the eMarketer’s latest report on travel research and booking, more than 50% of digital bookings are estimated to happen on mobile devices. This is an increase of roughly 10% from last year. Thus, not only is a strong omni-channel presence needed but a robust mobile marketing plan is a mandate. A responsive design and mobile friendly design is a must. Other essential features include one-click booking, last minute promotional notifications and location technology. As per the Google’s “The Role of Click to Call in the Path to Purchase,” for 68% of hotel guests it is very important for them to be able to call a hotel while booking. In case call facility is available on smartphone search, 58% are likely to call, of which 40% will call to make a booking, and 50% will call to know about promotions or incentives.
8. Mobile device control and self service through automation
Mobile Devices to unlock the hotel rooms instead of keycards is one emerging trend at some hotel chains. Further on, mobile devices to control room temperature, TV, curtains, room service and much more is an upcoming advancement which many hotels are already working towards. At one of the leading hotels in Las Vegas, guests are issued magnetic cards that detect their arrival and automatically unlock the door before they even reach their room. A lot of hotel chains world over now offer mobile check-ins and digital concierge services to make the experience seamless.
9. Connected LANs to support diverse services
Hotels are now working towards creating intelligent buildings using converged local area networks (LANs). Multiple services can be automated and connected in order to control air- conditioning, lighting, refrigeration, and heating. This is aimed to not only reduce the energy consumption but set the conditions right for the guest in his room.
10. Internet of things
Intricate architecture and exquisite room interiors is not a guest’s idea of ultimate luxury anymore. Technology is the new gimmick to catch hold of guest’s attention. A few top hotel brands in Dubai are already working on AI enabled rooms. Think of the supreme experience you can give to a guest wherein the lights get adjusted or the music gets played sensing the mood of the guest. This is just tip of the iceberg. AI in hotels can go as wild as your imagination.
Do you agree with these top trends? How far do you think is the day when hotel front desk will be automated or the hotel rooms will be AI enabled? Well, looking at the pace of technology in Hospitality and Co. we don’t see that day very far away from today.