New technology, health and safety, and changing consumer behaviors—these are the trends shaping the industry.
The success of businesses within the hospitality industry will depend on how they continue to respond to fast-changing trends, consumer concerns, and health and safety regulations since the onset of the pandemic—and beyond.
Here are 11 trends that are here to stay:
1. Travelers want cleaner and safer spaces
Hygiene and safety have always been, and always will be, a top priority for consumers. Over the past two years, consumers' care and awareness of health and hygiene has jumped up to an all-time high, and is set to stay here for the foreseeable future, meaning consumers expect strict measures to be implemented wherever they go.
While many hotels and resorts continue to implement safety and hygiene protocols, many also use it as a marketing tactic to draw more customers. For example, some of the protocols and features they advertise are:
- Frequent sanitizing of high-touch surfaces;
- Convenient grab-and-go dining options;
- Complimentary travel insurance and cancellation protection;
- Hygiene guidelines for guests (hand-washing, proper sneezing and coughing techniques).
For large hotels, implementing and managing strict hygiene and safety protocols requires digital technology to conduct self-assessments and daily cleaning checks.
2. Both users and hotels are going contact-free
Contact-free ordering, payment, and more, have become a modern-day convenience for sellers and consumers alike. Add to that the increased awareness of physical contact, and travelers now often feel safer with less human contact.
For example, the food service industry has already implemented features like contactless payments or ordering. A few other ways that no-touch services are implemented in the hotel industry include:
- Grab-and-go options in the lobby;
- QR codes that allow guests to browse the room service menu;
- Contactless check-in or keyless entry.
3. Travelers need space to work
Corporate business has declined drastically, but remote working has increased significantly and is likely to just keep increasing. In fact, major companies like Twitter state that their employees can either work remotely or come into office—the choice is theirs. Since folks can now work from anywhere they want, many opt for a “nicer” working space than what they currently have (for example, home).
According to the co-founder of Airbnb, Brian Chesky, “the lines between travel, work and living are blurring”. And while the term bleisure (business + leisure = bleisure) was already coined in 2009, it has definitely become a hot topic over the past few years. Longer stays have become more popular, and some rent out their own homes on Airbnb in favor of staying elsewhere (for example, a place they could otherwise never afford).
Working remotely, however, comes with its own set of requirements, and the hospitality industry must constantly be ready to adapt. For example, high-speed internet (with Wi-Fi even extending to outdoor spaces), ample plug sockets, more work-friendly desks and stations, and long-stay or month-to-month packages, are all things that now draw a specific set of customers, namely those wanting to stay for a while.
4. Hotel rooms are getting smarter
The Internet of Things (IoT), a colloquial term describing a network of physical objects that exchange data with each other by various technological means, is no longer reserved only for homes. More and more guests look to IoT for improving convenience, and hotels are constantly adding IoT to their rooms to improve the guest experience; this creates a feeling of luxury and efficiency.
Besides the basic hotel room amenities, here are a few extras that IoT offers travelers:
- Stream your own: Guests can stream movies/shows on their own portable devices, but only if the hotel room TV has a USB port. Platforms like Enseo allow guests to log in to their favorite streaming accounts and automatically log out with check-out.
- Charge wirelessly: Platforms like Chargifi can charge devices by placing them on a charging “mat”. Hotels can leverage this to create a more convenient guest experience.
- Smart controls: Adjust temperature, light, and power, with the tap of a finger using a smart device and digital control (e.g., a Nest).
- Tablet-based control: In-room tablets can be used to check restaurant hours, room service menus, spa services, and area recommendations, all while playing music, controlling lights and temperature, and making special requests.
- Soundproofing tech: New soundproof windows use acoustic technology to minimize noise from traffic, airplanes, or loud music; no more noise complaints!
- Voice-activated controls: Upgrade a smart speaker, like an Amazon Alexa, with a system like Volara to handle hotel-specific requests (like housekeeping or valet) with voice commands.
- Smart mirrors: By combining a TV screen and mirror (Savvy by Electric Mirror) guests can shave or brush teeth while watching the news, checking the weather, or requesting hotel services.
- Keyless entry: Using a keypad code or a mobile app (e.g., ASSA ABLOY Global Solutions' keyless entry), guests can check-in effortlessly and enter their room without physical keys. By integrating keyless entry systems with hotel software systems, guests can control every experience from an app.
- Concierge video chat: Guests can talk, text, or video chat in real-time with hotel staff via a quick QR code scan and a communication system such as Crave, thereby processing requests quickly and effortlessly.
5. Travelers prefer flexibility
Many travelers fear losing their deposits and are usually nervous about bookings. This has especially been exacerbated by fluctuating travel restrictions, often implemented on short notice. But, flexible bookings can greatly alleviate travelers’ fears, and the hospitality industry can leverage this to their advantage (e.g.,100% refunds for last-minute cancellations).
Travelers want surety, and flexible cancelation policies might just be the assurance your guests need for booking.
6. Travelers want more green or outdoor spaces
After what felt like an eternity with restricted outdoor activities, people are longing to experience wide-open and green outdoor spaces. This is probably why National Parks across the US have“experienced an unprecedented number of visitors” in recent years. People are desperate to get in touch with nature and long for wide-open spaces as opposed to confined spaces.
Hotels can leverage this need by incorporating the great outdoors into guest experiences (e.g., creating green spaces or offering outdoor adventure trips). Whether it’s a coffee or breakfast spot, the gym, or the dining area, hotels can capitalize on this by adding more greenery and creating a space that feels airy and open.
7. Travelers are seeking sustainability
Eco-consciousness and sustainability are rising trends. Hotels can leverage this to their advantage by:
- sourcing products locally;
- avoiding disposable plastics (e.g., many hotels now ditch miniature toiletries in favor of larger, refillable containers);
- eliminating unnecessary paper consumption by going digital;
- reducing waste and water usage;
- reducing energy consumption (e.g., with smart lighting);
- providing vegan and vegetarian options.
Almost 70% of international travelers expect the hospitality industry to offer more eco-friendly options, which can be used to the industry’s advantage. But, today's consumers are knowledgeable about all things “eco”, so care should be taken to avoid green-washing (i.e., when the “eco” concept gets tacked onto anything and everything just for the sake of appearance).
8. Travelers have a preference for minimalism
People are increasingly realizing what’s really important in life (e.g., having freedom of movement instead of material items).
This has popularized “minimalism”, i.e., the less is more concept. Travelers now opt for having experiences (like adventures or local community activities) over opulence and luxury.
Smaller wallets also mean that guests want as much as possible with limited travel budgets. So hotels that offer lower rates, increased flexibility, and safer guest experiences will no doubt gain a competitive advantage.
9. Travelers are exploring their local cities and towns
Travelers have become more environmentally conscious, and are simultaneously looking to experience their own local areas, often referred to as ‘staycations’. Having been confined for so long, people have realized the potential of their own cities/towns.
This is verified by Elizabeth Monahan, spokesperson for Tripadvisor.com, who said “tourism recovery typically begins locally”. Local eateries, domestic travel, and local weekend getaways are therefore becoming preferred by travelers over international trips. In fact, two-thirds of Americans opted for a road trip as their first post-outbreak vacation.
While international travel will never go out of style, local exploration is a higher priority.
10. Hotels are amping up the visuals
Virtual (replacing real-world visual and audio input) and augmented realities (layering virtual elements onto the real world) have revolutionized the world of “visuals”. The hospitality industry would therefore do well to fully capitalize on this. Indeed, some have already done this, for example offering virtual and destination tours.
This enables prospective customers to “try before they buy” and gives them a chance to “visit” or “inspect” the property from the comfort of their own home (think of 360-degree restaurant views, quaint cafés, and a luscious hotel beachfront).
It’s important, though, to make such content as accessible as possible, to as many prospective customers as possible: content should be available on a variety of devices, and shouldn’t require VR headsets. When guests arrive at the hotel, they can point their smartphones at real-world objects to get information on them, all via augmented reality.
11. Hotels are adopting digital technology
The hospitality industry is undergoing a digital transformation. Nowadays, paper-based operations and processes seem to be more of a hindrance for many businesses. Streamlining and efficiency appeal to businesses, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) is leading the way.
For example, hotel chatbots are becoming more popular since they can, via live chat options, help guests faster, reduce staff workload (great for mitigating against labor shortages), and assist with urgent requests. Such chatbots have proven to be an asset, especially with guest interaction (e.g., responding to recurring COVID-19 questions).
AI also minimizes physical contact and saves time via mobile check-in. And while some travelers may be uneasy with being served by robots, others may welcome less human interaction. Hotels are increasingly using robots in some way by automating check-in and check-out, carrying luggage, and acting as concierges.
AI can aid hotels in terms of business decisions. AI-based pricing and booking engines ensure optimal rates by keeping a clear view of hotel capacity. AI can even optimize the possibilities for promotions. AI management systems monitor and optimize revenues, customer relationships, and reputation, and even perform customer profiling to maximize target markets.
Much has changed in a relatively short time, and consumer habits have quickly followed suit, especially in terms of their travel-related behavior and expectations. And with the slew of recent technological advancements, the hotel landscape has changed considerably.
Staying ahead of the competition will require the hospitality industry to adapt quickly and appropriately.
From digitized daily cleaning checks and flexible booking systems, to AI robots assisting with check-ins and augmented realities replacing tour guides—hotels that miss the opportunity to capitalize on digital technologies and leverage them to their advantage will lose out—big time.
Tech is here to stay, and up-and-coming generations expect it wherever they go.
Software that streamlines all of these processes has become an indispensable tool for gaining a competitive advantage in the hospitality industry. In today’s world, the reality is, the companies that adopt digital technology will find it easier to draw—and keep—customers.
CMX has helped some of the world’s best known brands to gain control and transparency over their supply chains, deliver quality products and services, ensure health and safety, and drive performance across their locations.
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Editor’s note: This article was originally published in October 2021 and has since been updated for comprehensiveness.