Top 10 Trends Impacting the Hospitality Industry

Editor’s note: Since this popular story about hospitality industry trends was written in July, 2015, Smart Meetings has updated it over the years so you can follow the trends through the ages. 

The Hotel Show, which stages business to business events for the hospitality industry, has identified what it believes to be the Top 10 trends impacting the hospitality industry in 2015.

2018 Update

In advance of the Independent Hotel Show, the authors named professionalization or leveling up of hotel management—including an increase in the number of women in senior roles and streamlined technology solutions—as a major trend. “While departments such as room service, or the concierge desk, will be pared back due to lessening demand, social skills and local knowledge will be called upon more by guests, who want to feel they’ve landed in a healthy community rich with experiences.” Smart rooms, an emphasis on public areas as a community hub also received shout outs.

2020 Update

In January 2020, IHCL Vice President of Public Relations and Corporate Communications Rakhee Lalvani forecast on The Hotel Show blog that ecotourism, religious tourism, mico-cations and culinary travel would drive the industry for the next 12 months.

1. Catering to millennials

Millennials (those ages 18-34) are expected to represent 50% of all travelers to the USA by 2025, according to the Cornell Center for Hospitality Research. Companies need to define their strategies based on this demographic group’s personality traits and habits—they travel a lot; are early adopters of technology; like personalized interactions and are spontaneous. Hotels will want to please them with easy check-in and gourmet dining experiences at reasonable prices. In return, satisfied millennials will actively promote their businesses on social media channels.

2018 Update

Smart Meetings’ personal research found that travelers of all ages seem to enjoy easy check-in and gourmet dining at reasonable prices. Who knew? But more to the point, a 2018 Future of U.S. Millennial Travel report based on a Resonance Consultancy survey of U.S. 20 to 36-year-olds found that 85 percent put a priority on venturing out of their comfort zones and learning new things. That ranked right behind dining (91 percent) and fun attractions (90 percent).

2020 Update

Millennials are now entering middle age, marrying, buying homes and settling down. A 2019 study by Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection found that millennials spend more and travel more than any other age group—including Baby Boomers. And they say they would spend more if they had more disposable income. They tend to focus on exploring the world and getting a “local” experience—and posting it all on Instagram.

2. Tech explosion

The majority of guests today are self-sufficient, tech-savvy travelers who are comfortable using apps or mobile websites. Hotels need to make sure their offerings are up-to-date and user-friendly. At business meetings and conferences, travelers expect hotels and conference centers to have high quality tech equipment and a knowledgeable support staff.

2018 Update

In the meeting room, planners are leveraging cloud-based digital registration and event app tools to deliver greener, more personalized experiences. From chat to VR and AR, tech has gone from gee-whiz to must-have as a tool to understand attendee preferences.

2020 Update

The sudden switch to working from home during social distancing of the coronavirus pandemic has forced planners to get on board with productivity apps and a crash course in pivoting to digital. Virtual meetings that were once seen as a threat to face-to-face events are now the savior for interactions that need to go on to support business, research and social needs.

3. Influx of international visitors

International leisure travel is on the rise—Dubai International Airport has become the busiest airport in the world. Hotels must be able to provide services in a multitude of languages, and tailored experiences properly suited to the culture and unique needs of their international visitors.

2018 Update

U.S. Travel Association has warned that the U.S. is not keeping pace with global long-haul travel expansion. In the United States, international inbound travel is expected to continue to grow at a rate of 2.2 percent while the same traffic worldwide is estimated at 6 percent.

2020 Update

Associations are lobbying for streamlining of visa programs, to grow the $97 billion economic contribution from global travel. Now the industry will have to address health safety in the wake of the coronavirus epidemic.

4. Increased emphasis on health and well-being

Guests today are taking charge of their health; hotels are responding with well-equipped fitness centers, pools and spas. Increasingly, travelers are expecting innovative wellness options. In addition to healthy food options, growing trends include lighting that energizes, air purification, yoga spaces, in-room exercise equipment and even vitamin-infused shower water.

2018 Update

Wellness tourism is estimated as a $563 billion industry. From MGM Resorts and Wyndham Hotels and Resorts’ Stay Well rooms to Pullman’s focus on sleep, food, sport and spa, and Hilton’s Five Fee to Fitness program that puts the capability of a gym in the guest room, the hospitality industry has made it easier to stay healthy on the road.

2020 Update

Wellness is taking on primary importance as attendees want to know that it is safe to return to large group settings. Reduced density, increased sanitation stations and pre-packaged meals could be the norm going forward. Meanwhile mindfulness exercises to reduce stress and promote mental health have become more common in agendas large and small.

5. Need for seamless technology

Seamless connectivity across platforms and devices is growing more important. Many hotel groups are offering mobile check-in and digital concierge services. At Aria Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, guests are issued high-tech cards that detect their presence and unlock the door before they even reach it.

2018 Update

Everything is smart these days. Smart rooms, smart badges and smart phones are all connected to share information and make getting what you want when you want it easier than ever. Look for facial recognition to unlock clickless access to just about everything.

2020 Update

The call for being able to handle everything from hotel registration and meal ordering from the convenience of our smartphones has only grown louder. A 2020 survey found that almost three-quarters of respondents would prefer to text for help in real time compared to 42 percent who said they would like to talk to someone using video. A phone call was the number one option.

6. Sustainability rules

Eco-friendly practices are becoming the norm, as properties focus on renewable energy resources and water scarcity. Many hotels are installing solar panels and updating systems so that air conditioners and lights automatically switch off when guests leave their rooms.

2018 Update

Considering the environmental impact of everything from plastic straws to leftovers has become an essential part of an event professional’s job. Venues are making it easier than ever to track food chains, reduce waste and minimize greenhouse gas footprints.

2020 Update

Attendees not only want to be assured that meeting professionals are doing everything they can to reduce the carbon footprint of the event, reduce waste and source responsibly, they want to see nature in the ballroom. Biophilic design uses the power of a connection with the earth to enhance the wellness of people. The result is renovations and new builds designed to attract the 63 percent of people who say they would like to see more plants in hotel rooms.

7. New roles for staff

Many travelers seem to prefer technology to human beings—they want to check-in digitally and don’t mind if a robot delivers room service. This will give staff the opportunity to focus on more personalized service, as opposed to rote tasks.

2018 Update

A quick search for hospitality jobs includes the titles such as social media coordinator, creative lead, events and experiences, audio-visual technician and yoga instructor. To qualify for these more specific roles, many are opting to pursue industry certification.

2020 Update

Hospitality workers have become the front lines during numerous emergency situations, opening up for victims of hurricanes and earthquakes, transforming into alternative hospitals during a pandemic and keeping the lines of communication open when the situation was changing quickly. Universities are stepping up to offer focused, advanced degrees in event planning with a risk management component embedded in the coursework.

8. Destination promotion

The explosion of social media is causing hotels to become more involved in destination and self-promotion. Many are featuring guests’ images and tweets on their websites; some are even using the material in their advertising campaigns.

2018 Update

The #Hotelfie, augmented reality ads and room service virtual reality goggles are now “things.” Planners can visualize spaces in multiple destinations without leaving their computer.

2020 Update

Convention and visitor bureaus (CVBs) are stepping up to perform advocacy, help with risk management planning and source for sustainable and engaging options for events in their cities. They are now playing the role of strategic advisor. Many are stepping in to find solutions for issues as diverse as homelessness and measuring impact. All the while, CVBs have gotten creative about how they talk about their value. From heartfelt messages from the CEO during a crisis to support for charities and free video conference backgrounds, they are becoming part of the larger travel experience.

9. Real-time damage control

If a hotel guest is dissatisfied, he or she can easily complain on Facebook, Twitter, Yelp or TripAdvisior. Hoteliers must be able to quickly respond. Engaging with customers and responding to their needs through these public forums help maintain positive guest relations and drive future bookings.

2018 Update

The world witnessed TanaCon in real time when 20,000 people showed up for a YouTuber’s event at a venue that holds 5,000, leaving thousands sweltering in the Southern California sun.

2020 Update

Meeting professionals are being forced to turn themselves into social media influencers—or hire one. By engaging their communities year-round, providing thought leadership pieces, education and authentic views behind the scenes that would make a Kardashian blush, they are building a following that will be eager to attend the next event.

10. Unique perks

With so many brands to choose from, properties need to find a way to stand out. Some are offering free daily wine tastings in their lobbies or bars; some are incorporating sophisticated informational screens in bathroom mirrors; and others are giving away curated set lists of downloadable music.

2018 Update

This is the year of the public living room as hospitality properties scramble to create comfortable spaces for informal gatherings in lobbies, restaurants and entries.

2020 Update

In the quest to constantly surprise and delight, some hotels have gone to great lengths. From hangover recovery concierges in New Orleans and “hotel flatterers” who provide guests with random, thoughtful remarks about how wonderful they are, the emphasis is on personalization. Also a staple now at many properties, pet-friendly policies that start in the lobby. Inspired by cat cafes and puppy therapy, hotel are offering pet packages that include poolside petting paired with Prosecco.

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