At the end of December, we produced a list of six hospitality industry trends every hotelier should lookout for in 2016. Now that we are through the better half of the year, we wanted to revisit these trends and measure their impact on the industry. The hospitality industry is not an industry to change quickly, but in recent years, new startups and market shake-ups have made it an exciting space.
Continued Hospitality Industry Growth
Although it will be well into 2017 before we hear about specific growth numbers, all reports and expectations point towards the positive. A strong American dollar and cheap gases prices are a recipe for a strong North American travel season. United States’ tourism offices report they are preparing for a strong season and are optimistic about the possibilities. The actual growth numbers and impact of the dollar and gas prices will take some time to come out, but we still expect an increase.
Hospitality Technology Evolution
Software and technology are now more accessible than ever before. As we mentioned in our original trends piece, extensive software was once only available to large companies who could afford the hefty price tag. Today, SaaS companies, like Cloudbeds, exist to bring small to medium-sized companies tools to run their businesses effectively. Technology is evolving so fast, that the competitive gap is shrinking. It still exists, but now it makes less of an impact.
In the past six months, Cloudbeds has added several features to our suite of products that help hoteliers run their businesses. We’ve added new reports, added more languages, added a housekeeping module, and integrated with new companies like Decolar and TrustYou. You can read a full list of our updates in our Updates Section.
Beyond Cloudbeds, we continually see software evolve. Whether it’s email services like MailChimp and Autopilot or integration partners like Zapier, technology becomes more accessible and better every day.
The Sharing Economy Will Grow
The sharing economy is in full growth mode and it is full steam ahead for the first half of 2016. Airbnb now has over 2,000,000 listings worldwide, and has hosted over 60,000,000 guests. They also have 1,400+ castle listing, just in case you were wondering. Just last June, Airbnb had reported 200,000+ listings and far fewer guests. The amount of momentum they are building is remarkable.
The sharing economy is penetrating almost every market, including the valuable, also-growing Asia-Pacific market. In a recent survey, 32% of Asian-Pacific tourists said they used a private sharing accommodation service like Airbnb. You can only imagine how important it is to tackle the wants and needs of new travel markets. It appears that companies like Airbnb are filing a needed niche within the travel industry. Not everyone needs an in-person concierge and attentive front-desk anymore and instead want to live like the locals. That’s a market shift that every hotelier should be aware of.
However, the sharing economy isn’t all rainbows and butterflies. Sharing economy services like Uber and Lyft have left Austin, Texas due to a recent vote that required more regulations. Airbnb, Lyft, and Uber have received many criticisms from existing businesses and governments for avoiding laws and regulations. These companies probably have a few battles left before it’s all said and done, although it may never end.
New Customer Facing Technology
One of the most interesting consumer-facing technologies trends we’ve noticed is the rise of messaging platforms. Communicating with potential and in-house guests is a pain point that hoteliers of any size try to alleviate. In a recent post, we laid out some of the new popular ways consumers can talk to businesses.
Leading the pack is Facebook Messenger with their new scannable codes, automated messages to ensure timeliness, and other tools that make texting the new norm. Booking.com has also announced they have created a tool to allow potential travelers to instant chat those viewing their listing. Booking.com and Facebook are both putting a huge emphasis on business to consumer communication. We expect to see this particular trend play out over the next year or two.
There is also a countless number of startups that try to help travelers in creative ways. Some attempt to help travelers find the right destination. Others help people get the best deals. And then some want to help people travel more often. One example is a company called YonderWork that wants to help people with location-independent jobs travel more often and create a community.
We expect new and creative companies to continue to emerge and change the landscape. Maybe one of these days we’ll see another Uber or Airbnb pop-up.
More Niche Marketplaces
Niche marketplaces can work a few different ways. Some, like Bud and Breakfast, curate properties based on a certain characteristic. Others, like Decolar/Despegar, cater to a specific geographic location. Niche marketplaces are a great way to reach guests who match your audience.
One of the best ways to target guests is through geographic specific online travel agencies. These OTAs work well because they help make your property attractive using culturally appropriate norms, such as language support. Niche marketplaces can also help you attract new customers. For example, if you want to attract the ever-growing Asian-Pacific travel segment, Ctrip would be a great option. Ctrip is China’s largest online travel agency and has a significant portion of the Chinese travel market.
Now more than ever, it’s important to have a channel manager that connects to big and small online travel agencies. A channel manager makes it easy to add and subtract marketing channels as you see fit. Coincidentally, we happen to offer one! You can check out myallocator here.
Nearly all the trends we predicted for 2016 have played out in one way or another. In six months, we’ve seen nearly all positive reports concerning the state of the travel industry. A growing economy and low gas prices have helped contribute to increased consumer mobility. As the rest of the year plays out, we expect to see encouraging news from both domestic and international reports. Stay tuned.