When it comes to the hospitality industry, it’s not always easy to discern a fad from a trend. But it’s an important endeavor to consider, as trends shape guest behavior. Fads fade fast, while trends last -– and gain strength over time. As trends become established, they connect across populations and embed in the shared fabric. In hospitality, this has far-reaching implications. Not only is it expensive to invest foolishly in fleeting fads, but it can also cause you to miss out on the trends that are here to stay.
With that in mind, let’s look beyond the 2019 hospitality industry trends to these 7 hospitality trends with serious staying power.
The Billboard Effect
The Billboard Effect refers to the marketing and advertising value that properties listed on OTAs and metasearch channels receive due to increased visibility. The logic behind this concept is that hotels received “free” advertising via OTA and metasearch listings, which then sometimes leads customers to book directly with the property, bypassing the OTA and eliminating the property’s need to pay the OTA commission fee. While the Billboard Effect has been a controversial subject, recent research from Cornell concludes that it remains a powerful force for independent properties.
For smaller independents without as much brand recognition as major chains, visibility is valuable. The Cornell researchers found that there’s a 5.5% to 35% chance that a non-direct channel could influence an eventual reservation at a hotel. Those numbers indicate that the Billboard Effect works within a broad range, but they also provide hoteliers and hosts with enough reason to maintain an up-to-date and competitive presence across all distribution channels.
Travelers today have more channel options for booking accommodations than ever before. Now that Google has transformed its hotel product into a full-fledged metasearch destination, and Airbnb has acquired HotelTonight (and invested in the hotel brands: Lyric and OYO), there are new layers of complexity in the demand funnel.
To best navigate distribution in the industry’s current climate, it’s critical to leverage a channel manager that allocates room inventory to the ideal channels. It’s especially beneficial for properties to connect to niche channels outside the larger, more well-known OTAs in order to get more visibility from travelers who are most likely to book a stay at their property, and because these channels generally offer lower commission rates.
For example, a bed and breakfast property should have listings on a large OTA like Booking.com for the visibility, but that same property should also distribute their inventory on OTAs like bedandbreakfast.com and Cozystay.
Mobile devices and seamless communication
Device-toting guests are data-hungry. The ubiquity of smartphones and tablets gives hoteliers a clear set of emerging expectations: orient your guest experience around the devices guests bring with them.
Hoteliers and hosts can use devices to elevate the guest experience in several different ways, such as allowing guests to complete the check-in process online so they don’t have to wait in line at reception (this also frees up time for staff and opens new opportunities to engage with guests.) You can even let guests use their mobile device to access their room using apps like Flexipass.
Constant connectivity to mobile devices also gives you the opportunity to enhance how you communicate with guests. Today’s guests expect to communicate with hotels seamlessly across devices and channels. This means that text messages should flow into the same dashboard alongside Facebook Messenger, email and others. No silos, just effective communications on whichever channel a guest prefers – or whichever device is nearest. For example, there are services like GuestTalk that allow guests to send text message requests from their mobile device directly to your staff.
In fact, with a cloud-based hotel management system there are several tools you can integrate with your PMS to help you optimize mobile devices and create a seamless guest experience at your property.
The Internet of Things
The “Internet of Things” is the phenomenon where household products and everyday objects are embedded with computing devices so they can send and receive data. This interconnectedness of common objects has broad implications for hospitality businesses.
Imagine this: what if a hotel room’s various bits and pieces could communicate both with each other and a centralized command center? For example, what if you could have the light bulbs and AC turn on when your guest returns to the hotel but before he or she even enters their room? This type of guest experience could even help reduce wasted utility bills, and generally provide a new type of operational visibility to hotels.
In a Phocuswire article on “smart” IoT, experts from PwC note that 94% of organizations that implement Internet of Things solutions see a return on their investment. The article goes on to emphasize how real-time information from connected devices can equal shorter wait times for customers enable employees to work on higher-value tasks. The IoT layer, when connected to a property’s technology, can streamline operations, improve satisfaction, and make hotels more money.
Wellness and sustainability
Wellness continues to be a hospitality trend that requires careful consideration from hoteliers. Whether it’s road warriors seeking more healthy fare or weekend retreaters prioritizing detox and disconnection, wellness is top of mind for many of today’s hotel guests. The wellness trend isn’t limited to self-care. Growing consumer sensitivities to ingredients, fabrics, and sourcing have put hotels on notice. Wellness and sustainability are intertwined, with travelers seeking out experiences that fulfill both. It’s about on-property experiences that support both personal values and mind-body balance.
Savvy hotels will craft compelling value propositions around wellness and sustainability. Leveraging guest profiles in your PMS to track guests interested in wellness will allow your hotel to personalize offers and improve conversions on marketing campaigns.
Make Self-service an Option
Guests are all about practicality and convenience. If there something that they can do faster themselves – such as mobile check-in – they will quickly become frustrated without self-service. This hospitality trend has transitioned into an expectation; after years of travelers booking their own travel online, they want to be able to do more things for themselves.
The most visible example is digital keys and mobile check-in. Guests want the option (and convenience) of skipping the front desk. Many also prefer the option to use their phones as a digital key. While this feature is not always practical for smaller properties, keep this expectation of convenience in mind.
The key here is to give guests control. Some guests want to do everything themselves, and others want support from a human. By empowering those who prefer self-service, you free up staff resources to support other guests. Thankfully, navigating this duality through greater guest control is much easier with technology such as mobile apps and mobile messaging.
Responding to Reviews
A recent Harvard Business Review analysis confirmed what we all knew all along: actively responding to reviews gives hotels a leg up with potential guests. The surprising aspect was that active responses to positive reviews yielded the same benefit as responses to negative reviews.
Other stats show how important responding to reviews can be.
A TripAdvisor study found that 85% of respondents agree that a thoughtful response to a review makes them see the hotel in a better light. The volume of reviews also matters, as 79% read between six and 12 reviews before making a purchase decision.
Independent hoteliers have an opportunity here to highlight authentic reviews and use the smaller size to humanize review responses. It pays to be more approachable and differentiate against more impersonal brands: with a 1-star increase in average rating, a study done by TrustYou found that a hotel can increase its price by 11.2 percent, with 76% willing to pay more for hotels with better reviews.
So there you have it: the top 7 hospitality trends that are here to stay. By investing in and implementing these trends in a way that’s appropriate to your property’s type and size you’ll be sure to keep your business thriving and your guests happy.