Hospitality Industry Trends
Brexit, the US election, travel acquisitions, and global terror threats and so much more defined 2016. As we look back on the year, we have much to look forward to in 2017 and beyond. Whether your property is in your high, low, or shoulder season, the end of the year always marks an important time where we can draw insights and make predictions. In 2016, we predicted what would define the year, everything from OTAs to the sharing economy. For 2017, we’ve created a new list of hospitality trends that we believe will make the biggest impact this year.
In 2016, we predicted what would define the year, everything from OTAs to the sharing economy. For 2017, we’ve created a new list of hospitality trends that we believe will make the biggest impact this year.
After you make your way through our list, we encourage you to make your own list of trends that you believe will affect your property, both on a micro and macro scale. After you’ve read through our list, share yours. Agree with us or challenge our ideas, we want to create an open discussion.
The Hospitality Industry is Still Growing
2016 proved to be eventful, often in ways that surprised and shocked the world. Many international events threatened hospitality businesses, like many of the deadly terrorist attacks across Europe and the Middle East. Political events such as Brexit and Trump’s US presidential win are sure to have an impact on international hospitality trends. While the effect of these events is still unclear, there’s a possibility they’ll influence actual numbers.
STR, the leader in hospitality data, released their predictions for 2017 alongside their original 2016 predictions. Overall, we will see about the same amount of growth predicted in 2017 as we did for 2016. We see nothing but growth in all sections except for in occupancy, which will remain the same for the course of 2017. Supply, demand, average daily rate (ADR), and revenue per available room (RevPAR) are set to increase by at least 1.9% this year. While these are not overwhelmingly high percentage changes, positive numbers are always good in our book.
These facts and figures are based on US hospitality demand and do not include short-term rental supply or international numbers.
One trend, which we haven’t talked much about, is consolidation. Over the past few years, we’ve seen fewer companies come to dominate their spaces, and more companies who end up getting acquired or consolidated. For example, Marriott and Starwood merged, Accor Hotels purchased OneFineStay, a luxury home share site to beef up their short-term rental marketplace.
There are mixed feelings about consolidation and acquisitions. When there are monopolies, consumers end up suffering and when there is active competition, more innovation exists and everyone wins.
Over the years, we’ve seen OTAs gobble up any major threats to their business. For example, Expedia has acquired many services over the years including HomeAway and VRBO. The market is maturing and we’re seeing a convergence of technology and efficiency. Consolidation is great in the short-term, but as we saw when airlines consolidated, prices will skyrocket when controlled only by a few players.
Companies like Airbnb and Facebook acquire smaller companies on a regular basis to take their team or technology that will play into a larger overall plan. While niche marketplaces and personalized experiences are overwhelmingly popular, we expect larger companies to provide them. Of course, smaller businesses and startups will continue to exist, but we’ve seen fewer enter the market and truly disrupt the space. Existing players will continue to grow stronger and offer more within their suite of products.
Maturing of Existing Platforms
Last year, we made predictions on how hospitality technology would evolve over the year. Technology changes at a rapid pace, and because of that, we see new companies and existing companies evolve over time. We expect 2017 to be about the maturing of technology-based companies.
Today’s technology revolves around software that runs online or “in the cloud” as the techies say. From cloud computing to cloud storage, the need for physical software these days is almost unheard of.
SaaS-based products offer consumers much more value than traditional software. One of the main reasons is because software updates and new features are often included in the original monthly or annual fee. This structure helps both the client and the software provider. Clients continually get a more stable system and providers reduce customer churn because they’re constantly updating their system.
Directly related to the consolidation section above, we see existing companies obtaining more technology to empower their existing businesses. For example, Accor Hotels purchased Onefinestay, a luxury Airbnb-like service. In this case, we see a traditional hospitality provider merging with a travel startup in hopes of shaping the future of accommodations. Their differences make them stronger and will, hopefully, help usher in a new era for hospitality. Traditional hospitality is catching up to trends faster than before as strong forces, like Airbnb, consistently threaten them.
Hostel Culture on the Rise
Hostels have been around for a long time, but their prevalence in mainstream culture is now quickly rising. Hostels have traditionally belonged to fringe cultures. They’re for people who love to travel for long periods of time, people who are interested in connecting with fellow travelers or locals, and generally are a tight-knit community.
The idea of local experiences has dominated conversations in 2016, and we believe it’s greatly helping hostels. Hostels by nature foster community experiences, so it makes sense that the two trends would go hand-in-hand.
Hostels have received an unfair reputation in the United States. Many Americans think of hostels as dirty, cheap and grungy. And unless Americans have traveled abroad, they probably haven’t experienced a hostel first hand. Many US-based hostels require an international passport or have strict stipulations on who can stay there. These measures were put in place to combat all sorts of things like prostitution and human trafficking. But all of that is changing as we see more hostels entering the US and different types of hostels emerge worldwide.
Luxury hostels, for example, have made a large impact on how people perceive hostel travel. They cater to an audience who likes the hostel experience but enjoys the finer things. We wrote a piece on luxury hostels that you should check out if you’re interested in learning more.
We expect all types of hostels to do well this year and gain a solid foundation in the US like we currently see in Europe, Asia, South America, etc.
Owning Your Online Presence
Owning your online presence is certainly not a new trend, but it’s more important than ever. Every year, your business’ online exposure becomes more important and will directly help your direct booking efforts. Both SEO value and social media validation are important to creating a strong online presence can do nothing but help your property. Travelers are constantly looking for inspiration, and you want to be wherever they’re looking.
Just as technology companies are maturing, so are social media platforms. We haven’t seen a new social media platform pop up and gain sustainable popularity in the past few years. We see existing social media networks continue to grow and become a part of everyday life. Putting the time and effort into social media and your online presence is no longer a nice to have, but a must have for all types of businesses. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Snapchat are among the social platforms that your property should take seriously.
Facebook: Facebook is the social media powerhouse. Right now, they’re dictating so much online behavior it’s almost a little scary. They collect a wide range of data on their users from demographics to buying behavior to your physical behavior (i.e. traveling). While all of this data may feel intrusive, it’s super helpful to marketers choosing an audience to target via the Facebook ad platform.
As a travel business, you’re able to target people who are traveling, who will be traveling, who are close to your business right now, among many other things.
If you haven’t already, you should install the Facebook pixel on your website so you can target ads against people who are already familiar with your business. In our experience, this incredibly lucrative because it keeps your property top of mind and pushes them to complete the booking. Read more about Facebook advertising in our step-by-step guide.
Instagram: Facebook-owned Instagram will also remain important in 2017, especially for travel. Their ad platform is now integrated into Facebook’s and the same targeting capabilities carry over. Social media revolves around visual content and we see countless travel posts on Instagram. As the platform matures, more and more of your guests will share snippets of their vacation online.
Instagram has added new functionality like stories, which are pictures or short videos that disappear after 24 hours that appear in chronological order of your day. They also added live-streaming functionality that allow users to show what they’re doing right now.
Snapchat: Snapchat is the app that many thought would have been disappeared as fast as their self-deleting photos. The app now leads in social media innovation. They’ve invented everything from stories to geo filters to Spectacles, their new glasses that allow you to take Snapchat pics and videos by pressing a button.
As Snapchat and their user base grows, it will become more important. The premise of Snapchat is that you allow people to peer into the everyday life of others, whether that’s an individual brand or a person. Everything travel will thrive on Snapchat as it is interesting content by nature.
Your Website: Your website will remain important in 2017 and there are several boxes you should make sure are checked. A good website will be extremely visual with big, beautiful pictures and videos of your property. Point blank, travelers want to know what they’re getting.
Make your website clean and easy to navigate. This includes having an intuitive booking engine that allows guests to book and confirm their stay in one session.
For 2017, your website needs to be responsive and mobile-friendly. It should look good on all devices including desktop, mobile, and tablet. If your mobile is not mobile-responsive your run the great risk of someone abandoning your site or Google penalizing you in search results.
Local and Share Experiences
Hospitality experiences are always evolving. For the same reason hostels are becoming more popular, local and shared experiences are driving people to seek local and shared experiences. Travelers are interested in seeing a more broad range of sites and activities when going to typical destinations.
The tried and true tourist destinations will always remain popular, but the way people experience them will change. Airbnb has helped people find accommodations of the beaten path by building a brand that supports breaking the norm.
Your property, regardless of size, can become a cultural hub for your city built around unique experiences. Through content, whether it’s blogs, social media content, video, city guides, or something completely different, you can attract people to your website with interesting information.
Then, while guests are on your property, you can offer local experiences or partner with companies, like tour guides, who can provide for your guests. Even if offering the experiences yourself is beyond what you can offer, you can train your staff to have knowledge of the local area. If you have content to give them, whether it’s a printed map, brochure, or link to an online guide, you’ll create a deeper relationship with your guests.
Finding new ways to interact and create experiences with your guests will set your property apart this year. With new threats, come new opportunities for growth to better service your guests.
The battle between direct bookings and OTAs will continue in 2017 (and far beyond). We believe that every healthy distribution strategy should have a mixture of third-party channels and direct bookings. Online travel agencies offer your property more exposure and access to markets their property alone does not. Travelers also have brand loyalty to these OTAs which gives your business a boost if they find you on said site.
However, if you’re going to distribute your inventory on several different sites, it’s in your best interest to offer rate transparency. Guests want to know they’re receiving the best deal possible, and hidden fees or dramatic differences in rates will cause dissonance. You want to keep your rates as consistent as possible and explain differences in price when you can.
A maturing economy will define 2017. We expect existing companies to increase their strengths and address weaknesses. We expect a greater focus on local culture and experiences that has already made a huge impact on hospitality and travel. It’s all about personalization and elevating the guest experience. We encourage you to take a look at your local markets, your yearly performance and analyze your competition in order to make your own 2017 predictions.