The holiday rush is past, and your 2019 goals are set. But now is not the time to simply sit back and relax. Considering the challenges and disruptions the hospitality industry has experienced over the past couple of decades, it’s important to keep an eye on the developments that continue to reshape the industry. Here are five key hospitality trends to consider as we move through the new year.
Changing Loyalty Plans
After years of losing points to online travel agencies (OTAs), hotel direct bookings will jump even further ahead than last year. A change that will create positive ripple effects in average daily rate (ADR) and hotel profitability. Hotel loyalty programs are playing a key role in this booking behavior shift, with half of all U.S. leisure travelers now belonging to a loyalty plan. Make the most of this trend by incorporating incentives that target today’s travelers, who are looking more for instant rewards as opposed to simply saving up points for free hotel stays. Offer early check-in/late checkout, complimentary high-speed Wi-Fi, and access to unique local experiences.
The hot trend of personalization is getting even hotter in 2019, with hoteliers striving to gather and use more data to provide customizations. As opposed to addressing broad-based segments, the new objective is to provide an individualized travel experience for each customer, on each trip, across every touchpoint. Of course, personalization begins with capturing the right data, and analyzing it to determine which offers or amenities will best enhance your guest experiences – something that 57 percent of U.S. travelers want brands to do. Advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) are making previously unimagined levels of personalization now possible, like customizing in-room experiences with personal artwork and photos. One study showed that the number of hotels implementing AI will increase by 30 percent this year. Use customer metrics to tailor your digital marketing strategy pre-stay, within the booking process, during a guest’s stay, and even post stay.
Technology Holds the Key
Nearly 25 percent of all U.S. hoteliers have already taken their properties to the Cloud, with more to follow in 2019 as pressure to update systems and streamline guest experiences grows. Technology has brought us to the tipping point, with innovations becoming true accelerators for business. On the guest-facing side, hotels are creating tech-friendly atmospheres for tech-savvy guests who are demanding more and more “smart hotel” features. Like being able to manage hotel room lighting, air conditioning, and TV screens with their personal devices. And on the back end, a key factor influencing customer lifetime value revolves around how successfully a hotel integrates technology throughout their organization. AI and the Cloud allow revenue management, sales, and marketing to collaborate effectively, helping teams to align goals, and optimize profitability across an entire property.
Millennials (Generation Y) are the fastest growing demographic of U.S. traveler, taking an average of 3.5 vacations per year and spending about $4,500 on each one. And Generation Z (those born between 1995 and 2000 depending on which source you use) are coming up hot on their heels. While both generations share many similarities, one key difference between Gen Zers and Millennials is their desire for security. Having grown up during the Great Recession, Generation Z tends to be more pragmatic and fiscally responsible when it comes to travel.
Hotels looking to nab their share of these lucrative markets must understand that both Gen Zers and Millennials prioritize spending their money on memorable experiences over material goods. And they shun cookie-cutter furnishings in favor of destination-specific décor. Millennials are more prone to mix business with leisure (bleisure) trips, and love sharing their travel adventure stories on social media.
Hotels can attract Gen Y and Zers by offering culturally immersive, “Instagram-worthy” experiences. And by creating open, connected lobbies that can double as co-working and socializing spaces. Furthermore, it’s become imperative that brands monitor their online reputations. Both generations value prompt responses on social media to questions, and positive and negative feedback.
Thanks to the capabilities of advanced analytics, hotels are moving beyond traditional revenue management (RM) practices to focus on total revenue optimization. For both groups and transient travelers, robust RM technology can determine customer lifetime values – tracking booking behaviors, preferences, purpose for travel, length of stay, ancillary spend, and more. RM will also examine the costs associated with each revenue stream, employing more strategic profit management.
Stay on top of these evolving trends, and you’ll find your hotel driving more direct bookings, repeat stays, and referrals – and enjoying a profitable 2019.