Hospitality is one of the oldest industries in the world, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement. As the world has become more mobile and more high-tech, the hotel industry has changed in an effort to keep up. Here’s what we’re keeping an eye on in the near future of our industry.
1. Hotels Will Have to Personalize Everything
One of the major appeals of modern services like Uber and Airbnb is that it’s not a cookie-cutter experience. If you book a room in a major hotel chain, you’re likely to have almost the exact same experience whether you’re in New York or San Francisco. If you book an Airbnb, no two rooms are the same.
Airbnbs are also likely to offer more personalized treatment — since guests are in direct contact with their hosts, they’re able to make specific requests when it comes to checking in, how the room is equipped, and any special accommodations they need.
Hotels are starting to follow suit. They’re adding personalization into the website and booking engines, using modern targeting technology to deliver personalized messages and offerings based on the guest’s previous activities — if you know your guest has children, you can highlight specific offers on family suites rather than single-bed rooms, for example.
2. Hotels will Highlight Direct Reservations
The internet has been a great equalizer for the consumer — it’s easier than ever for hotel guests to compare rates, amenities, and locations between hotels to find the exact fit that they want. This means it’s easy for them to go to a site like Hotwire, Orbitz, Hotels.com, or any other similar site to find a good deal, then reserve it directly on the site without paying the extra fees to a middleman.
Guests are also looking for information — a booking site will never have the comprehensive writeups, photos, and other info that you’ll host on your own website. But if you’re going to target the direct reservation market, you’ll have to be prepared.
First, your website will have to be top-shelf. You’ll need clear, large photos, a functional booking system, low loading times, clear communications of your best offerings, and all the information your guests could ever want about your hotel and the surrounding area. If you give them a one-stop shop, they’ll use it.
3. A Focus on Efficiency
The economic world has been predicting (and bracing for) an economic downturn for more than a year now — everyone expected a dip in 2020, but no one quite knew how big it would be or how long it would last.
As it turns out, the downturn was worse than anyone saw coming. The coronavirus pandemic of 2020 brought global travel, especially discretionary trips, to a standstill. Hotel stocks (along with the rest of the stock market) have plunged. Lots of seasonal hotels are suspending operations entirely, and the rest are looking to cut costs anywhere they can. There are plenty of short-term solutions, including layoffs and cutting marketing budgets, but these offer only fleeting benefits. Instead, hotels need to be focusing on bang for their buck. That means using technology to enable their staff to be more effective, more mobile, and more efficient. It means investing in energy-efficient utilities and fittings that will cost more upfront, but save money and time over months and years. Any economic downturn will be difficult to weather, but the hotels that emerge on the other side will be the ones that made the most of their resources.
4. Your Users are Your Friends
When strangers are browsing your website to decide if they want to stay at your hotel, the most powerful argument in their minds won’t be the beautiful photography or the florid prose describing how soft your beds are — it’ll be the confidence that other people had a great time there.
User-generated content (UGC) is one of the strongest tools at any hotel’s disposal, and the best part is, you don’t really have to pay for it! But that doesn’t mean you don’t have to work for it. Soliciting reviews, allowing guests to check in on social media, encouraging them to tag you on Instagram, and reminding them to take and post photos of their stay are all crucial pieces of the process. The more content you have to work with, the better a picture you can paint.
5. A Heavy Focus on Sustainability
People care more and more about the environmental impact that their lifestyles have on the environment, and they’re acutely aware that traveling long distances for vacation only heightens that impact. That doesn’t necessarily mean that people are traveling less, but it does mean that a focus on sustainability and environmental friendliness can be a significant selling point.
You need to show your guests that the environment is a priority — and as a bonus, a lot of these measures will save you money, too.
- Encourage guests to save water by hanging signs that tell them to hang their towels if they don’t need them to be washed. You can make a similar sign for sheets. No one washes their linens every day at home, so most guests won’t care if they’re not washed every day at the hotel.
- Replace every light bulb in your hotel with an LED. LEDs can be more expensive upfront (though they’re getting cheaper by the day), but they’ll pay for themselves over time. As a bonus, you’re saving your maintenance team time and effort that they’d have to spend replacing bulbs.
- Install smart thermostats in the hotel that can turn off the heat or A/C when no one’s in the room. Even if you don’t put them in every room, you can still put them in common areas. The restaurant and gym don’t need to be heated or cooled if they’re closed.
- Offer an alternative to single-use plastics. Paper cups in guest rooms, wooden stirrers at the coffee station, paper straws with drinks, and similar small changes can make a big difference to your impact. Make sure guests have a recycle bin in their room so they can throw things away separately.
6. Emphasizing the Experience
Guests probably don’t fly all the way out to your hotel to lie in bed and watch HBO — they can do that at home. The reason they come to your hotel is for a unique experience that they can’t have anywhere else, and it’s not necessarily the experience that they’ll have inside your four walls.
Travelers want to learn the history and culture of the places they visit. They want to hear local music and eat local food. It might seem counterintuitive to send them out of the hotel, but your real competition isn’t the other things to do in your city, it’s staying home. Make an effort to talk about the history of your hotel, your town, and your surrounding areas. Talk up local restaurants that are particularly good. You don’t need to be the end-all, be-all of their vacation experience, you just need to be a home base.
Change is a Constant
For every trend on this list, there will probably be a new one in a few years. Culture, travel, and your guests’ interests and priorities are a constantly shifting target, and you’ll have to roll with whatever trend next comes your way.