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A new year is beginning, and it’s the perfect time to take stock of what’s working, what isn’t, and start making a plan for finding success and wowing customers in 2019. Need a change but lack inspiration? Here are a few hospitality trends that will dominate in the new year:
The transition to an all-mobile world continues. It seems like every year there are new steps hoteliers must take to stay mobile friendly. In the beginning, that just meant ensuring websites were optimized for mobile devices. Oh, how far we’ve come. Moving into 2019 and beyond, mobile will be an important part of all aspects of the guest experience. Many hotels will allow guests to make and manage bookings through hotel apps, check-in and out on their mobile devices, and access rooms with a mobile key. Rooms will be equipped with smart technology that allows lighting, temperature, and entertainment to be controlled via personal devices and room service orders and other requests will be made over text messaging. Mobile technology has found its way into every aspect of our lives, and that includes travel. So, consider ways to make your business more mobile friendly. This is a trend that isn’t going away.
Health and Well-Being
Moving into the new year, wellness tourism (travel with the intent to maintain or improve health) will be even bigger than it was in 2018. In fact, the industry is forecasted to reach $919 billion in revenue by 2022. With numbers like that, there’s good reason to incorporate health and wellness into your hospitality business. And there are a variety of options for accomplishing this: from installing fitness centers, health spas or saunas, to hosting retreats and serving healthy food options. If you don’t have the necessary facilities on-site, consider partnering with a local business. You could provide a health and wellness package that includes passes to a nearby studio.
Social, Social, Social
This will likely come as no surprise, but social media will continue to play a significant role in 2019. This year we will see a shift towards more ephemeral content, with live-streaming and social media stories gaining momentum across many popular platforms. And behind the scenes, social listening will become a more prevalent marketing practice—allowing businesses to monitor online chatter about their brand for more effective lead generation and reputation management.
The futuristic tech that we’ve blogged about in the past will begin to gain traction in the hospitality industry this year. It’s predicted that chatbots will be involved in more than 85% of customer service interactions by the year 2020—which isn’t surprising. AI can provide 24/7 service while significantly reducing cost. And there is little customer resistance as consumers adjust to the use of chatbots and other digital assistants in all aspects of their lives.
Though still in its infancy, the use of robots in hospitality will also continue to climb this year. What began as an exciting novelty, has become an essential piece of the customer service puzzle in a few larger hotels across North America and Asia. Like chatbots, they have the potential to maximize service while reducing staffing costs.
While many hotels invest in amenities that cater to the whole family, there is a growing subset of properties doing just the opposite. Adults-only properties (all guests must be 16 years or older to stay) are seeing an upswing in popularity recently that will likely continue into the new year. As more and more adults seek out the tranquility of a kid-free holiday, middle and budget properties are participating in what used to be the exclusive territory of luxury resorts in the Caribbean.
The hospitality industry is always evolving. It’s important to stay abreast of changes in design, operations, and technology, so you don’t get left behind. Keep these current and emerging trends in mind when looking to make changes this year.
A recent study conducted by Expedia and The Center for Generational Kinetics, found that 74% of Americans value experiences over things. That’s great news for the hospitality industry as most of those people are planning to travel in pursuit of those experiences.
So how can you capitalize on the emerging “experience economy”? For these travelers, the memory is the product. You need to adapt your marketing material to reflect that. It’s not enough to simply advertise a luxurious bed or first-rate amenities. You need to showcase the unique travel experiences that guests will have at your property. Here’s how:
Create video content
Video has become a powerful marketing medium across all industries. It improves SEO and boosts conversions—one study even suggests that including video content in a landing page can increase conversions by 80%. It’s also an ideal tool for showcasing experiences. If used correctly, the dynamic medium can inspire viewers and help them imagine what a stay at your property would be like.
Create videos that portray people experiencing everything your property has to offer (with #travelinspo footage of events and other highlights) and post them across your digital channels. Once viewers start picturing themselves laughing with friends over a drink on the patio, or kayaking peacefully on the lake out front, for example, they won’t want to book anywhere else.
Promote your destination
For most travelers, the destination is the draw. They’re looking to explore and experience the local culture. So, you should promote your locality as well as your property. Sharing helpful information about things to do and see in your area shows a commitment to experiential travel that guests will appreciate. And demonstrating your local expertise will earn their trust. Guests want to stay somewhere connected to the community with insider tips for getting the most out of their holiday.
User-generated content (UGC) is a big deal in today’s marketing landscape. And for good reason. Consumers are much more trusting of their peer’s reviews than traditional marketing material. And, as it’s the real-life experience of your guests, UGC is particularly well-suited for marketing in the experience economy. So, when a guest posts about their stay at your property, use it. It’s the most authentic promotional material you could hope for.
Considering the value of UGC, you should do what you can to encourage guests to post online. This can be done by creating a strong social media presence, hosting contests, and including calls-to-action on other marketing collateral.
Partner with influencers
For high-impact UGC, consider partnering with social media influencers. These are people with a significant number of followers whose content generates considerable engagement. Unlike traditional UGC, these posts will cost you (either in fees or free stays at your property). But if you choose the right influencer, it’ll likely be well worth the investment. 81% of marketers that have tried influencer marketing considered it effective.
Be authentic online
Part of selling the experience at your property is showing off your unique personality. Travelers today aren’t interested in generic accommodation. And if your digital content is uninspired and formulaic, they’ll assume your property is the same way. So make sure you’re being authentic on your website and social media channels. Avoid an overly formal tone and steer clear of canned responses to guest posts.
Today’s travelers are seeking exciting experiences they’ll remember forever (and can share on their social media pages). Make sure you’re creating effective marketing material so you can capture their imaginations and ultimately win their bookings.
People are very dependent on their phones and tablets—especially when they travel. In fact, a recent study found that mobile devices are considered the “single most indispensable item” by travelers. That puts them ahead of essentials like a driver’s license and toothbrush. With people that attached to their smartphones, it’s no surprise that the BYOD trend is gaining steam in the hospitality industry.
What is BYOD?
BYOD—or ‘bring your own device”— refers to the practice of having employees (or, in this case, customers) access applications with their personal devices (instead of using company-owned ones). It’s a trend that makes sense. Virtually everyone is already carrying a powerful phone or tablet around with them. And it’s a device they have experience on and feel comfortable with. So why not let them use it and save on hardware costs?
How can BYOD be used in hospitality?
BYOD policies have been adopted in many industries to great effect. And hospitality is no exception. There are many ways a BYOD-friendly environment can benefit lodging operators (and their guests).
In-room applications >> Many lodging operators have equipped their hotels with in-room tablets. These devices act as control centers, with applications for lighting and climate control, ordering room-service, and making requests and reservations. They’re a great addition to any room, but all those tablets add up. If you adopt a BYOD system, your guests get the convenience of centralized control without the cost (not to mention the ongoing maintenance) of expensive hardware for you.
Streaming >> Whether it’s Netflix, YouTube, Spotify or any of the many other options out there, most people use at least one streaming service. And these types of platforms are only going to get more popular. Creating a BYOD environment means guests can access the content they know and love while staying at your property. And it’s a great opportunity to upsell. 60% of respondents in a survey said they would pay between $3.99 and $6.99 for the ability to stream personal content.
Keyless entry >> Another hospitality trend enabled by BYOD policies? Mobile keys. A simple app allows guests to unlock their door with their smartphones. Not only is this more convenient for them, but it also saves you—and the environment—the cost of printing all those plastic keys (Did you know a 200-room property goes through roughly 12 000 per year?).
Mobile check-in >> Becoming more mobile-friendly is all about making your guests’ stay more convenient. And providing the opportunity for mobile check-in does just that. It’s a chance for customers to skip the queue and they welcome it with open arms.
Things to consider
We’ve talked a lot about the benefits of a BYOD hotel, but there are a few things you should consider when jumping on the bandwagon.
Infrastructure >> Setting up a BYOD-friendly property does involve some initial investment. If you want to offer personal streaming in your rooms, you’ll need TV’s with streaming capability (think smart TVs, Chromecast, or Apple TVs). Keyless entry requires compatible door locks. And climate control applications have to be paired with smart lights and appliances.
Bandwidth >> Another concern with a BYOD environment is bandwidth. Relying on guests’ personal devices means free WiFi is a must, and that could put a strain on your internet service. That being said, WiFi is so important to guest satisfaction these days, that you’ll probably need to invest in as much bandwidth as you can get regardless.
The ubiquity of smartphones and other mobile devices has changed the hospitality industry in many ways, especially when it comes to consumer expectations. Personalization is the name of the game and creating a BYOD environment is a great step in that direction.
As more and more of the workforce has begun telecommuting (at least part-time), a new demographic has emerged in the travel industry. No longer tethered to the office, these remote workers have the ability to do their jobs from anywhere in the world. It’s a freedom many are taking advantage of—taking extended trips to exciting destinations without any time-constraints. But their newfound freedom doesn’t mean ditching their responsibilities altogether. They still need to do their jobs, and that requires finding accommodation that can serve as a comfortable and productive workspace.
Here are some tips for ensuring your property is ready for the remote workforce so you can capitalize on this growing market:
Make it bright and beautiful >> Remote workers are going to be spending a lot of time at the accommodation they book, so they’ll want an inviting atmosphere. Ensure there’s lots of natural light, and unique design touches—which will enhance both productivity and creativity respectively. And try to infuse some local flavor into the decor. It’ll connect guests with their destination even when they’re stuck working indoors.
Feature multiple work-friendly spaces >> While you’ll likely have one space designed specifically for working, try and highlight some secondary areas that a guest might want to work from. Whether it’s a cozy armchair with a side-table, a chaise lounge on the patio or a comfortable bar chair at a breakfast counter, remote workers want to know they have options for moving around throughout the day.
Provide the fundamentals >> Whatever spaces you design to serve as workstations require a couple of key pieces. In addition to a chair and tabletop, you’ll need to ensure there is a nearby electrical outlet, flexible lighting options, and a strong WiFi signal. And if possible, it’s preferable for the primary work area to be its own distinct space—as opposed to doubling as the kitchen table, for example—so guests can leave their work materials set up for the entirety of their stay.
Use ergonomic furniture >> For guests that are going to be working hours at a time it’s important to have furniture that is functional and comfortable. Chairs should be sturdy, with good back support and tables should have a smooth surface with enough space for a laptop, coffee, and a book or two.
Get rid of clutter >> While a few unique design pieces can be useful for inspiring creativity, too many things lying around can be distracting. Make sure to avoid clutter so your guests can be at their most productive while on the job.
Include local insights >> If you provide a local guide for your guests, consider including info specifically for your remote-working clientele. This could include recommendations for cafes to work at during the day as well as the nearest post offices and printing shops. They’ll appreciate the gesture.
Provide the supplies >> If you really want to impress your telecommuting guests, you can also include a few office essentials. A basket of pens and pencils, notepads, and post-its is a nice touch that won’t go unnoticed by your customers. And it won’t break the bank either.
Telecommuting is on the rise, and many people are seizing the opportunity to travel more and work on-the-go. There’s a whole new segment of travelers looking for vacation accommodation that can double as a home office. Make sure you’re doing everything you can to catch the eye of these potential guests. They’re a growing cohort with the flexibility to book extended stays and return regularly. So don’t miss out!
Building a good reputation has always been important for business. Like almost everything else, the internet hasn’t changed that fact; it’s just adjusted how the game is played. Consumers are more empowered to voice their opinion than ever before, and they use it. Depending on how you respond to and manage the online dialogue surrounding your property, the ubiquity of reviews can be a powerful asset or an overwhelming obstacle for your business. Because the truth is, your online reputation directly affects bookings in a significant way. In fact, a study from Boston University and Microsoft concluded that a 1-star increase online can boost demand by 26%. That’s no small effect. And not at all surprising considering 92% of people use reviews to inform booking decisions when researching hotels.
The things guests are saying about you online matter in a big way. If dealt with correctly, you can not only mitigate the potential damage of reviews but actually make them work for you. Here are five steps for managing your reputation online.
Step 1: Monitor online content
If you want to deal with your online reputation, you need to know what people are saying about you. To this end, you should be regularly monitoring the reviews (and other content) that are being posted across the web. The internet is a big place, so this probably sounds daunting. But, thankfully, there a number of tech options out there to bear the bulk of that burden. Setting up a simple Google Alert (for free!) can send you updates whenever posts are made, anywhere on the web, using the term of your choosing (your hotel’s name is a good place to start). You can also choose to partner with providers like Hootsuite or Revinate. These solutions automatically monitor multiple platforms, aggregating and organizing review data so you can analyze and act upon it.
Step 2: Respond appropriately
Now that you have your finger on the pulse of your online mentions, the next step is to respond. Obviously, you shouldn’t reply to every single review, but it’s a good idea to offer a few kind words for the occasional positive review (think “we’re so glad you enjoyed your stay!”) and then prioritize the negative ones. And don’t be hostile or defensive. Express your sincere apologies for their unsatisfactory experience and offer an opportunity for further communication to address their concerns. Remain professional, and you have the power to seriously mitigate the fall-out from a bad review. 87% of users on TripAdvisor indicated that an appropriate response to a negative review improves their opinion of the business.
Step 3: Leverage good reviews
As previously mentioned, the growing trend of guests sharing their opinions online can be a huge benefit to your business. The experiences of customers are much more trusted than traditional advertising material, making glowing reviews marketing gold. So use them! Whether you choose to include testimonials on your webpage or make a point of liking, sharing, and retweeting positive mentions, make sure you’re not missing out on the potential of quality user-generated content.
Step 4: Learn from bad reviews
You work hard to give your customers the best possible experience, so it definitely hurts to get a bad review. But if you choose to look ‘em in the eye and learn from it, they can make your business stronger. Of course, some guest complaints are isolated incidents (or totally unreasonable) and, in that case, you can politely apologize and move on. But other negative reviews can alert you to real weaknesses that would be wise to address. So keep tabs on the nature of your negative reviews. Are there any illuminating patterns? Once you’ve highlighted areas for improvement, take action. Your business will be the better for it.
Step 5: Encourage feedback
The final step to building a strong reputation online is to generate more content. The more reviews published online, the more legitimate and trustworthy your business appears (assuming you’re responding appropriately). So do what you can to encourage guests to post about their time at your property. This can be done in a number of ways, but you should certainly be inviting feedback in your post-stay emails.
A good reputation is critical to the success of any business. And in this day and age, the majority of that battle is being fought online. Follow these five steps to keep gaining ground. Good luck!
Today’s savvy nomad has realized that the hotel experience is an integral aspect of travel. Hotels are no longer merely the place of a morning departure and evening return, the place to shower and sleep, the place just to hang one’s hat; many guests expect their hotel to be an experience and an extension of its locale. Services and amenities continue to be important, and a beautiful space is essential, but travelers are increasingly choosing and returning to hotels based on ambiance. In other words, how your space feels is as important as what your hotel offers. Many recommend that a hotel create a home away from home, and that’s certainly important in the sense of comfort. A hotel should aim to be as comfortable as a home, but shouldn’t it offer more ease? In a sense, a hotel’s space should aspire to feel like the ideal home.
Travelers have eclectic tastes and strong expectations; still, it’s possible to enthuse them with unexpected features. The details of these features will depend on the brand you want to portray and story you want to tell – and make no mistake; ambiance tells a story. Decor continues to trend towards minimalism; however, simplicity can be executed in many ways. Some are choosing to mix neutral colors with soft blues, greens, and yellows. Others showcase one bold color – like a deep blue, red, or purple – set against softer creams and whites. Still others include urban art (like graffiti) as a striking visual statement. Mix and match tones, textures, and styles to produce unpredictable and engaging results.
One of the unique aspects your hotel has at its disposal is… itself. What is the history of the hotel? The building? If newly built, what is the inspiration behind its design? What is the history of the community? Every hotel has a story. Tell it through the traditional mediums of photographs, art, and displays, but also in the furniture you choose and the overall mood you set. Including pieces from local artists and artisans is a great way to tell your and your community’s story, and can also give your guests a unique glimpse at local ways of seeing the broader world.
This year many hoteliers will also rethink the function of their spaces.
Lobbies >> Front desks are increasingly being replaced with sit-down concierge desks where guests sip on coffee or wine while the check-in is conducted by staff with iPads. The lobby is your guest’s first interaction with a hotel’s physical space. It should be inviting, not pragmatic. Many hotels already have cafes, restaurants, or bars connected to their lobbies. Others are thinking beyond those mainstays, incorporating specialized bookstores, galleries, and libraries into their lobbies, opening a space for community members and guests to interact.
Rooms >> How often do guests use all the drawers in hotel rooms? Or hang a full closet of clothes? If your hotel caters to short stay visitors (and most do), the trend in room design is moving towards simplification with furniture designed especially for hotel rooms, including wall racks for hanging clothes, bed frames that enable a guest to slide their luggage underneath, and nightstands that double for desks. This trend is particularly appealing to hoteliers in urban markets where square footage is limited. Simplified furniture lends a spacious feel without needing as much space. Also, by designing variations in layout and differences in decor (through wall treatments, rugs, and lighting), hotels are increasingly providing a more distinct, fresh, and memorable experience, one that guests will be inspired to relive.
Including natural elements in hotel design is not new in 2018, but it has recently gained a new name, and with that comes a whole philosophy for rebuilding a relationship between humans and their environment. Biophilic Design will be on many designers minds this year. Biophilic Design seeks to remedy the discord between our lifestyle (especially urban) and our innate desire to connect with nature. Designers with this mindset aim to integrate buildings into their surroundings, incorporate natural elements like large plants, wood and stone, and maximize natural light. In a hotel’s communal spaces, designers are incorporating vertical gardens and multi-level terraces. At resorts, room sizes are decreasing to make room for larger balconies and verandas. In urban and rural hotels alike, expansive windows enable the local foliage and panoramic views to become part of a room’s ambiance.
The Human Spaces report into the Global Impact of Biophilic Design in the Workplace suggests that having a view of nature can trigger a dopamine response, and that contact with nature “has a restorative effect,” reducing stress and contributing to overall well-being. Designing spaces that incorporate elements from nature encourages an emotional connection with our environment, which will not only provide a sense of experience in your guests but also contribute to the productivity of your staff.
We crave more interaction with nature and people, but we’re also not willing to relinquish our electronic devices. Hotels should design bedrooms, boardrooms, and communal spaces that allow guests to stay connected.
Designers are creating clever ways to hide charging stations and preserve the décor of a room. Seamless doors in desks or nightstands open or lift to reveal USB ports and electrical outlets, enabling the modern guest to quickly plug in for work or play. Other designers are creating innovative ways to incorporate ports and outlets into the design of their headboards and other pieces. Hotels are also providing ports to enable guests to connect to their own media (Netflix, Apple TV, Google Play and YouTube) to watch their own content on the bigger screen. This is especially attractive for families who desire immediate access to cartoons and other programming for their young children, but many of us live in a world where we’re used to having our media at the tips of our thumbs. Offering access to our own media is one more way to offer the comforts of home, and offering access through innovative designs has the potential to elevate those home comforts.
Hotels are continuing to adopt smart technology like solar panels and personalized tablets to control room temperature and room service, but hotels are also ushering us into the future by embracing dynamic design features like wallpaper that changes color or pattern based on light and temperature. The hotels that deliver the most memorable experiences in 2018 will fuse innovation, design, and storytelling with comfort, leaving guests to return home to tell not only of their adventuring in your community, but of the experience they enjoyed throughout your hotel.
And just like that, 2017 has passed! We hope you had a wonderful (and profitable!) holiday season, and are excited about the year to come. January is a month for resolutions—an opportunity to reflect on the past year and think of ways to improve in the next. This is just as true for businesses as it is for individuals. We all have room for improvement. So if you’re looking to make some changes at your lodging operation, and are in need of inspiration, here are the top hospitality trends in design, technology, and operations, for 2018.
Biophilic design >> Based on the idea that humans have an innate desire to be surrounded by nature, biophilic design is the newest trend in architecture and interior decor. It’s an aesthetic that—through the incorporation of natural elements—seeks to alleviate stress and improve wellness. As the hospitality industry is forever endeavoring to enhance the guest experience, it’s not a surprise that biophilic design is beginning to garner the interest of hoteliers across the globe. And to good effect; a study conducted by Terrapin Bright Green found that 36% more guests spend time in a lobby with biophilic design features. So what makes a space biophilic? Anything that creates a direct or indirect experience of nature. That includes the incorporation of plant and water features, maximizing natural lighting and using natural colors and materials (just to name a few).
Public spaces >> An emphasis on shared space is the current trend in hotel design. Inspired by the preferences of millenials who spend less time in their rooms and seek out places where they can socialize and collaborate—properties have shifted the focus from in-room amenities to curating comfortable and inviting shared spaces. Many are ditching the front-desk for living-room style lobbies where staff (equipped with iPads) can engage with customers more authentically, and guests can spend time working, reading and socializing.
Smart rooms >> From phones to socks, it seems like everything we use these days is getting a smart iteration. As the ubiquity of these devices grows, the technology is naturally finding its way into the hospitality industry. This means equipping rooms with things like smart TVs (so customers can stream their favorite content) to personalized climate and lighting control. Guests expect properties to have the same comforts and conveniences they’ve grown accustomed to at home.
Personalization >>Guest loyalty is won by hoteliers that go above and beyond. Now more than ever that means personalization like free wi-fi for the frequent business traveler or cafe recommendations for the coffee lover. Hotels today are using technological solutions to track customer habits and preferences in order to surprise and delight.
Community connections >>Another characteristic of millennials that is changing the hospitality game? The prioritization of experience over things. Travelers these days are highly motivated to engage with the communities they travel to. For hoteliers, this means it’s a good idea to do the same. Showcasing local artwork, collaborating with local businesses and ensuring staff is knowledgeable about local experiences will create the authentic experience these guests are looking for.
Going green >> Most people these days are concerned for the environment. And in addition to making changes to go green at home, travelers are prioritizing eco-friendly accommodation when on the road. There’s a lot hoteliers can do to fit this bill. Whether the changes are simple (like using more efficient light bulbs) or extensive (like installing a grey-water recycling system), environmentally conscious guests (and the earth!) will appreciate the effort.
It’s the beginning of a new year; the perfect time to consider new ways to improve your business. And if you’re in need of inspiration, why not start with these ideas for design, tech, and operations in hospitality. They’re a few of the biggest trends for 2018.