Travel and Hospitality Predictions for 2017
By Mihaela Lica Butler , Reporter for Hospitality Net
There's something special about the end of the year, as industry experts in every niche look ahead with hope, trying to predict what the future will change and bring new in their respective fields. Hospitality follows the trend, and I have been speaking with several personalities and specialists to discover their thoughts about what to expect in travel and hospitality in 2017.
Influential Explorers Look for Local Experiences
Sonia Tatar, CEO of Les Roches Global Hospitality Education embraces the "influential explorer." "Influential explorers are less concerned with opulence, pampering, and traditional luxury than the generation of ten or twenty years ago," she tells us. "Instead, they are focused on finding value, authenticity and truly local experiences." President of the Rosewood Hotels and Resorts Radha Arora, who is a Les Roches graduate, shares Tatar's opinion, adding a concrete example:
"Rosewood San Miguel de Allende in Mexico has created a unique welcome amenity called The Artist in You where guests are provided with a fully equipped easel and are invited to create an original piece of art to take home with them as a memento to remember their stay. Offer experiences and activities beyond the offerings of the hotel or resort: Guests are interested in exploring the local area, going on excursions, and having unique experiences outside their room. These activities account for a high percentage of non-room spending and of overall revenue."
Even Becca Wirta, Events and Public Relations Specialist at vacation rental company Vacasa, emphasized that travel businesses need to cater to individuals in 2017. "Travelers expect and demand ultra-targeted travel marketing based on geographic location, personal data, and now, hobbies, and interests," she explained, following with a concrete example: "Mushroom hunters expect to know where the next mushroom picking festivals will be held."
Personalization is key for Liana Clark, Director of Sales and Marketing at dana hotel and spa too: "Providing travelers with customized experiences is a trending topic for 2017 and dana hotel and spa is ahead of the game with unique experiential packages and a knowledgeable staff to guide travelers. Whether it's an outing to Chicago's landmarks or a helicopter ride high above the skyscrapers, every guest will leave with memories that last long after they've checked out."
Robert Edell, the founder of next gen mystery dining and customer experience analytics platform Servy, believes that customer experience will be central in many developments: "We'll see a greater focus on the guest experience, which can come in many forms. I think experience-based dining will grow—think Kellog's Cereal Cafe in NYC," he told us, and added "Health and sustainability will continue to grow in popularity and priority. Today's consumers are more health and environmentally conscious than ever, so expect restaurateurs to address this with local, ethical sourcing and vegan and gluten free menu options."
Indeed, many hotels and restaurants have already embraced the ideas of ethical sourcing and environment friendliness in 2016, and the phenomenon is likely to become mainstream in 2017.
Ethical and Environmental Become Mainstream
Alexander Chiu Smit told us that the hotel he works for, The Rosebery in Newcastle, caters to pets, but also has a strong environmental focus: "Eco-friendly is definitely something that people are asking about and is helping us stand out. Our furniture is mostly upcycled, making it not only unique and of higher quality, but also friendlier to the environment. We're noticing that people are looking for these qualities and we're going to do our best to take even more eco-friendly steps - for example, there is a hotel in Northumberland that runs entirely on solar energy."
Connie Chi, President of Vitality Groupe, talks about environmentally friendly hotels, but also about virtual reality as a key trend in 2017. "Many businesses in the hospitality space are taking a far-reaching look as to how to engrain Virtual Reality into their Marketing strategies for 2017 along with chat bots to help create a better customer experience. We predict that along with the rise of Virtual Reality brands in hospitality will become eco-friendly too. Consumers are more knowledgeable about the importance of health and reducing waste."
From my perspective, as interesting as the concept of Virtual Reality may be, many businesses will face cost restraints so 2017 may be just the year to trigger the trend, with a more probable mainstream adoption by 2020.
Pet-Friendly Is Necessity
Another topic that gained traction in 2016 is the pet-friendly hotel, and Maggie McCombs, content marketer at Creative Lodging Solutions, believes that 2017 will see an increase in such accommodation: "Do people actually prefer staycations, or do they have separation anxiety about leaving their pets? Per a report by Skift and Sojourn, an impressive number (about one out of five) of travelers are staying at home to take care of the fur babies. Hotels and travel services are trying to accommodate travelers, whether they have four legs or two."
Expect more Adventure Travelers
McCombs also has a thing for underwater adventures, and believes that these will see a boost next year too: "44% of travelers say they can imagine traveling far beyond their comfort zone - from outer space to the deep sea. A couple years ago, the travel obsession was all about space. Rumors suggest that the ocean might take its place as the "final frontier." Although the deep-sea travel trend is currently more popular outside the U.S., Key Largo, Florida, houses the oldest underwater hotel." While this is an interesting thought, it would take longer for the trend to become mainstream. But it is possible that 2017 will impact the movement significantly.
Krista Ritterhoff shared some similar ideas with us, based on a global survey by Westin Hotels and Resorts: "More than 1 in 4 respondents anticipate planning an adventure-focused trip in the next 12 months. This is nearly double the number of travelers who took adventure-focused trips in the last 3 years," she told us, talking about adventure travelers.
Because adventure travel is a diverse field, hotels may consider adding an adventure concierge to cater to the needs of these guests.
Look at the Chinese Market
Shannon Valdes with TheLuxeNomad.com makes a strong argument for the Chinese market: "The future of tourism will be driven by the Chinese market, who have already been inching out Australians as the #1 travelers for Bali. As with any country that becomes more developed, there is a portion of the Chinese market that is growing more sophisticated and westernized with their approach to travel. 15 years ago, it was all about packaged tours, but now more than 70% of Chinese outbound travelers plan and travel independently." This is particularly noteworthy also if you look at the moves made by Chinese hotel chain Plateno Group, which opens new hotels in Europe to cater to Chinese tourists.
According to China Tourism Research Institute, China had 120 million outbound tourists in 2015, and they spent 104.5 billion US dollars, increases of 12% and 16.7% compared with 2014. Even more spent their holidays abroad this year. Moreover, the European Travel Commission held an event early this summer to launch the 2018 EU-China Tourism Year. The focus on the Chinese market is no longer a trend, but a reality. Businesses that adapt to satisfy Chinese visitors will thrive in 2017.
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