Future of hospitality: What is shaping our decisions in 2024? — Source: IDS NEXT

In recent years, the hospitality sector has navigated significant changes and hurdles, responding to challenges like a global health crisis, inflation, labour shortages, and digital migration.

As we approach 2024, it is time to analyse what top trends will dominate and impact the industry in the coming years.

1. Smart technologies and virtual operations

The integration of smart technologies has become instrumental in enhancing guest safety, streamlined operations, reduced wait times and responding effectively to labour shortages. From QR codes to face recognition technologies, these solutions became a norm in modern hospitality, even long after the health and safety protocols were dropped. In addition, cashless transactions are becoming the preferred payment method for most guests and are well on the way to becoming the standard payment practice.

The emergence of virtual concierge services further enhances guest satisfaction, offering convenience and personalised assistance to guests during their stay, fostering a greater sense of loyalty towards a brand.

2. Wellness and health-centric hospitality

The focus on self-care, holistic treatments and growing awareness of mind and body healing has led to a surge of tourists travelling solely for wellness. McKinsey research shows that wellness is now a $1.5 trillion global market, with consumers most interested in the areas of health, fitness, nutrition, appearance, sleep and mindfulness. Today, most guests are willing to pay for premium wellness and health-related services, including biohacking treatments and VR-based stress management methods.

This trend is changing the service delivery in hospitality and is swiftly becoming a major element of hotel operations and a main source of revenue for hotel brands with their ability to attract high-value customers.

3. Local and hyper-local experiences

With the trend of 'buy local', more guests prefer supporting local communities and want an authentic experience in new destinations. The trend will only grow as governments of emerging tourist markets try to uplift the local economy post-pandemic by inviting more tourists.

Hospitality businesses are tasked with sourcing more local materials and cultivating relationships with local farmers, local artisans, tour operators and producers. Local experiences also manifest in the form of offering multilingual services and incorporating neighbourhood architectural elements into hotel and restaurant designs. Collaborating with local creators and businesses build a symbiotic relationship that enhances the local communities all the while attracting more guests to the hotels.

4. Multifunctional spaces

Multifunctional spaces result from the bleisure trend accelerated by the flexible work model introduced during the pandemic. Hotels and restaurants are now creating spaces that accommodate leisure as well as business, including co-working spaces, extra plug sockets in rooms, free high-speed WIFI, and even post-conference travel packages.

While this trend, too, has drawn controversies as people point out the side effects of mixing business and leisure, it is the responsibility of businesses to respond to either purpose with multifunctional spaces.

5. Investment in cybersecurity

The World Economic Forum reports that over 70% of business and cyber leaders have realised the need to tighten up policies around third-party access to data. With digital migration, hospitality businesses operate on a network of smart devices, IoT and cloud architecture, making them more susceptible to multiple cyber-attacks.

Business owners must opt for solutions offering multilayer security, data protection, secure transactions, and compliance with international/ regional payment and data privacy standards. It is also essential to train employees on handling confidential information, using technology devices and complying with privacy regulations such as the GDPR.

6. Artificial intelligence

In hospitality, artificial intelligence has created personalised services, streamlined operations, and improved workflows, enhancing the guest experience. AI-powered chatbots and virtual assistants have become integral in providing instant and personalised responses to guest queries, resulting in faster check-ins and accommodating specific preferences. AI-driven analytics tools assist in predicting guest behaviours and preferences, enabling hospitality businesses to tailor their offerings and optimise marketing strategies.

Moreover, smart controls, predictive maintenance, and other AI-powered operations help optimise workflows, reduce costs, and ensure seamless and efficient experiences for employees.

7. Sustainability efforts

Environmentally conscious travel and sustainability practices are a vital concern of 76% of global travellers, according to the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA). The Global Sustainable Tourism Market 2023-2027 Report by Research and Markets reports further suggests that the sustainable travel market in the business travel and tourism sector will grow by $235.21 billion during 2021-2025. Businesses are trying to reduce their carbon footprints by using eco-friendly materials and following environmentally sensitive practices.

Hospitality organisations are expanding their sustainability efforts. New operational and strategic changes are occurring, such as investing in the community, service delivery, and digital migration to optimise resource usage, reduce waste and conserve energy.

8. Employee safety and welfare

Flexibility, immersive training, and competitive compensation will be a key focus for the industry in 2024. Employee welfare will be prioritised with automation taking over repetitive and heavy tasks, allowing employees to focus more on high-value tasks and guest comfort.

In addition to digital transformation, diversity, equity and inclusivity (DEI) practices are becoming mandatory for most companies with more inclusive spaces and diverse workforces. DEI training that develops sensitivity for diverse communities and cultures is becoming the norm; fostering a culture where employees feel safer where they work and are ready to accept guests from diverse backgrounds is paramount.

Hospitality in 2024 will be diverse, digital and dynamic

Diversified organisations, digital innovation and safety, and dynamic services will rule the hospitality industry next year. Businesses have no choice but to be adopt in order to navigate the industry shifts while delivering exceptional guest services.

About IDS Next

Founded in 1987, IDS Next became India's largest hotel software company in its first decade of operations and Asia's largest in 2009.

Today, IDS Next is the leading provider of smart hotel software across Southeast Asia, the Indian Ocean, the Middle East, Africa, and Oceania, serving over 6,000 customers in 45 countries with $10 million in daily transactions and 300,000 daily check-ins.

With the goal to redefine the way hotels operate through smart software solutions, IDS Next has been a trusted technology partner and preferred supplier to the international hospitality industry.

From contactless check-in, front desk, guest request and housekeeping management to payroll, finance, inventory management and procurement, IDS Next's award-winning software automates and streamlines front and back-office hotel operations, making sure all departments are covered.

With an open API approach, IDS Next integrates with over 100 of the world's leading, best-in-breed technology partners to ensure hotel operations run smoothly and securely to complement a hotel's existing systems and solutions.

Available in single modules and as an all-in-one solution, IDS Next's smart hotel software is designed by hoteliers for hoteliers through the company's in-house development team comprising 135 hospitality technology professionals and supported 24/7 by 90 customer services agents in 30 languages.

With all software PA DSS certified, front-of-house solutions GDPR compliant, and the business ISO 27001 certified, IDS Next's smart software solutions are accredited, certified, and compliant with the industry's most stringent standards for data protection and security.

Binu Mathews