Five hospitality and travel trends for 2019

BHN editor George Sell looks at five industry trends which will make waves in the travel and hospitality space in 2019.

• Longevity and preventative wellness travel

Wellness as an overarching concept is nothing new in travel and hospitality, but 2019 will see a big rise in the number of people travelling for specific wellness issues and treatments rather then generic wellness breaks. Consuming alcohol, smoking, poor diet, physical inactivity and air pollution are the main risk factors for the top four major killers in the west: cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic respiratory disease and diabetes. Preventative wellness retreats target these risk factors by removing individuals from stimulus-inducing environments and provide them with the tools and skills needed to avoid them.

The Kurotel spa in Brazil says it has “the perfect resources to get you on a healthy track, giving you a total life overhaul or helping to budge a few bad habits. With a seamless combination of exercise from dancing, to water circuits and spa treatments, you’ll benefit from every minute of your healthy getaway and leave feeling confident and inspired to continue your renewed lifestyle at home”.

Grand Resort Bad Ragaz in Switzerland says it will help travellers “discover clues to achieve their optimal level of wellness with the scientific approach adopted. Begin with an initial medical consultation to help the Doctor understand your medical history. After conducting a complete blood profile, liver and kidney function test, you will enhance your knowledge about the current working of your cardiovascular system with the stress and resting ECG. Head home after the experts have studied your reports and advised you on how to enhance your current lifestyle for long-term health benefits.”

There are also specialist getaways for a whole host of other issues, including sleep, menopause retreats and even fertility trips.

• Hoteliers views Airbnb as a partner rather than a threat

Airbnb has for so long been viewed by many hoteliers with either downright hostility or ignored by those with an ostrich mentality, but the thaw in relations has well and truly begun, particularly as hoteliers begin to look at it not as a rival but as just another distribution platform.

In March of this year, Airbnb wrote an open letter to boutique hotel and B&B owners in an attempt to lure them away from the major OTAs. The letter claimed that Airbnb offers lower fees compared to OTAs and cited advantages of listing on Airbnb which include no long-term contracts, control over when inventory appears on Airbnb and access to “our global community of guests from more than 191 countries”.

Airbnb’s overtures are definitely having an effect. In September it signed a partnership with the Thailand Boutique Accommodation Trade Association (TBAA) which sees the two organisations working together to boost Thailand’s boutique hotel sector by bringing a number of individual properties to the Airbnb vacation rental platform. It is believed this was the first arrangement of its kind between Airbnb and a hotel trade association.

Suparerk Soorangura, president of the TBAA said: “The TBAA’s collaboration with Airbnb is an exciting opportunity for boutique hotel owners in Thailand, which will showcase their uniqueness and creativity to a global audience through the Airbnb platform.”

In Australia, 8Hotels claims its newest property, the Little Albion guest house in Sydney’s Surry Hills, was the first hotel available for booking as a single listing on Airbnb. The property can be booked in its entirety priced from $15,000, and as individual rooms.

8Hotels founder and chief executive Paul Fischmann said: “I reached out to Airbnb as we believe the offering at Little Albion will fill the niche for new and different hotels with a guest house atmosphere. There is a clear evolution in the consumer journey on what both corporate and leisure guests genuinely want from their home away from home, being the luxury and comfort of a hotel teamed with the ease and familiarity of an Airbnb. Little Albion Guest House was developed with the same attention to detail that a home owner has in creating their dream home, resulting in a truly one of a kind property, just like the homes you find on Airbnb. We’re big supporters of the Airbnb platform and are excited to be partnering with them,” he added.

• Operational hotel tech will catch up with guest-facing tech

When hotel technology is discussed, it’s usually in relation to guest-facing features – keyless entry, room control systems – or back-of-house function like dynamic pricing software and AI booking engines. But there is going to be a surge in operational technology designed to make staff more productive and efficient.

Sone hoteliers are already ahead of the curve. The Hoxton Hotels use Facebook’s Workplace platform. Workplace was launched in 2016 with the aim of bringing Facebook’s social network to the world of business. The service combines the look and feel of Facebook’s consumer app with features targeted at business users. Its main advantage lies in its instant familiarity among end users. With 240 million Facebook users in the US alone, employees are likely to already know their way around the application. From a business perspective this has a number of benefits. It means that there is less time spent training staff to use a new tool, and, in theory, increases the likelihood of strong uptake across an organisation.

There are also hospitality-specific operations platforms such as ALICE which are rapidly gaining traction. Financially backed by Expedia and co-founded by Alex Shashou – whose father was a director of Malmaison and Hotel du Vin – ALICE is now used in more than 2,000 hotels worldwide.

“Most hotels today are running outdated legacy systems, which are disconnected from one another. So we broadened our vision – not just to give the guest side a mobile offering, but to deliver a technology operations platform for all staff to work on together, from concierge to front desk to housekeeping, and even maintenance: An operations and communication platform for the whole hospitality industry,” says Shashou.

• Luxury travellers want an “ultra personalised” experience

Luxury travel in 2019 will be highly personalised and inspired by a desire to experience new destinations in unusual ways.

The Virtuoso Luxe Report, a poll of leading travel agencies and advisors in 50 countries, revealed client requests that illustrate the desire for a deeper level of personalisation and one-of-a-kind experiences. “From specific seat numbers on planes and hotel room numbers to particular rental car types, travellers are more vocal about their precise preferences. Nothing is left to chance, as increasingly clients ask for prearranged meals and appointments. They are seeking not just restaurant reservations, but exact tables at in-demand hot spots as well as pre-ordering wine to accompany the meal. They also ask their advisor to book sessions with hairdressers, massage therapists and even tattoo artists.”

Experiential travellers who have seen it all are craving stays in unconventional accommodations. Those range from a treehouse to a monastery to an igloo in Norway, a tent in the Moroccan desert, the shores of the Red Sea, and even a bubble nestled in nature so they can gaze at stars before drifting off to sleep. Most of these unusual accommodations can be added to the grounds of a boutique hotel offering the industry a great opportunity to widen its offer.

• Travellers gravitate to “genuine and honest” influencers rather than “unattainable and aspirational”

The recent Global Web Index survey on influencer marketing, found that although food, beauty and fashion are thought to be the sectors where influencers have the most impact on consumer behaviour, it’s actually the more niche, research-heavy topics such as personal finance and travel where influencers appear most impactful; around a half of those who follow influencers in these areas say that their purchase decisions are affected by this type of content.

And although 11 per cent of Canadian travellers said they look at where celebrities stay and try to find accommodation that looks similar, 2019 will see an increased focus on travel influencing that is genuine and honest.

The most popular social media travel channels will be those creating practical, useable content over inaccessible or fake imagery. Travellers want to view content that they feel is real, and that the influencer promoting a particular location, product or service is doing so because of its inherent value and quality, not because he or she happened to be offered a free stay/flight/sample. As influencers themselves become more sophisticated, so too do their audiences and they are getting good at sniffing out the inauthentic – brands would do well to remember this when deciding which influencers to work with in 2019.

What do you think will be the major trends in our industry for 2019? Email and let us know. And click here to see my 2018 predictions – how do you think I did?

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