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2019 is the year for hyper personalization. According to Think With Google, “57% of travelers feel that brands should tailor their information based on personal preferences or past behaviors.” The same Google study also confirmed, "if a travel brand tailored its information and overall trip experience based on personal preferences or past behavior, 36% would be likely to pay more for their services." Take Netflix and Spotify for example. They have analyzed past movies, shows and songs to generate personal and catered recommendations. The same concepts are integrating into the hospitality industry. Airbnb is now recommending hosts for guests based on their past preferences and behaviors.
Bleisure (Business + Leisure) is the new buzzword in the travel industry. Business travelers are extending their work trips a few days to enjoy the location and take a “mini-vacation”. Travel Market Report unveiled the findings of an Expedia survey in which 500 American travellers were interviewed. The survey uncovered that a “bleisure” trip “adds 2.6 vacation days to a business trip of 3.7 days. Globally, two thirds of those trips were for conferences, 46% were for business meetings, 42% were sales trips, and 30% were internal meetings.”
Continuing with the bleisure trend, one of the trending habits for 2019 will be more vacations, but less time at the destination. Booking.com found that, “Over half of global travelers (53%) report they plan to take more weekend trips in 2019.” Indian hospitality expert and MakeMyTrip Chief Business Officer - Holidays, Ranjeet Oak, reveals, "There has been a massive shift in consumer behaviour towards travelling over the years. Travel is no longer a once-a-year syndrome. People today like to indulge in frequent trips to break the monotony of their usual 9-to-6 schedules. Working professionals especially look forward to extended weekends to socialise and indulge in fulfilling their leisure travel aspirations”.
For these more frequent vacations, travelers are turning to their mobile device to take care of the booking. In their Travel Trend Report, TrekkSoft uncovered that the number of bookings with no human interaction jumped from 75.8% to 82.2% from 2017 to 2018. M-Commerce (mobile-commerce) is changing the way organizations advertise and sell their offer. Many companies are adapting “shoppable ads” allowing customers to buy tickets or products directly from a mobile advertisement.
And where are these tech-savvy travelers staying? Smart hotels were a top trend in 2018, but are gaining momentum and integration for 2019. During the Hospitality Innovation Conference 2018, Smart hotels were a hot topic. David Catling, of Nexo Hotels, revealed hotels are becoming more smart and predictable during the pre and during-stay experience. Hotels are studying the customer journey from beginning to end. Common recent practices include integrating Facebook into the booking stage to uncover more personal information about the guests. Hotels are also sending discounts and offers for guests who have been on the website looking at rates. When guests arrive, hotels are implementing a seamless check-in and concierge for guests to order room service or additional blankets all from a convenient mobile or tablet device.
Also during HICON 2018, Sabre Hospitality revealed that hotels are now allowing the guest to use their mobile devices to control temperature, lighting and the shades. Hotels are then storing the guest preferences and replicating them for every future visit across all hotel properties. Hoteliers are also adding voice operated chat assistants into their hotel rooms, adding innovation into the guest experience.
While travelers are having a more personal experience at hotels, they are also immersing themselves into the local culture while they are visiting a destination. Travelers want to do, see and eat where the locals do. Travel is more integrated with the destination than ever before. Authentic experiences are gaining traction. Biking tours, food and wine tastings, and cultural events such as music or film festivals are popular activities for all ages.
Airbnb is also changing the game with Airbnb Experiences, which are “activities designed and led by inspiring locals. They go beyond typical tours or classes by immersing guests in each host's unique world. It's an opportunity for anyone to share their hobbies, skills, or expertise without needing an extra room”.
In a hospitality study conducted by Travel Appeal for IDD, over 13 million reviews were analyzed about guest preferences in Italian accommodations. Research found that authenticity and typicality are two main factors that contribute to a better perception. In fact, satisfaction is, on average, higher than 3.2 points when guests describe the following in their reviews: dishes, specialties and typical and local products - traditions, parties, life, local culture and lifestyle and experiential activities.
Integrating the circular economy into hospitality and tourism is on the rise and it starts with millenials. A CREST (Center for Responsible Travel) study found that 73% of millennials are willing to pay more for sustainability compared to 51% of baby boomers. Neilsen found that, “brands with a demonstrated commitment to sustainability have grown more than 4% globally, while those without grew less than 1%.” Booking.com conducted a study with over 163 million verified guest reviews and research from 21,500 travelers across 29 countries. They revealed, “Currently almost half (49%) feel social issues in possible travel destinations are of real importance when choosing where to go and over half (58%) choose not to go to a destination if they feel it will negatively impact the people who live there.”
Not only are travelers visiting authentic destinations, they are also discovering their own roots and ancestry. DNA testing is on the rise and with at-home cheek swabs, anyone can participate. Once people uncover their genetic results, curiosity kicks in. Technology now enables us to trace our ancestry and discover our heritage. Countries like Scotland and Ireland have fully embraced this trend by offering tours and excursions for people to discover the cities of their past ancestors and walk in the steps of past generations.
March 2019... Brexit is here and ready to impact the travel industry. Not only will there be less European Union travelers to the UK, but there will be less UK travelers to the EU. The British Pound fell after the Brexit announcement and that isn’t the only thing affected. Ryanair’s Chief Executive, Michael O’Leary, revealed that some flights will be halted between the EU and UK as a result of Brexit and many airlines will need to increase ticket prices. These decisions will undoubtedly cause interruption for travelers. The uncertainty surrounding Brexit has a lot of people curious and concerned.
“guess you guys aren’t ready for that yet... but your kids are gonna love it"
To predict the future of the hospitality industry for 2019, we’re taking a look back at 2018. Last year, Facebook retired the 1-to-5 star rating system and replaced it with a simple question, “Do you recommend company X?”. It’s concise, immediate, and there’s no in-between.
Meanwhile, reviews on Google have increased a staggering 93%, compared to 2017 - 50% of those were just ratings without comments. In fact, the average review length is 7% shorter than last year, reviews on Google alone have been reduced by 24%. Reviewers don’t want to spend their time writing and TripAdvisor’s decision to become a Social Media channel confirms this trend. 2019 will include more photos and videos, instead of long reviews. Say goodbye to reviews containing 550 characters, which was the 2017 and 2018 average length of reviews about Italian accommodations. Perhaps this is also why TripAdvisor appears less international, reviews have been written in only 25 languages compared to other channels - Expedia Group, Google, Booking.com, etc - which included an average of 33 different languages.
Is this an effect of digital transformation or will reputation management transform itself in 2019?