Tech innovations and the growing influence of the millennial guest segment are changing the hospitality industry, which is typically considered traditionalist. Sustainability, personalization and unique stays have been hot topics in 2023. While they will continue to be strategically important, we’re also noticing a few other interesting trends that will influence 2024.
- HEALTH AND WELLNESS
Travel for travel’s sake is giving way to purpose-driven vacations, with wellness tourism topping the list. Apart from spas and well-equipped gyms, hotels are also offering personalized yoga sessions, sleep therapy and stress-reduction workshops. Restaurant menus, meanwhile, are being rejigged to feature healthier variants.
Hotels are also bringing wellness programs into guest rooms. Our recent collaboration with Three Sages, for example, has resulted in guests being able to access Three Sages’ wellness routines on the in-room entertainment system.
- AI AND VIRTUAL EXPERIENCES
AI is already automating repetitive tasks and supporting hotel staff. The data generated through digital interactions is being used for predictive analytics, personalization as well as streamlining marketing and management systems. These results are driving hotel operators to invest more in AI, with one study estimating a 10% CAGR for AI in the hospitality market between 2021 and 2026.
We’re also seeing an increase in the use of virtual technology in the hospitality sector. Augmented Reality (AR) and digital twins are being deployed to create virtual replicas of hotel rooms and event areas, helping guests to preview these spaces prior to booking. For example, guests can explore Atlantis The Palm in Dubai using a VR panoramic video application. Even the metaverse is being tapped, enabling guests to tour the virtual hotel in their digital avatar. RIU Hotels & Resorts is recreating Riu Plaza España in the metaverse, complete with interactive features and surprises for virtual visitors.
- EXPERIENTIAL TRAVEL
Cooking classes with chefs, local guided tours, and even Pokemon Go-style treasure hunts – hotels that create immersive experiences to enrich a guest’s stay will soon race ahead. Guests are now looking beyond accommodation and amenities at hotels; instead, they expect hotels to be experiences in themselves.
While this means that hotels will have to rethink conventional offerings to appeal to new-age consumers, there are significant payoffs to creating unique stays, such as drawing more local guests and opening up new revenue streams.
- VOICE TECHNOLOGY
Voice assistants and voice-activated devices are being steadily integrated into guest rooms, resulting in more immediate and personalized service; they’re also freeing up staff so that they can focus on more strategic and quality-driven tasks. Using voice assistants, guests can make restaurant reservations, book hotel cabs, order room service and schedule room cleaning. The data resulting from these interactions can be used to customize services for guests and finetune the hotel’s business strategy.
According to Booking.com, 72% of global travelers plan to stay at a sustainable property at least once in the coming years. As we get closer to the 2030 deadline set by the Paris Agreement, the importance given to a hotel’s eco-friendliness will only grow.
Hotels are pivoting to technological solutions to make operations more sustainable. Guest-facing hotel apps, for instance, are helping hotels reduce paper usage through online check-ins. Motion sensors in public spaces turn off the lights and air conditioning once people have left the room; low-flow faucets, meanwhile, can reduce water usage. On the F&B front, restaurants are sourcing ingredients locally, eliminating food wastage and using green packaging.
Whether it’s holiday packages or restaurant menus, an increasing number of guests expect hotels to tailor offerings to their individual preferences. A study by Skift and Oracle estimates that 74% of hotel guests are open to hotels using AI to deliver a higher degree of personalization.
Hotels are introducing personalization at touchpoints throughout the guest journey. While personalization has been a buzzword in the industry for a while now, the coming year will see hotels experimenting with technology to not just deliver customization but to also help differentiate their brands.
- SOCIAL MEDIA
As the younger generations’ spending power increases, so will the influence of social media. According to an American Express study, 75% of respondents cited social media as their inspiration to visit a destination.
Hotels are now investing in their social media presence. Profiles are being regularly updated with events, restaurant specials and influencer stories. Hotels are also creating selfie zones and Instagrammable locations on-site, hoping to appear in the social media feeds of potential guests.
Looking ahead, hospitality technology will continue to exert its influence, with blockchain and biometric screening for guests appearing on the horizon. Hotels are also switching from siloed applications to API-enabled cloud systems to integrate services and ensure interoperability. In terms of overall trends, guest experience and environmental sustainability will be the dominating themes of 2024. If the past couple of years are anything to go by, the changes that occur in 2024 will be far-reaching and guest-oriented.