What major travel trends lie ahead in 2019? From the latest applications in digital payments and virtual reality, to the way guest privacy and personalization are changing relationships between guests and hotels, here are 10 major travel trends to look out for in the year ahead.
1. Personalized hotel rooms
Hilton and Marriott have both already tested their own hyper-personalized hotel rooms, but 2019 could be the year when smaller and independent properties invest in smart-room technology to tailor the guest experience.
Smart rooms will be driven by the growing adoption of voice assistants, such as Amazon Alexa. With a simple voice command, guests will be able to adjust the in-room lighting, schedule wake-up calls, and request room service. But arguably the real benefit is the rich data that hotels will be able to collect from these interactions. Knowing past preferences, the room could be setup in just the right way for returning guests so that it feels like their home away from home.
The personalization trend will also see more hotels invest in streaming services so that guests can watch their own content on the in-room TV. Hotel apps will also give guests more control over their rooms, such as setting their preferred temperature prior to arrival.
2. Single-use plastic will become a social taboo
A report by Abta found that over a third (36%) of people would opt for one travel company over another if it had a better environmental record — up from 23% in 2014. With growing numbers of environmentally minded travelers, hotels will step up their efforts to go green and showcase their eco credentials.
Eliminating single-use plastics will be a top priority for many. Marriott International will spend this year removing plastic straws and plastic stirrers from all of its 6,500+ global properties. Elsewhere, hotels are offering guests the chance to join plastic clean-up initiatives. Alila Hotels in Bali has a monthly “dive against debris” program where guests can help trained divers remove underwater debris, such as plastic bottles and bags.
3. Plant-based dining
2019 has been heralded as “the year of the vegan” by a slew of voices, including The Economist and The Guardian. Last year, 51% of US chefs added vegan items to their menus, which was attributed in part to the influence of social media food-bloggers. As the appetite for plant-based dining continues, a growing portion of hotels will be devoting their menus to vegetarian and vegan dishes.
Vegan tours and travel experiences are also being marketed to the boom in people adopting plant-based diets. Last May, Intrepid Travel announced the launch of its first vegan food adventures, created in partnership with six vegan influencers. Could this be a taste of things to come?
4. Augmented and virtual reality arrives
While it’s been talked about for years, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) may finally make a wider impact in 2019. Adoption will be aided by the roll-out of the 5G network, which will provide a huge boost to mobile network speed, capacity, and reliability.
In terms of potential applications? Hotels are already using AR and VR to create enhanced marketing brochures, virtual tours, and immersive videos on their websites. But more ambitious uses of these technologies are just around the corner.
Of particular note, Marriott Hotels has recently created an augmented reality in-room experience that lets guests’ create an augmented reality art gallery using their mobile devices. It’s attention-grabbing rather than game-changing, but it may well encourage other hotels to experiment with their own interactive AR/VR content.
5. The rise of the micro-trip
According to Booking.com, 53% of travelers will take more weekend trips in 2019 as they seek to spend their free time on travel. Booking.com notes how this trend is being driven by the rise of budget airlines, additional flight routes, and conveniences such as on-demand car rentals.
How can your hotel capitalize on the rise of micro-trips? As the majority of last-minute hotel bookings happen on mobile, having a website optimized for mobile is crucial. Also, consider how to help your guests squeeze more out of their limited time. For instance, why not create a tailored weekend itinerary that highlights the must-see sights, experiences, and attractions of your destination?
6. New forms of payment
While cash remains king in the US, countries such as Sweden, Canada, and the UK edge closer to becoming cashless societies. In China, mobile payment plays a huge part in daily life, and over 90% of Chinese tourists would use mobile payment overseas given the option.
The decline of cash means that hotels (sooner rather than later) will need to provide flexible payment methods to cater to overseas travelers. In addition to facilitating frictionless on-property purchasing, hotels will be able to track digital payments to help personalize offers and tailor future marketing.
Slightly further down the line, cryptocurrency may start to become more widely adopted. Over 450,000 hotels around the world currently accept cryptocurrency payments through an app called Tripio. While the overwhelming majority of these hotels are in Asia, cryptocurrency in hospitality does seem to be steadily gaining traction.
7. Drone photography takes off
An increasing number of travelers are bringing drones to hotels to capture spectacular photos and bird’s-eye view selfies. Hotels can clearly profit by encouraging guests to share these striking images on social media. However, some guests might rightly object to a drone disturbing their poolside relaxation. In the year ahead, property owners may find that they have to enforce restrictions to preserve privacy.
8. Solo travel trend continues
We recently discussed the rise of solo travelers, and this trend looks set to continue as growing numbers set off alone in search of an independent adventure. To cater to solo guests, consider hosting your own social events, and offering suggestions on the top spots for singles to enjoy your local nightlife, dining scene, and connect with locals.
The dramatic rise of female solo travelers also shows no sign of slowing. Given that the majority of single female travelers say they feel uncomfortable or unsafe traveling solo, we suggest promoting your hotel’s key safety and security features to add reassurance.
9. An Instagram backlash?
Instagram has become synonymous with travel — the platform of choice for travelers to showcase their favorite experiences and poolside selfies. Hotels and tourism boards have capitalized on this trend by hiring influencers with large followings to post shots from their vacation.
But while many travel brands will strive to be “Instagram-friendly” this year, watch out for a small but growing backlash against the hashtag.
Last Autumn, Vienna launched an anti-social media campaign with the slogan “Welcome to Vienna. Not #Vienna”, and more recently a Balinese resort banned smartphones around its pool. Could 2019 be the year when the travel selfie passes its sell-by date?
10. Guests guard their data
With the rise of smart hotel rooms, mobile payment, and in-room voice assistants, hotels will be able to gain unprecedented levels of data about their guests to offer hyper-personalized experiences. But will guests be so keen to share their personal details, especially given Marriott’s massive recent data breach?
As data-driven technology begins to empower the industry, hotels will need to be transparent about how they access and use this data. In the year ahead, hotels will need to be rigorous about maintaining security over data collection and building trust with guests will be an absolute priority.
Looking ahead in 2019
A number of significant changes are set to impact the travel industry in 2019. These exciting new technologies have the potential to transform the travel experience. Guests will be more vigilant than ever about giving over personal data. And new dining preferences and a wave of solo travelers and micro-trips will also be trends to watch in the year ahead.