The travel industry rarely stays still for long. New technologies and evolving traveler trends require hotels to stay ever-vigilant to change and be ready to adapt. In the following post, we’ve outlined five major trends that have the potential to impact the way hotels cater and market themselves to travelers.
1. Eye-tracking marketing
Creative forms of personalized marketing are giving hotels a way to drive attention and inspire travelers in new and exciting ways. As part of its “Never Lift a Finger” campaign, all-inclusive luxury brand Palace Resorts has built a custom microsite that uses bespoke eye‐tracking software and a video quiz to make personalized recommendations.
Website visitors are given the option to turn on their computer’s webcam and then presented with two parallel videos that showcase various trips, activities, cuisine, and entertainment from Palace Resorts’ 10 properties in Mexico and Jamaica. The eye-tracking technology identifies each visitor’s preferences and interests based on the direction of their gaze, then recommends their ideal resort with a prompt to book.
Admittedly, the use of technology in this example is more of an attention-grabbing gimmick than anything else. Yet it does represent an inspiring example of how travel brands might use eye-tracking software to bring a fun and interactive element to their marketing.
The way we use our devices is already shifting from tap and swipe to voice-based interaction. Potentially, travel brands could decipher interests and booking intent based on the way users look at marketing content. A fleeting glance or a lingering gaze might reveal nuances in preferences that can be used to deliver hyper-personalized suggestions. Is an exciting era of attention-based marketing just around the corner?
2. Tech-free experiences
While technological innovation promises to vastly improve the guest experience, some hotels are going against the grain to promote tech-free environments. Constant connection to smartphones, social media, and on-demand entertainment has led some travelers to seek out hotels where they’re forced to ditch their devices. As a result, some hotels are getting creative about how they encourage tech-free travel.
A great example is Wyndham Grand and its innovative “reconnected” package. When guests agree to put away their phones (in a timed lockbox), they receive a 5% off Wyndham’s Best Available Rate, plus a variety of family-friendly activities, including a blanket fort kit, an Instax camera, a shadow puppets set, and a kids’ storybook with activity sheets and crayons.
Ibis hotels in Geneva and Zurich provide a “social media sitter” who will snap photos of a guest’s vacation and then post them on Instagram. While not quite “tech-free”, this service caters to an inbetweener crowd who want a break from their phones, but aren’t quite ready to relinquish social media altogether.
At a time of technological innovation, the big disruptor for the hotel industry might not be a new innovation, but a growing wave of tech-free properties that encourage family time and digital disconnection.
3. Transformative travel
The ambitions of the typical traveler seem to be reaching evermore lofty heights. While experiential travel is still in high demand, there are those who want their trips to offer the chance for personal growth and self-actualization.
This growing desire for purposeful travel was highlighted by Booking.com in its Travel Predictions for 2019. In the year ahead, learning new life skills, volunteering, and participating in cultural exchanges are all high on the agenda for many — especially for Generation Z.
A company called Remote Year has tapped into this trend by offering the chance to combine travel and work in different global cities for a year or four-month period. Skift Senior Research Analyst Rebecca Stone is currently traveling the globe as part of Remote Year, and she’s documenting her experiences through a series called “Data and Discovery: Skift on the Road”.
The message for hotels is to be ready for a new breed of ambitious travelers. In the coming years, younger generations are likely to seek out experiences that have real purpose and offer the chance for enriching, personal development.
4. Google tests a new translation tool
Making waves once again, it’s Google. Just recently, the company unveiled that it’s started to pilot voice products for the airline and hotel industry. At the recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the search engine giant said that travelers will be able to book a hotel room using the voice-powered Google Assistant.
Most impressively, Google also showcased an “Interpreter mode” for Google Home Hubs. Now available in 27 languages, this new feature acts as a real-time language translator — and it’s being trialed by hotels, including Caesars Palace, Hyatt Regency in San Francisco, and Dream Downtown in New York City.
Using a Google Home Hub, a guest can say something like, “Okay, Google, become my Italian Interpreter.” A guest can then have a back-and-forth conversation with the concierge in their own language, with the Assistant translating in real time.
While Skift notes that the translation software is far from perfect, you can bet that Google will iron out any technological kinks. In the meantime, it’ll be fascinating to see how the technology works during its initial high-profile trials.
5. Reimagined loyalty
The traditional points-based loyalty program seems to be in decline. But driving guest loyalty still represents one of the biggest challenges modern hoteliers face. So what does the future of guest loyalty look like? The world’s big brands seem to be focusing more on incentivizing loyalty with one-of-a-kind experiences.
Accor has just unveiled a new loyalty program called ALL, which includes partnerships with various companies, including AEG to offer access to live events, IMG to provide food-related experiences, and French football team Paris Saint-Germain.
Recently, Marriott also added more experiences to its loyalty program. Loyalty members can now enjoy exclusive trips, tours, live events, and meet-and-greets with sports stars, actors, musicians, and chefs.
In the case of both hotel brands, loyalty has become less about marketing rewards (such as a free night’s stay) and more about offering access to appealing lifestyles.
More than ever, it seems the battle for guest loyalty might be won by the hotels that are able to create enticing, once-in-a-lifetime experiences that their own guests truly love.
New guest experiences and expectations
As guest expectations evolve and new digital technologies flood the marketplace, it’s easy for hotels to feel overwhelmed by both change and contradictions. While exciting tools such as voice assistants, chat bots, and translation tools become available, many travelers crave tech-free vacations and transformational experiences that seem rooted in more traditional values.
Staying on top of the latest industry trends is important, but the real challenge for hotels is to understand how these trends relate specifically to the needs and desires of their own guests and then adapt accordingly.