It’s been another exciting year in the hospitality and travel industry. From the rise of ecotourism and tiny hotels to political uncertainty in both the Europe and US, we recount some of the major events in the hospitality and travel industry as 2018 is coming to an end.
1. TripAdvisor overhauls its platform
In September of this year, TripAdvisor announced the launch of its all-new “travel feed”. Currently in beta, this new-look platform will include a social media-style feed with personalized recommendations from friends, brands, influencers, and publishers including National Geographic, Condé Nast Traveler, and the Travel Channel. Keep your eyes open — the new TripAdvisor interface is expected to roll out before the end of this year.
2. Google’s travel ambition grows
Google’s ambition to become a leader in the travel industry showed no sign of slowing down in 2018. The search engine giant rolled out a number of new updates to grow its share of the hotel booking market. In addition to a redesign of the entire Google hotel search and booking experience, the company updated its Your Trips feature, and conducted a series of metsearch experiments. We’ll be keeping a close eye on new developments in 2019.
3. Politics slowing down travel?
Political uncertainty continues to impact travel in the US and Europe. Following the midterm US elections, the Trump Administration released the “Unified Agenda and Regulatory Reform” which (as reported by Skift) includes approximately 200 regulatory changes related to travel that will impact hotels, OTAs, and the airline industry.
In Europe, political uncertainty over Brexit remains. Potential consequences of the post-Brexit era include restrictions on British citizens traveling through Europe. UK hotels are also struggling to fill vacancies as EU workers face the prospect of losing their automatic right to live in the UK from March 2019.
4. AI recommendations
Artificial intelligence continued to be a hot travel topic in 2018. In particular, AI-powered trip planning tools caught our attention. Earlier this year, TUI Group and AI-powered trip-planning service Utrip created a personalized trip planning service that can devise tailored trips within minutes, all based on a user inputting a few simple details and travel preferences.
A survey by Booking.com found that almost one-third of travelers would be comfortable letting a computer plan their next trip based on information from their travel history. Will this give more travel brands the confidence to invest in similar AI-powered trip planning?
5. Going green
Travelers are increasingly concerned about the eco-credentials of their accommodation. A 2018 study by Booking.com found that 87% of travelers want to travel sustainably, which is way up from 65% in 2017.
A growing wave of hotels are now going green to win over environmentally conscious guests, from implementing carbon offset schemes to sophisticated energy-saving tech. Plastic-free hotels are also becoming more popular, with the likes of Edition Hotels and the Canopy by Hilton Portland Pearl District leading the way.
6. Tiny hotel rooms — the next big thing?
The micro-hotel concept has been around for a few years, but this year saw some chains shrink their rooms down to micro-hotel tiny proportions. Hilton announced the launch of ‘Motto by Hilton’ — a new with rooms that average just 14 square meters. Space-saving extras include wall-beds, lofted beds, and furniture that can be conveniently stowed when not in use.
Premier Inn (Britain’s largest budget chain) also launched a new hotel concept with pod-style rooms. These diminutive dwellings will be a mere 8.5 square meters (under half the size of a standard Premier Inn room) and cost just £19 (around $24) a night.
7. Hotel-specific voice platforms
Could in-room voice assistants go from a hotel fad to an industry must-have? Perhaps, given the rise of voice platforms designed specifically for hotels. In March, IBM launched a version of Watson Assistant that allows hotels to white label the technology. Then in June, Amazon announced a new program called Alexa for Hospitality, which enables hotels to place Amazon Echo devices in guest rooms.
Expedia also showed how serious it considers voice search with the launch of a new Expedia Action on Google Assistant. In addition to searching and booking hotels, Expedia said that its customers will be able to use their voice to check loyalty points, access their itineraries, and even receive packing list tips.
8. Airbnb strives to rival OTAs
Airbnb’s Co-Founder Nathan Blecharczyk announced a flurry of changes earlier this year. There was the launch of four new rental categories (vacation home, unique space, B&B, and boutique), the introduction of a “Superguest” loyalty programme, and two new luxury tiers — Airbnb Plus and Airbnb Beyond.
A partnership with SiteMinder was also announced to make it easier for hotels to list their rooms on Airbnb. With an expanded inventory, 2018 is the year that Airbnb made its intentions to compete head-on with the OTAs crystal clear. Yet the sharing economy giant hasn’t had things entirely its own way…
9. Booking.com’s alternative accommodations surge
Amid news that Airbnb’s growth is slowing, Booking.com announced this November that its alternate accommodation listings grew by 21% year-on-year. As of September 30th, Booking.com said it had 5.7 million alternative accommodations listings, putting it ahead of Airbnb’s latest figures of 5.5 million listings. As Expedia also aims to increase its alternative accommodation listings, this space looks set to be a key battleground as Airbnb and the OTAs slug it out in 2019.
10. Global tourism on the rise
According to the 2018 global travel and tourism report by the United Nations World Tourism Organization, international tourist arrivals grew by just over 1.3 billion in 2017 — the highest growth since 2010. Incredibly, over 50% of those global tourists (671 million) visited Europe, followed by Asia and the Pacific with 323 million.
International tourism spending also grew by 5% globally. China continued to be the biggest spenders on outbound tourism, spending a staggering $257.7 billion in 2017.
In the past year, we’ve witnessed a boom in eco-friendly tourism, the arrival of the tiny hotel room, political unrest on both sides of the Atlantic, and a raft of potentially game-changing updates from Airbnb, TripAdvisor, Google, and the dominant OTAs.
But our attention is already turning towards the next twelve months. Stay tuned. Early next year, we’ll reveal our predictions for the biggest travel trends to shape the travel industry during 2019.