LAUSANNE, SWITZERLAND—The Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL) has released its listing of the top 10 hospitality industry trends for this year. They are:
Traditionally customer-facing services are being given an overhaul, thanks to the more widespread use of technology-assisted options, such as mobile check-in, contactless payments, voice control and biometrics.
Consumers who have become accustomed to unlocking their smartphones and laptops using facial and fingerprint recognition will soon come to expect the same convenience in accessing their hotel rooms. Unfortunately for the establishments looking to welcome them, however, these upgrades may be costly to install and maintain. If you want to stay ahead of the curve, EHL recommends you dig deep and make the investment.
Travel restrictions in 2020 facilitated the rise of the staycation. Some vacationers may also be choosing to stay closer to home for environmental or budgeting reasons. Surging online content promising to “create a balcony haven” or “a garden oasis to be proud of” are a sign of the times.
Delivery With a Twist
Widespread lockdown and upturned work and childcare schedules have afforded delivery services new importance this year. No longer content with (always) ordering the usual go-to pizza, Chinese or Indian takeaway, however, consumers are now looking to take things up a notch. Not wanting to forego the frills of fine dining, they are now looking to emulate the experience at home. F&B outlets are making this possible by incorporating drinks deliveries and offering extras: atmospheric candles, QR-code playlists and unexpected freebies.
Automation & Technology
This broad, sweeping category speaks to the technological developments that have been seen to reduce waiting times, “outsource” menial tasks to robots and use big data to optimize processes, for example. AI-powered chatbots have proven to be a customer service asset both during the booking process and in responding to the recurring questions on the protective measures pertaining to COVID-19.
Hotel operations more generally are increasingly shaped by the use of management systems to monitor and optimize revenues, customer relationships, property, channels and reputation. Mobile, cloud-based and integrated solutions are especially sought-after; not to mention the rising importance of integrated messaging, predictive analytics, customer profiling and middleware, which seeks to connect any disparate systems.
Today’s guests have grown to expect to be recognized and treated as individuals. Establishments are going the extra mile to personally greet their guests, while tools such as Mailchimp and Zoho have made personalized e-mail marketing accessible to the masses, ensuring highly target audience-specific communications. Far beyond simply adding the customer’s name to email greetings, data provides insight into past buying habits, enabling hotels to tailor their offers and promotions and automatically provide similar services to previous stays.
Having long since recognized guests’ affinity towards snapping pics to post on social media, hospitality enterprises are stepping up their game. With a view to leveraging this free publicity, owners are paying greater attention to photogenic table settings and decor backdrops. Entire meals can serve as beautiful vignettes that demand to be shared—if presented in their best light.
Virtual & Augmented Reality
Following on from the orientation towards visually appealing content, it seems only natural that businesses in the hospitality industry should seek to capitalize on features such as virtual tours, conjuring up a digital environment for consumers to picture themselves in. Videos providing 360-degree views of restaurant ambiance, sweet little cafe terraces enveloped in greenery or hotel beachfront locations, for instance, are just the ticket to make an establishment stand out this year. As ever, keeping the access threshold low is key to reaching as broad an audience as possible with virtual reality material: making content accessible on a variety of devices, without the need for a VR headset.
Once on-site, guests should be able to whip out their trusty sidekick—their smartphone—and simply point it at real-world artifacts to summon up additional information. Augmented reality uses graphical or informational overlays to enhance on-site environments. Once they have downloaded the respective app, guests can use this tool to access restaurant opening times, reviews or interactive tourist information maps or even create user-generated content.
Purposeful Experiences & Essentialism
Travel guilt is real. Minimalism has reinvigorated the otherwise somewhat dusty saying “less is more.” Travelers are decreasingly seeking lavish displays of wealth, preferring instead to spend wisely, purposefully and make a positive impact on the world. Unique experiences that give back to local communities in meaningful ways are in demand, as are niche properties, adventurous holidays and relaxation retreats.
In the age of mindfulness, many have embraced the meditative value of spending time alone and venturing out into the big wide world unencumbered, interacting and making friends to whatever degree suits. In an effort to make solo travelers feel comfortable, barriers between hotel staff and guests are being lowered, interior design choices made to evoke a sense of homeliness and an informal atmosphere cultivated. This, along with a less stark divide between guests and locals, encourages a feeling of hotel community.
Last but not least, a hospitality trend that is both current and a hallmark of recent years. A natural extension of avoiding disposable plastics, eliminating unnecessary paper consumption thanks to opt-in receipts and reducing food waste, more far-reaching ethical and environmental considerations are shaping decisions made at the hospitality management level. Decisions about things as simple as which towel rails to install during renovations have disproportionate repercussions when implemented at scale. Simple eco-friendly switches include replacing miniature toiletries with larger, locally sourced dispensers, choosing ethically produced bed sheets made from organic materials and reducing energy consumption with smart bulbs, etc. Vegetarian and vegan options also harbor well-known environmental advantages.