Some hotel trends create ripples in the industry, others tidal waves.
But no matter how large or small the impact of a trend nor how ephemeral or lasting it turns out to be, the hotels that benefit from it the most are those that adapt their guest experience to it the fastest. This is something independent hotels, being agile, creative, and free of the inflexible standards characteristic of large chains, are in the best position to accomplish.
Here’s a look at five hospitality trends emerging on the scene and changing the guest experience: some perhaps for good, all certainly for the better.
Without giving too much away and without further ado, the guest experiences arising from these trends are:
The seamless guest experience
Though not the most attention-grabbing of today’s hotel trends, this is one that keeps popping up in industry news because of how fundamentally important it is. Because while the guest experience may indeed be broken into distinct stages — search, book, and stay being the big three — if it feels broken to travelers, it’s going to lead to booking opportunities lost and guest expectations unmet.
Any significant change in the look, feel, and ease of the booking stage compared to the search stage creates a friction in the guest experience that causes travelers to abort rather than book. In the same vein, if it’s a breeze to book a room online but check-in turns out to be a lengthy process of filling out forms by hand, it sets guests up for frustration and disappointment.
Hotels are implementing technology to automate and streamline the entire guest experience from start to finish, from captivating hotel profiles to optimized direct booking engines to one-click check-in functionalities. Hoteliers are taking ownership of every single stage of the customer journey, and in so doing, are creating the seamless guest experience travelers not only appreciate, but have come to expect.
The personalized guest experience
The industry is entering a golden age of personalization in response to evolving consumer expectations. The individual guest has embraced their own uniqueness; the hotel industry must embrace it as well, in all its unique-as-a-snowflake splendor.
Hotel technology providers are investigating solutions that will make the entire guest experience tailored 100% to the individual: to their ideal hotel criteria, even to their food and music preferences.
Hotels are responding to this trend by focusing on making sure their guests feel like guests, like unique individuals and not entries in a booking ledger. By recognizing and catering to their guests’ idiosyncratic preferences and fancies, and through personal interactions with staff, hotels are curating not just one guest experience, but as many guest experiences as there are people who check in.
The transformational-travel guest experience
This hotel trend is one that reflects a new philosophy of travel, the next stage in the evolution of experiential travel, called “transformational travel.”
The travelers behind this trend are seeking self-reflection and development in their travels, to connect with humanity and the natural kingdom, and to return home changed, with shifted perspectives and a deeper understanding of the world they inhabit.
Hotels are supporting them in this mission.
They’re designing guest experiences that enable travelers to challenge themselves and to engage with the local community and in conservation efforts. This can mean anything from offering an off-the-grid meditation retreat to facilitating volunteer work with non-profit organizations. These guest experiences are the antidotes to mindless indulgences and the mindset that the value of a hotel stay lies in the Instagram posts generated from it.
The food-focused guest experience
Nobody would ever call excellent food a “trend.” “A divine element of the human experience,” sure. What is a trend, however, is the new and different ways in which hotels are incorporating food into the guest experience.
We’re seeing decadent in-room dining served well into the wee hours of the morning; cooking classes conducted in the hotel restaurant for adults and families alike; fresh, organic ingredients sourced from local farms; and breakfast buffets so exquisite they defy the term “buffet” and answer instead to “sumptuous feast.”
And we’re seeing all this because travelers are now choosing hotels exclusively for their food and food-focused guest experiences. Hotels are rising, like soft, pillowy dinner rolls in the oven, to the occasion.
The eco-friendly guest experience
Travelers are becoming more aware of their carbon footprint, and are looking to minimize it wherever and however they can — starting with booking rooms at hotels with the same values. The hotels that embrace these values and adapt the guest experience to them not only welcome more guests, they also cut down on energy waste and save money.
From actions immediately visible to guests (think responsibly-sourced toiletries, lights and air-conditioning that switch off when the room is vacant, and a towel-reuse policy) to efforts taking place behind the scenes (going paperless with a cloud-based property management system), hotels are going green on several fronts.
A final word
Each of these guest experiences is indicative of changes in the industry, some of which may turn out to be more impactful and long-lasting than others. But some things, it stands to reason, will remain constant: Hotels must always be open to change, whether it comes in the form of new technology or new attitudes about travel.
And good hospitality never goes out of style.