A joint research project by SiteMinder, IDeaS and Revinate suggests that predicting the future of hotel technology is “difficult”.
Some trends are, arguably, obvious; guests are likely to continue using smartphones as primary research devices for trips, whilst increasingly looking for more unique experiences.
However, the sheer volume of expected guest trends in 2020 is leading to a fair degree of confusion on behalf of operators who are having a “harder time envisioning the necessary technology developments needed to meet customer demand.”
Is this the same for all 2020 hospitality trends? Thankfully, we think the opposite is true, because, if you dig a little deeper, there are a number of trends on the horizon that are far easier to keep pace with and capitalise on.
Here are our ten favourites for next year.
Last year, the UK government announced a forthcoming ban on plastic straws. More recently, California’s Assembly Bill 161 was proposed in a bid to force stores to ask customers if they wanted printed receipts, despite being rejected by the state’s lawmakers.
Wasteful consumption is clearly high on the agenda on both sides of the pond, but 2020 could be the year when smaller brands begin to take the lead of the big boys and make sustainability a key brand value.
A focus on reducing food waste, heavier promotion of vegan options and investment in smart devices designed to reduce energy consumption are just a few examples of a more sustainable twelve months ahead.
2. On-demand convenience
It’s hard to underestimate the impact of the food delivery revolution on hospitality.
A recent report by PSFK shows that diners are increasingly expecting the on-demand experiences provided by the likes of Uber Eats when they visit traditional restaurants.
This can be achieved via pre-order apps and the ability for people to order from the convenience of their smartphone while sat at the table. Thankfully, such technology is becoming more commoditised and affordable for independents.
Anyone with a modern smartphone will be familiar with the convenience afforded by facial and fingerprint recognition. It’s therefore no wonder that, as we head into 2020, hotel guests are going to expect the same from the properties they visit.
Unfortunately, the technology for this isn’t yet readily available, due to the hardware requirements (door locking system upgrades, for instance) and the associated maintenance costs.
Regardless of this, hotel guests of 2020 will increasingly expect to use their fingers or faces to gain access to rooms.
4. Personalised marketing
We hear about this a lot, but that’s for good reason; personalised marketing is no longer only available to big brands with deep pockets.
Thanks to tools such as Mailchimp and Zoho, the ability to send personalised email marketing campaigns to highly targeted audiences is available to practically every business.
Data is currency in the digital age, and in 2020, you should expect to hear far more marketing experts telling you that personalisation is the way you’ll find - and retain - new customers.
And this doesn’t simply refer to sending out a birthday wish every twelve months; personalised marketing is all about digging into your data and using past buying habits to direct relevant offers and promotions the way of people who are most likely to engage with them.
5. Artificial intelligence (AI)
It’s fair to say we’re safely beyond a time when AI was something you’d only see in science fiction films.
Our phones exhibit incredibly useful AI features every day and as 2020 rolls into view, we should expect to see this form of technology make its presence felt increasingly in the hospitality industry.
For instance, chatbots (pieces of software which mimic human service personnel during online chats) will begin powering more guest interactions during the booking process - and not just at big brand level.
AI is also expected to make its presence more wholesomely during data collection and processing to ensure that personalised marketing campaigns (see number 4) and in-house processes are designed without the need for human interactions.
6. Augmented reality
Most modern smartphones offer some form of augmented reality (AR), enabling users to virtually ‘paint’ their walls with colours prior to purchase or place a piece of furniture within a room before heading to the store.
AR’s ability to enhance real world environments is ideally suited to hospitality, and 2020 is likely to welcome a raft of new apps for hotels and restaurants.
For example, imagine being able to visualise your meal before it even hits your table:
7. More direct bookings!
Ok, so this isn’t exactly a new trend, but following years of online travel agency (OTA) dominance, 2020 is a time when independent hotels will focus on driving more bookings via their own channels.
A Phocuswright report from earlier this year revealed how vital it is for hoteliers to sell directly to guests. And the best news? There are so many channels through which you can do this.
OTAs have long been a consistent source of new customers for hotels, but encouraging those guests to return via the hotel’s website or social media channels is perfectly achievable.
Could 2020 be the year you finally start reducing that commission bill?
8. Cultural experiences for guests
According to Skift, 67% of high-income travellers would put activities above a nice hotel room when it comes to spending their money.
Those activities are being pioneered by the niche properties which have increased in popularity over the last couple of years. Adventurous holidays, relaxation breaks and retreats are just some examples of the experiences being added to run-of-the-mill hotel stays.
The key lies in creating experiences that are linked to the local area. Food, sightseeing and local attractions can play a big role here, and in 2020, these cultural experiences are likely to take precedence over room upgrades and standard dinner, bed and breakfast packages.
9. Visually satisfying content - produced by customers
‘Instaworthy’ might be a slightly irritating phrase, but it hints at a key trend sweeping through every corner of the hospitality industry at the moment.
Place someone’s meal in front of them on a restaurant table, and, a few seconds later, they’ll probably take a photo of it and publish the resulting picture on Instagram.
Likewise, when a guest enters a hotel room for the first time they’re likely to snap away and add to their feed.
In 2020 and beyond, hospitality operators need to ensure those snaps are Instaworthy for the right reasons by offering visually satisfying food, decor and touches that demand to be shared.
10. Intelligent menus
2019 has been described by The Economist as ‘The year of the vegan’. But the guests of 2020 are likely to go much further than simply expecting menus that cater to all dietary requirements.
Intelligent menus which allow guests to scope out their own dining experiences are starting to proliferate. Restaurants will continue to make recommendations, but provide more leeway regarding the choice of ingredients and cooking methods.
We’re not suggesting that the above trends are going to proliferate overnight, nor are they necessarily suited to every kind of independent hospitality business.
But they are coming, and businesses who fail to take note are likely to fall behind the competition.
Which trend are you most looking forward to harnessing in your business during 2020?