Hospitality and travel trend predictions for 2020

Eloise Hanson By Eloise Hanson
Uploaded 06 December 2019

BHN reporter, Eloise Hanson, outlines five key trends of the hospitality and travel industry that she believes will be prevalent in the coming year.

The strive for sustainable solutions will gain momentum

Sustainability can be held as a mega-trend of 2019 - a concept that urges for political, economical, and social responsibility of the resources and products that we rely on globally. It encompasses various sub-divisions: zero waste, a circular economy, clean technology… the list is vast. And with the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) predicting that the tourism sector is to grow 3.3 per cent a year until 2030, the consequences of environmental impact is concerning.

Major hotel brands, including the likes of Accor, Mandarin Oriental, and Marriott, have all announced a number of green commitments over the past year. These range from phasing out single-use plastics across entire portfolios, to off-setting carbon emissions through the planting of trees. And when research by Booking.com shows that 73 per cent of travellers intend to stay at a green property at least once when looking at the year ahead, solutions like these, among many others, are bound to come widely into effect.

"For 2020, city-based hotels need to look at waste management and energy conservation to ensure they fit within an urban environment," said Diana Verde Nieto, co-founder of Positive Luxury. Positive Luxury is an organisation that verifies travel, beauty and fashion brands for its sustainable achievements. "Things like beehives can help, and encouraging sustainable behaviour in guests by doing things like offering public transit tickets, as well as serving food that's in season and local (when appropriate), and eliminating single-use plastic".

"Competition is fierce, so brands always have to be innovating when it comes to sustainability. For hotels that aren't in urban locations, they have to fit within an ecosystem and play a role in restoring and conserving nature. Beyond managing that ecosystem, they also need to pay fair wages, consider the local community, and give back".

Dining venues will renew interest in local flavours, with a focus on plant-based ingredients

The food and beverage scene is constantly revamped due to external pressures from the high street. As the number of different catering options grow, so does the need to introduce new ideas or concepts so as to compete and stay relevant - especially when consumerism is all-the-more oriented towards natural and organic products.

So, in keeping with the green theme, menus are adapting to better serve the modern traveller. Seasoned hotelier, Robin Hutson of Home Grown Hotels, explained that guests dining at THE PIG are offered vegetarian and vegan alternatives because of the rise in demand of such menus.

"It's coming from every angle really," began Hutson, "from a health perspective, from a sustainability and environment perspective. I think we've lived through an age of excess, and we're all lucky enough not to be hungry. We probably eat too much anyway, so lighter food is very much in vogue. I absolutely think it's here to stay, and I'm sure menus in a hundred years time will look very different. The plant will probably be the primary part of the menu".

Plant-based menus are arguably easier to produce when the environment can support an on-site kitchen garden. Those located in urban areas will therefore turn towards creative methods of re-introducing local flavours and produce to the vicinity.

For example, Anurag Bali, assistant vice president for food and beverage at Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts, revealed that hoteliers are now having to take risks to meet the needs of consumers. He said: "You've got to collaborate - you can't do everything yourself. So our concept for a lobby lounge in our Singapore hotel was a partnership with eight, superstar Hawker Centre [food stalls]. We now have a menu featuring eight signature shops in this beautiful space, whilst also putting us in this league as heritage keepers".

There will be an increased demand for immersive travel

As evidenced, the travel industry is largely responding to, and adapting alongside, the needs of the modern traveller. Cultural and perhaps generational values are prompting a shift in the market, and even influencing the physical design of spaces.

Predictions for 2020 would not be complete without mention of Instagram. A survey for easyJet found that more than half of 18 to 65-year olds were inspired to book trips from images on social media, with 32 per cent of travellers claiming that destinations were prioritised depending on how well photographs would look on Instagram. As such, a wave of design-led stays and experiences are cropping up globally.

In the UK, Bespoke Hotels will open Hotel Brooklyn in Manchester early next year. Designed by Squid Inc - the team behind Hotel Gotham and the upcoming Telegraph Hotel - communal areas will transport guests to Brooklyn from the look and feel of the hotel's interiors. Squid Inc said: "Working with Bespoke hotels (who like their hotels to tell stories) has given us a rich tableau on which to paint our interiors and input into the narrative. Hopefully we will have a few more hotels to work on together. Gotham was a delight and Hotel Brooklyn promises to be another storyboard with every vista carefully considered to deliver a new slice of theatre". 

Similarly, the recently opened Central Station Hotel in Memphis features interactive sound installations to pay homage to the city's history as a music and art hub. The surge in 'grammable experiences can also be seen in Kimpton's Stay Human project. The aim - to encourage visitors to "forge meaningful ties with other guests" - is achieved by transforming rooms in to a "unique activation that honours the hyper-local character of the surrounding neighbourhood". With the campaign having just landed in Europe, the rising popularity of immersive travel looks set to develop in the coming year, and possibly onwards.

Experiences will be curated and highly personalised

Not only are travellers craving picture-worthy moments, but expectations of the guest journey have matured significantly - right from the conception of booking a trip, to the return journey back home. Primarily driven by the rapid growth of big data and technology, hoteliers and hospitality figures alike are now having to review internal and external systems to improve the guest experience.

There has been much activity to better understand guest behaviour and expectations. In fact, companies like Avvio have analysed the consumer market to determine the exact touchpoints of guest engagement with hotel brands. Avvio's AI-powered booking engine, Allora, identified geography as a contributing factor of the methods used for booking hotel stays, as well as the time taken to book these trips.

For example, 82 per cent of American guests rely on desktops to book four-star hotels in London, and average 2.5 days to complete the booking. Conversely, British and Irish customers follow the recognised consumer trend for mobile first, averaging a number of 3.3 days to make a booking.

Such data can be leveraged by hoteliers to drive personalised experiences that are targeted to the relevant audience. "Hotels need to do more to deliver better online hospitality and give guests a personalised journey, instead of the current 'brochure approach' which assumes one size fits all," said Avvio CEO Frank Reeves. "With Google Travel tools aiming to keep the customer within its search engine unless OTAs pay for more traffic, it is forcing travel companies to deliver a VIP experience for its guests. The whole game is about to change, so both OTAs and hotel GMs need to create a credible customer journey if they want to keep up".

Moreover, as travel agents like Thomas Cook struggle to stay afloat in the tidal wave of digitalisation, hospitality brands will start to up-sell the experience as a whole, as opposed to individual rooms.

Commenting on this market shift, Daniel Simmons, chief commercial officer at HotelREZ, explained: "Technology is progressing so fast now, and it's definitely to do with guest engagement. Everything's personalised and it's all dynamic. So when you go through a travel agency, or even through a booking engine, there's all these urgency triggers, or it's member driven to give you special offers. And this is happening not just at the time of booking, it's also before or after you've arrived somewhere. There's pre-stay emails: do you want to reserve a table for dinner? And post-stay emails: can you leave us a review on TripAdvisor? It's no longer about giving properties a plug-in, allowing them to be bookable; it's about giving them a whole system that supports this level of engagement and personalisation".

Even extending to the hotel guest room, where mood lighting, Smart TV's, and voice control are increasingly featured, it seems that personalisation within the travel sector will only become more streamlined. Taking this one step further, the introduction of a subscription model could also potentially catch on.

There will be greater emphasis on developing and nurturing talent from within

With the deadline for negotiating Brexit pushed back to 31 January 2020, the implications of a deal or no-deal agreement will be widely felt across the UK hospitality sector. Although some clarification has been given on the entitlement of European workers to continue living in the UK, issues of attracting and retaining staff have been held as the biggest headwind of the industry.

Great strides have been made to address this issue. Training programmes, either supported internally or through partnerships, enable staff to gain the necessary qualifications in order to progress professionally. It allows for unprecedented access to, and education of, departmental know-how in order to broaden and enhance awareness of businesses as a whole. This is important when research shows that 46 per cent of employees are inclined to remain with a company based on the availability of training courses offered.

One department that is causing considerable angst is food and beverage. The latest data from the Office of National Statistics show that 'accommodation and food services' are experiencing a much higher volume of vacancy rates than other sectors - there are 4.1 vacancies per 100 jobs, in comparison to the 2.7 across the wider economy. Additionally, research by Indeed reveals that chefs are the third most difficult role to fill within the UK, thereby prompting hospitality businesses to search for alternative means of attracting and retaining staff.

The Inn Collection Group is but one example of those businesses looking to tackle the national chef shortage. Planning to set up a chef training programme, the hotel operator intends to develop talent from amongst its own ranks, thereby reducing staff turnover. Likewise, Ashdown Park of Elite Hotels will open its doors to aspirational chefs, offering opportunities from work experience to apprenticeships and training programmes.

Only time will tell whether such actions will abate the challenges of recruitment and retention. As sights are cast to the younger generations for new pools of labour, it seems inevitable that training programmes will better prepare the upcoming workforce - particularly given the detached nature of Millennials and Generation Z.

What do you think will be the major trends in the hospitality industry for 2020? Email [email protected] and let us know. We'd love to hear your thoughts!

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