Suffice it to say that hotel and hospitality professionals will have a lot on their plates this year as they react to everything from rapid technology advancements to changing consumers’ needs. Here’s a look at some of the top trends likely to impact you this year.
Creative Group, a boutique advertising agency based in Appleton, Wisconsin, has studied the trends and has identified some key impacts that hospitality pros should be prepared to address:
- Artificial intelligence (AI) is driving consumers to increasingly expect on-demand, personalized experiences. Consumer purchases of devices like Amazon’s Echo and Google’s Home is introducing them to the technology and impacting their expectations. What might this mean for hoteliers? Offering chatbots to answer event questions and drive personalized experiences at meetings and events.
- A quest for luxury. Planners are looking for ways to delight customers in new ways—through well-being initiatives, creative technology applications (e.g. augmented or virtual reality), and sessions geared to the unique identities and aspirations of planners.
- The continued impact and value of influencers. People like interacting with people, especially those they admire and look up to. Influencers can be used by hoteliers to better connect with meeting and event planners and to drive an enhanced view of their facility’s brand.
Interestingly, though, despite a proliferation of technology and high-tech trends, consumers are also increasingly interested in the personal touch and a focus on health and wellness. “We have been seeing a large influx of companies that want meetings with hiking breaks, healthy foods, and wellness programming,” says Kathleen LeSage with New Life Hiking Spa in Killington, Vermont.
Kelly Hamlett, director of catering at Kimpton Hotel Vintage Portland, agrees and predicts an “extra focus on experiential breakouts” for creating memorable meetings and re-engaging meeting-goers. At Hotel Vintage, she says, “we have had a series of interactive experiences geared toward the convention guest from DIY wine blending bars and wine-infused cocktail demos, to blind wine tastings.”
Customization is also a top trend, according to the Monaco Government Tourist Office’s North American Advisory Board which convened in October just prior to IMEX America. What do they see trending? Festivals, authenticity, security, and customization. Organizers and their attendees “wish to dig deeper and feel connected to a destination and those who reside there,” says PR and communications manager Camille Cussac. Organizers are also looking to tie into major events that may be taking place in the area, she says.
Balancing High-Tech and High-Touch
Hamlett and Cussac’s perspectives are backed up by research from Two Roads Hospitality, a hospitality firm that recently released its “State of the Meetings Industry” survey. Survey results indicate that nearly 40 percent of survey respondents rated leisure and team-building amenities at a 7 or higher in importance when choosing a site; 53 percent were interested in adventure or active team-building activities, and 47 percent preferred public service-focused activities.
For hotel and hospitality professionals in 2018, finding the right combination of high-tech and high-touch should be top-of-mind — high-tech to drive seamless service experiences and high-touch to provide the unique and tailored interactions that meeting goers are increasingly seeking.