Article

Jake Stainer
Jake Stainer 15 July 2020

9 Digital Trends in the Hospitality Industry for 2020

The recent crisis has forced hospitality business owners to be creative, mix things up, and ultimately take the power back. In 2020 and beyond, the industry will drastically warp in an effort to combat this global pandemic’s aftermath. Business models will adapt and emerge to keep hospitality thriving. Here’s how they’re expecting to do it.

There is no doubt that the recent climate will change the way the hospitality industry functions both in the immediate, near, and long-term. Yet, despite the crisis that we as a world are going through, it will not be able to quell the need for travel and leisure that has emerged in the last few decades. 

With technology moving to the cloud and workforces moving to a more distributed world. Remote work has grown by 400% in the last decade. In an effort to meet employee needs and find and retain top talent; the hospitality industry quickly adapted to meet this demand. LinkedIn found that 72% of talent professionals agree that remote work options will be very important for the future of recruiting. 

In the last decade, we’ve seen a gradual rise in travel for leisure, and last year it hit an all-time high of over $4.7 billion in global spend. Plus, business travel and remote work were expected to hit $1.6 trillion in annual spend in 2020. The hospitality industry has adapted through a growth in capacity, operations, and technology. I have no doubt that these technologies will continue to adapt to a new world moving forward.

With all of the operational changes rolled out to ensure a safer, more accessible world of travel, tourism, and hospitality - how will this look for the digital realm? From my years as the Head of Creative Strategy for one of the largest bartender schools in the world, alongside my time on the digital marketing teams for a travel and work company and now an innovative coworking space in one of Europe’s startup capitals, Barcelona, I’ve dealt with and seen many digital trends come and go from the hospitality industry. 

With that being said, in this article I’ll explore some of my predictions for digital trends to come in the hospitality industry, considering recent events, for 2020 and beyond. 

9 Digital Trends in the Hospitality Industry you need to look out for in 2020 

1. In-home experiences 

Digital services will adjust to in-home experiences. Although this business pivot has been started by many during a time of crisis, I have no doubt it’s something that will remain once people are able to go back to public venues. 

The fact is, people have grown to be comfortable in their own homes. Yes, they will still crave those out-of-home experiences but after so long in-home experiences there will no longer feel so foreign to them. (Excuse the pun.)

The digital services that we see today: everything from gym classes, to on-screen bartenders will continue to flourish in a world post-crisis. We’ll see these digital products alongside physical products that were previously only available in-space to be delivered to our doorsteps, or our screens in some cases. 

2. Holistic digital operations 

One thing this period has given us is the gift of time. All companies, not only those in the hospitality industry, have finally had the time to optimize their internal process to make for a more efficient and organized operational structure. 

We’ll begin to see many hotel and private accommodation services adopt channel management systems. This technology can incorporate bookings across online travel agencies, such as booking.com, vacation rental platforms like Airbnb, brick and mortar travel agencies, as well as direct bookings on site. 

Gone are the days of double bookings and room mix-ups upon arrival. We’ll see hospitality brands thriving and ready for business as usual operationally because they’ve had the time to breathe and fix clunky processes that were not working day-to-day.   

3. Online communities 

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There’s no doubt about it, communities have thrived during this time. Gone are the days that brands could look at their product and call their users a community. Communities are so much more than a collection of people that enjoy your product. They are dynamic, they are connected and they are niche. 

Throughout this period of online being our only way to connect, people have discovered and brands have catered to niche communities. Smaller communities. Brands are not defined by the size of their community but of how passionate they are. 

This digital trend of smaller, more specific communities will continue to shine throughout 2020 and beyond, and the hospitality industry will need to adjust to it. They can no longer look toward their guests and say, “yes that’s our community.” They’ll need to segment their guests into other areas and passion-points they can connect over. Plus, if they cannot connect them in space then they’ll need to foster a connection online. 

4. A connected experience, past social 

Building on my last point, we are more connected than ever online and our phones are an accepted part of the way we operate. Pre-crisis we often had the option to “switch off” for a while and go tech-free. However, things have changed and our phones are now a part of our routine. Screen-time was up an average of 23% with my own team the first week of working from home, this year. 

The hospitality industry will be looking to accommodate this trend and giving in-space opportunities for people to connect to their loved ones. Whereas before we began to see social prompts in spaces, now the industry will be encouraging guests to reach out to their loved ones via private messaging apps as well.

Just because we’ll go back to offline experiences doesn’t mean we will be any less online and the hospitality industry will need to accommodate for this and supporting moments of online connections. 

5. An increase in vacation rental websites

The crisis has given many within the hospitality sector a bit of a wakeup call. Trust in major brands is being lost as they did not do enough to support small businesses when businesses needed it most. In 2020 and beyond, we can expect to see vacation rental owners taking the power back by not relying on third-party booking platforms like Airbnb.

Moreso, there’s been a heavy social responsibility for people to support small businesses. This will only lead to a greater chance of success for rental owners looking to create a vacation rental website. 

People no longer need to book through the giants in the industry just because they are more trusted sites. If a hospitality business can build trust in other ways and create a website that is designed well, then they’ll have support from future holidaymakers. In turn, this will give rental owners more control over their business and its profits. 

6. A more immersive app experience 

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Rustam Gumerov wrote an article back in July 2019, voicing his own opinions of the digital transformation trends to come. None of us then could have predicted where we are now. However, some of his predictions still ring true, if a little shifted. He placed mobile “front and center” in his article, with an emphasis on hotel apps enlightening the guest experience. 

Today, this is very much true and with that all-important gift of time, apps are getting that much-needed care to take them to the next level. Gumerov spoke of the perks a hotel app can offer: booking handling, staff chat, a hotel map, and much more. 

Today, tomorrow and beyond apps will be a more integrated part of any hospitality brand experience and people will turn to them for brand news and updates as much as they turn to the first page of Google for worldly news.  

Apps will grow to be a more fluid piece of digital technology that is constantly updated, evolving and enriching the guest experience. 

7. Internet of things goes contactless

The internet of things has been a much talked about growth of technology in recent years. It’s the integration of devices and every-day objects fitted with the internet so they can send, receive and act upon data. 

The hospitality industry is no stranger to IoT, we’ve seen smart systems embedded into bars, our hotel rooms and so much more over recent years. They help to save energy, streamline service, and make for a more personalized hospitality experience. 

However, what we will begin to see is a contactless IoT implementation. With great pressure on cleanliness and sanitation, we won’t see the death of the touch screen but certainly a reduction in it. We’ll see a great ability of control from our own devices through apps as well as AR/VR coming into play to help us select options on screen through movement rather than touching the screen itself.   

8. Concierge services

This year we’re already beginning to see a rise of concierge services, online. What was once a face-to-face or over the phone experience has now become digital and I’m sure we’ll see it be a standard feature to trip packages and a new product for travel and tourism companies. 

The bank, Revolut, has already introduced a concierge service to their banking app. You’re able to get in touch with someone via the app with all of your requests for a trip and are followed up with an email. 

These concierge services are expected to grow via brands’ apps and merge with conversational marketing tools we’ve seen lately. With a mix of bots and humans, people will begin to have their hospitality experiences supported through the aid of whoever (or whatever) is on the other end of their phone. 

9. A fewer clicks, booking experience

With travel being so accessible in recent years, a trip no longer takes the amount of careful consideration as it used to. Our purchasing decisions are done on impulse and backed up with logic later. Both of these contributors will see a demand for a minimal click purchasing journey. 

People no longer want to go through pages and pages of upselling, cross-selling, and insurance options before they can finally get to what they originally were looking for. I expect brands to focus on a smoother UX experience in their booking systems or people will go elsewhere. Intentional and strategic user experience can raise conversions by up to 400% and 74% of people are likely to return to a website if it’s optimized for their device. 

People know what they want, so give it to them as soon as possible and they’ll return to you again in the future. 

Wrapping Up 

Thanks for reading my article. I’d love to hear your own predictions for trends that will emerge in the hospitality industry in the coming years. There’s no doubt that recent times have changed the pace and direction the industry is going in will reflect that. However, with brands focusing on communities, user-experience, and most importantly health; I’m sure we can all agree that the industry will innovate towards a more positive and conscious future. 

 

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