Following up from our previous article on testing your fit in the hospitality industry, today we’d like to highlight the 4 catalysts of change disrupting the travel & hospitality industry in 2017. A report by Deloitte Center for Industry Insights entitled “2017 travel and hospitality industry outlook” identifies these 4 catalysts as: the economy, consumer mindsets, enabling technology, and platforms.
If you’re considering a career or working in the industry, you’ll want to take note of the implications of these catalysts. What can businesses and industry professionals expect in the year?
Deloitte reports strong growth projections for 2017, with the US leisure travel market expected to hit $381 billion by year end, up from $341 billion in 2015. These figures indicate healthy demand for travel across the board throughout 2017, including domestic, inbound, and outbound trips — a positive sign for hotels, airlines and online players.
What’s surprising is the continued success of hoteliers despite the rise of online private accommodation providers such as Airbnb. Deloitte reports a projected 4.3% growth in hotel revenues for 2017, which is ”phenomenal growth considering one in three US leisure travelers stayed in some form of private accommodations in 2015”. While this is great news, the pressure is on for hoteliers to sustain growth with alternative businesses the likes of Airbnb redefining the market with new properties and service experiences.
The success of the service industry hinges on a basic principle: meeting and exceeding consumer expectations. But consumers today have vastly different expectations. We expect travel experiences to be authentic, personalised, free from friction, and on-demand. Add to that the fact that each individual travels for a different reason, with different preferences for the way they travel, and you’ll realise how daunting of a challenge this can be.
On the upside, brands that get it right reap immense rewards from the far-reaching ripple-effect in our current social ecosystem and mobile-driven consumer age.
A notable example cited in the report is Hilton’s Tru brand, a niche midscale brand targeting guests with a “millennial” mindset. Touted as the “fastest-growing brand in company history”, Tru hotels offer customized experiences such as a complementary build-your-own breakfast station, single-serving beer and wine available from a grab and go area, and free flow of coffee and tea throughout the day. Tru differentiates its offerings with lifestyle features including stylishly efficiently designed guest rooms, creative work spaces, mobile check-in, and digital room keys. It’s more than just a hotel — it’s a lifestyle brand.
While it’s tempting for hoteliers to jump on every technological bandwagon to look innovative and cool, what’s more important is identifying which technologies consumers find practical, and what experiences provide real value.
Examples cited in the report include Delta Airlines’ app upgrade which allows flyers to track their luggage. This simple assurance to passengers that their bags will meet them at their destination removes a common pain point in the travel experience, and might just sway the flyer’s purchase decision for the next flight.
Virgin’s hotel app, “Lucy” — branded the app that “Makes Things Happen”, leverages the power of mobile to take the guest’s property experience to a whole new level. Using the app, guests can control their room temperature, order room service, book spa appointments and even text hotel staff and other guests.
We’re also seeing AI (Artificial Intelligence) and IoT (Internet of Things) being implemented in an increasing number of operational processes, showing that these technologies are maturing at a rapid pace.
EasyJet is now using AI for more efficient stocking of its planes’ food and beverage supplies, while some hotels have installed IoT systems that customize the guest’s experience from the moment they step into the hotel until the moment they check out. From communicating with the guest’s smartphone and automatically checking them in while alerting the hotel staff to greet and show the guest to his or her room, automatically unlocking the room door as the guest approaches, and adjusting the temperature and lighting settings to the guest’s preferences, the IoT system takes care of every little detail.
The report urges travel and hospitality companies to treat their brands as “platforms for new opportunity and growth”. There are multiple transaction points in a single trip: accommodation, transport, cultural activities and local excursions, dining, social activities, the list goes on and on.
Taking Airbnb as a case in point, the report highlights the simple way this successful brand has created a new revenue stream by adding a “trips” feature on the property rental site for travellers interested in destination activities.
Rather than focusing solely on vertical growth, it would be far more efficient for travel brands to realize the benefits of horizontal scaling instead, which creates a richer travel experience for travellers and higher brand loyalty in the long run.
Going by the statistics in this insightful infographic by Hilton, the travel and hospitality industry is expected to stay on its robust growth track, with a staggering 73 million new travel & tourism jobs predicted by 2022, 46.1 million of which will be in Asia Pacific.
With challenges come opportunities, and it’s up to businesses in the industry to leverage the right technologies and talents to stay relevant and competitive.
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