Tourism: The 20 major trends of 2017 that will influence the industry during 2018

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Tourism: The 20 major trends of 2017 that will influence the industry during 2018The hospitality industry started paying much closer attention to vacation rentals in 2017, especially those in the luxury space

Leading international platform for travel professionals skift.com reports that the year 2017 was one preceded by a roller-coaster of a year in hospitality that saw a multitude of mega mergers, one of which — Marriott-Starwood — was particularly drama-filled.

It adds that last year wasn’t without its fair share of excitement, too, but it was also a period in which brands took time to really focus on what lies ahead. Now that those big mergers have taken place, the hard part has arrived: figuring out how to put everything together, and leading these companies well into the future.

Skift also offers a look at some of the biggest hotel stories and themes we covered in the past year, and what to pay attention to as we head into the next one:

THE ERA OF CONSOLIDATION CONTINUES

We didn’t see in 2017 as many mergers and acquisitions of the magnitude that we saw in 2016, but there were a number of smaller transactions that took place and, as Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson predicted, consolidation is likely to continue.

Some notable acquisitions in 2017 included Airbnb’s purchase of Luxury Retreats; AccorHotels’ $930 million bid for Australia’s Mantra Group, as well as its purchases of Squarebreak and Travel Keys, and AccorHotels’ investment in the storied Orient-Express brand.

VACATION RENTALS ARE RIPE FOR DISRUPTION

The hospitality industry started paying much closer attention to vacation rentals in 2017, especially those in the luxury space. These rentals are becoming a preferred way to stay, particularly for celebrities and other high-profile travelers seeking more privacy and space.

The first signal was when AccorHotels announced its intent to purchase Travel Keys, followed by Airbnb’s acquisition of Luxury Retreats.

So why all the interest in vacation rentals? Because it’s a sector that’s ripe for disruption.

Beyond luxury vacation rentals, established brands took a closer look at the sharing economy. Hyatt decided to invest in Oasis, after AccorHotels gave up its interest in the company. Wyndham’s RCI division bought Love Home Swap.

Airbnb, while looking to grow its luxury product with Luxury Retreats, focused on providing more tools to professional vacation rental managers. Airbnb is a confirmed bidder for Wyndham’s European vacation rental brands.

AccorHotels, for one, seems intent on sticking to the luxury end of the vacation rental market, having consolidated its Squarebreak and Travel Keys acquisitions into the Onefinestay brand. But, as Skift has noted, it has a lot of work to do with Onefinestay to bring it to profitability.

THE DIRECT BOOKING WARS HAVE EVOLVED

The perennial battle between online travel agencies and hotel companies certainly evolved in 2017, and the truth is, they probably won’t end anytime soon no matter who seems to claim victory. And in some regions, like Europe, the direct-booking wars myth is just that.

The year 2016 was dominated by messages to “stop clicking around” and to note that “it pays to book direct,” but 2017 saw an evolution in how hoteliers marketed their direct- booking pushes. While 2016 was more about educating the consumer and convincing them to book direct, 2017 was more about the tussle between online travel agencies and hotel management companies for the hearts, minds, and wallets of the hotel owner.

In 2018, we can expect to see more hotel companies argue the benefits booking direct, but also trying to convince hotel owners and developers of the benefits of being part of the chain’s massive portfolios.

AIRBNB’S ROAD TOWARD AN IPO

The award for most highly anticipated hospitality/travel IPO (other than Uber) would likely go to Airbnb. In March, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky said Airbnb’s IPO was “halfway ready,” but I don’t think we will see an IPO from the $31 billion company in 2018. Why? It hasn’t grown enough yet and it’s still got a long list of challenges to address.

If the online travel agencies thought they escaped the disruptive impact Airbnb has had on hotels, they are probably very wrong and this dynamic is likely to heat up in 2018. Airbnb’s latest deal to bring more bed-and-breakfasts and inns onto its platform is a signal of its bid to get more comprehensive in its face-off with the online travel agencies.

AIRBNB WILL GET DEEPER INTO THE HOTEL BUSINESS

However, while hotel CEOs like Nassetta often repeat the refrain that they are not in direct competition with Airbnb, and that Airbnb caters to “different travel and trip occasions,” that won’t be the case for long. As of August 2017, more than 15,000 boutique hotels advertised their rooms on Airbnb and that number will continue to grow in 2018.

And in 2018, Airbnb will open its first hotel-like concept outside of Orlando, an experiment in co-living where apartment residents are encouraged to rent out their homes on the platform. Niido got a big boost in December with Brookfield Property Partners investing $200 million to help grow the concept throughout the U.S. It’ll be interesting to see how well Niido Powered by Airbnb will fare, and if it will become an established residential development concept in time.

CHINA’S IMPORTANCE GROWS

One market that the entire travel industry is paying attention to is China. But China isn’t like any other global market; it’s historically been difficult for Western companies, from Google and Amazon to Uber, to break into. Still, that won’t stop U.S. travel brands from trying.

Marriott partnered with Alibaba in August to court the Chinese travel market even more. Airbnb really showed its commitment to growing its business in China, rebranding itself there and appointing co-founder and chief strategy officer Nathan Blecharczyk as its new Airbnb China chairman. The company’s strategy for doing that involves a tighter focus on quality and quantity.

Chinese investment in the hospitality industry, especially when it comes to the investments being made by HNA and Anbang, will be an issue this year. There’s not much transparency about what these companies intend to do with their respective hospitality investments in brands that include Carlson Hotels, NH Hotels, Rezidor Hotels, Hilton, and Strategic Hotels & Resorts. Hopefully, that changes in 2018.

(ALMOST) EVERYONE WANTS TO GO ASSET LIGHT

Last year started with the announcement of the completion of Hilton’s spinoff , and it tailed off with Wyndham announcing its own planned spinoff to be completed in 2018. AccorHotels is also still in the process of spinning off its HotelInvest unit.

Everyone, it seems, wants to be asset light — even Hyatt, which has historically been more of an “asset recycler” than an asset-light company like Marriott.

But for many hotel companies, being asset light equates to more scale and growth. The business tends to be more stable and yields higher profit margins. At least those are a few reasons Red Lion Hotels Corp.is pursuing a more asset-light strategy.

HOTELS WANT TO BE MORE THAN HOTELS

Another theme evident in 2017 was hotels and Airbnb want more than than just a place where you sleep. In 2016, Airbnb launched Trips, and Hyatt looked to “adjacent spaces” like wellness, purchasing Miraval and Exhale in the process. Marriott invested in PlacePass, a metasearch site for tours and activities.

In short, both hotel brands and Airbnb want people to think of them for the entire traveler journey and even in our daily lives. Expect to see more of that in 2018 and beyond.

LET’S LAUNCH A SOFT BRAND

When Ian Schrager says hospitality is a “me-too” industry,  I often wonder if he’s referring to the sector’s knack for not only launching lots of brands, but rolling out a lot of the same kinds of brands all at once.

And no doubt we’ll probably see more soft brands in 2018, as larger hotel companies try to bring more independent hotels into their fold.

… OR A MIDSCALE BRAND

If a hotel company wasn’t launching a soft brand collection in 2017, chances were high they were planning to launch a midscale brand. Trump Hotels announced American Idea. InterContinental Hotels Group  said it would roll out a midscale brand, Avid Hotels. Hilton, which opened its first Tru by Hilton property in 2017, revealed it would be launching a new “hostel on steroids” in the near future.

But one defining character about each of these new midscale brands is that hotels are getting smarter about not letting them be boring. Even brands that have existing midscale brands put in some effort to market their brands as being more innovative and contemporary, whether to consumers or to hotel owners and developers.

HOTEL LOYALTY GETS AN UPDATE

There were a lot of changes in hotel loyalty in 2017. There’s the continuing process of bringing together all three of Marriott’s loyalty programs. AccorHotels, too, must figure out what it wants to do with Fairmont’s loyalty program. And three years after it announced its purchase of Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, IHG is finally merging the programs beginning in 2018.

CANCELLATION POLICIES GOT TOUGHER

Cancellation policies have gradually become stricter over the past few years, but 2017was the year that Marriott, IHG, and Hilton announced tougher policies all in succession. Not to be outdone, Hyatt also announced a stricter cancellation policy just before year’s end.

Their argument for doing so? It’s not only better for their hotel owners in terms of being able to manage inventory, but better for guests in the long run. Going forward, expect to see changes in how hotels are priced and sold.

BUSINESS TRAVEL: MORE OF THE SAME, DESPITE EARLY OPTIMISM

Hotel executives started off 2017 optimistic about business travel, believing that this might be the year that corporate travel bounces back. But that optimism was tempered by a number of factors, including U.S. tax reform, and how it will impact business travel in 2018.

And with regard to business travel and short-term rentals, Airbnb also made a lot of inroads in business travel in 2017, debuting a new business travel search tool, a Concur integration, and a co-working pilot with WeWork.

SMART ROOMS ARE CLOSER TO BECOMING A REALITY

The day that you’ll be able to use your voice or your smartphone to change the temperature, or play your favorite Netflix show in your guestroom is that much closer thanks to brands’ experiments with the Internet of Things.

EVERYONE WANTS YOU TO BE WELL

While hotel rooms are gradually becoming “smarter” and more connected, they are also becoming increasingly attuned to people’s wellness needs. Many hotel brands, especially in the luxury space, have launched wellness-oriented rooms, and earlier this year, Hilton debuted a new design that brings the gym into the room.

DINING’S IMPORTANCE IN HOSPITALITY GROWS

Today’s hotel bars and restaurants, heavily influenced by boutique hotel pioneers like Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants and Ian Schrager’s Morgans Hotel Group, have become an integral part of the guest experience, and the experience of locals, too. And let’s face it: Chances are you’ll frequent a hotel restaurant or bar more often than you’ll actually check into a hotel room.

That’s why hospitality brands are beginning to experiment more with dining, specifically with restaurant reservations software and on-demand food delivery. In 2017, IHG decided to allow its loyalty members to earn points when they use OpenTable and Grubhub, and Airbnb’s integrated Resy onto its platform.

CHANGES IN EXECUTIVE LEADERSHIP

Legendary boutique hotelier Chip Conley stepped away from his full-time duties at Airbnb to become a part-time consultant for the company. Carlson and Rezidor hotels had a CEO shuffle. IHG CEO Richard Solomons retired, and longtime IHG executive Keith Barr stepped in.

DATA BREACHES

In 2017, there were multiple data breaches at numerous hotels, leading us to wonder: When will this stop, and are hotels doing enough to protect their customers’ data?

HOTEL SECURITY

The mass shooting that took place on October 1 in Las Vegas, killing 58 people and injuring more than 500, cast a spotlight on hotel safety and security measures, and raised many questions for the travel and hotel industry to consider.

But will those questions result in significant changes in hotel safety and security? It might be too soon to tell now, but it’s certainly something we hope the industry will consider in 2018.

THE HOTELIER-IN-CHIEF CONTINUES TO CONFOUND

Last year was the first we’ve had a hotelier in the White House, and one might assume that having a fellow industry colleague in office would lead to the establishment of policies that would promote and encourage travel.

That, however, was not necessarily the case. Some in the hospitality industry, like Airbnb and Choice Hotels, were quick to call out the absurdity of Trump’s travel bans, but others stayed mostly silent at first. They did, however, eventually speak up more by the middle of the year.

Not only that, but Trump’s policies and other factors did, in fact, lead to a Trump Slump in visits to the U.S. by international tourists. Will that worsen in 2018?

When it comes to this administration, the hotel industry — and the world — must prepare to expect the unexpected.

Read full story here.

RELATED TOPICS: GreeceGreek tourism newsTourism in GreeceGreek islandsHotels in GreeceTravel to GreeceGreek destinations Greek travel marketGreek tourism statisticsGreek tourism report

Source: skift.com

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