7 Hotel Trends for 2019

Welcome to Hospitality Insider’s List for 2019. From the new super food, to space re-utilisation and technological advancements, here’s our pick of the seven key trends you shouldn’t miss.

Seasonal, local produce is in the spotlight as plant-based diets gain popularity.

1. Plant Based

There is no denying the increase in popularity in plant-based diets over the last few years. The Economist has declared 2019 the year of the vegan and reports that a quarter of 25-34 year-old Americans now identify as either vegetarian or vegan. Google Trends shows the popularity of ‘vegan’ in search terms has doubled in three years with United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand the leading locations for search queries.

Concerns over the meat industry’s impact on climate change and increasing publicity on the benefits of a plant-based diet on general health means that this is a trend that is here to stay. Hotels need to adapt and embrace those dietary preferences.

Sri Lankan cuisine, with its emphasis on fresh cooking, vegetable curries and coconut oil instead of dairy, is well-placed to meet these needs. Consider clear signage to show guests which dishes are vegetarian & vegan friendly; something that should be in place for other dietary requirements like gluten free. Be sure to vary the options at different meals and don’t forget to include interesting options on the room service menu. With a little creativity, vegan and vegetarian cuisine can really shine.

Ulagalla by Uga Escapes is already embracing this trend. Increasing numbers of vegetarian guests have prompted them to develop a mud house where vegetarian food will be served, picked, and cooked outdoors fresh from their organic garden.

2.      Co-Working

As more companies embrace the idea of flexible working policies and digital nomads become mainstream, hotels too are embracing the co-working space.

Hot on the heels of the experiential economy, these places offer a perfect place to familiarise the next generation of customers with your hotel’s offerings and brand. Often, if guests are working in a lobby or café space, they will be ordering food or drinks, and bringing in revenue for F&B at times of day when these spaces are typically underutilised.

Major brands embracing the trend include the Shangri-La, which launched a dedicated meeting space called Co-nnect at their Colombo hotel in 2018. Offering private offices, meeting spaces, work pods, and individual work stations, they also provide a menu at the café that is ‘specially crafted to facilitate meetings’.

With Sri Lanka attracting digital nomads who come for extended stays of a month or more, easy steps to tap into this market include ensuring good quality Wi-Fi in all public areas, plenty of conveniently located charging points, and a core menu of snacks, juice and coffee is on offer all day long.

The moringa soup at Santani balances gourmet dining and wellness.

3. Moringa

Well-known in Sri Lanka, the humble drumstick plant is being touted internationally as the next big superfood. Now available around the world in powdered, capsule, leaf, oil and seed form, the health and wellness world is abuzz with its benefits.

The hashtag ‘moringa’ has over 300,000 posts on Instagram, driven by the two huge markets of fitness and food posts.

Do you have moringa on your menu? Is it something that you can showcase to guests in your cooking classes? Executive Chef Wajira Gamage at Santani Wellness Resort has created a moringa soup that not only tastes delicious, is filled with health benefits, and looks beautiful too.

 

Belmond sees 2019 as the year of transformational travel, ushering travellers to ‘seize the moment’ and go on life-affirming adventures.

4.      Transformational Travel

Transformational travel has a profound impact on the traveller in a deep, permanent way. Sri Lanka has experiential tourism, but transformational tourism goes beyond this. Instead of giving visitors an experience, it changes their life. The term was first coined in 2016 by the founders of the Transformational Travel Council. Their mission? To use travel as a catalyst for creating deeper connections with the self and nature, and as a tool for fostering global citizenry.

The appetite amongst travellers for holidays that go beyond surface level self-improvement to something more meaningful, is growing. A 2018 Skift survey found that 32 percent of consumers have had an experience while traveling that has transformed them in a positive way. The transformation may come from gaining a difference perspective, learning something new, or reflecting deeply on life.

When visiting Bali, many tourists get involved in the local beliefs and practices of the island. This exchange is driven by the locals who share their culture with the tourists. They encourage them to visit their villages, practice yoga, swim in the river, go to temples, and maybe even see a local healer.

Terahaku is a website that allows people to book lodging at temples and shrines across Japan. Launched in 2018, their popularity demonstrates how people are looking to get more from their stay than just a beautiful and relaxing experience. By only offering lodging at temples and shrines, the site offers users a truly authentic experience that is unique to the location and local community.

 

Hyper-relevance, the next big thing in hospitality?

5.      Beyond Personalisation

A buzz word for the last two years, many businesses still struggle to turn the idea of personalisation into something that provides real, tangible benefits. Time to catch up may be running out! Accenture suggests the focus is now evolving from personalisation into hyper-relevance, where “brands move beyond the trip into the travellers’ daily lives.” To get on board with this requires a great deal of consumer insight. The good news is that the innovative technology required is becoming more accessible. The company’s research suggests three out of four travellers say they can feel a difference with companies that are moving towards hyper-relevance.

Travel companies that don’t get up to speed are at risk of being left behind. In a conversation with Swift, Jan Swartz of Princess Cruises explained how they are building more in-depth profiles of their cruise ship guests. Over the course of a voyage, more than 400 million points of data are gathered through the wearable Ocean Medallian program. This allows Princess to “enhance both the guest experience in real-time, as well as mine that information to do a better job designing our ship experience for the future.”

Low tech, but still personalised

The insights afforded by technology and big data are extensive and can provide a competitive advantage when used correctly. But not every step towards personalisation needs to require a large investment in time or money.

Online pre-arrival surveys are easy to arrange with the link sent to guests via email. Questions such as dietary requirements, pillow preference, preferred snacks, reason for visit, and even preference for normal or decaf coffee, means housekeeping can set up the room space to the guests’ personal preference. At check-in, knowledgeable front office staff can confirm this information and open up conversations for targeted upselling.

A handwritten note card welcoming each guest to their room is an age-old touch so often overlooked. The effort is minimal but the impact goes a lot further than a standardised printed letter. If guests have informed the hotel about visiting for a special occasion, note it and keep a record of preferences (in line with the highest standards of data protection), so this information can be leveraged for a more personal experience should they return.

Crystal chandeliers are becoming less important for guests than the ability to feel connected to the place they’re visiting. 

6.      Luxury

Good news for those focussing on high-end spenders, the luxury travel market is set for continued growth. According to Amadeus’s report, Shaping the Future of Luxury Travel, the growth rate in outbound luxury travel over the next 10 years is projected to be 6.2%. This is almost a third higher than the 4.8% projected for overall travel.

Geographically, growth in the Asia region for luxury travel will continue to be strong. India will also be an interesting country to watch as their middle class continues to expand and this is predicted to drive South Asia as the fastest growing market for luxury travel globally.

The meaning of luxury itself is evolving and simply investing in expensive fixtures and fittings may no longer meet the requirements of high-end travellers. Luxury travel has moved on from meaning expensive things towards the unique, exclusive, and experiential. Crystal chandeliers are less important than the ability for the guests to feel connected to the place they are visiting, still in a beautiful, comfortable and aspirational way, of course.

Testament to this focus on luxury experiences is LVMH’s recent acquisition of high-end hotel, rail, and river cruise company Belmond for $2.6 billion. The company famous for luxury goods is now expanding from luxury things, to luxury experiences.

Voice-controlled devices are just one of the ways technology has the potential to radically change staff & guest interactions.

7.      Smart Hotel Rooms

The smart home is now firmly in the realm of the real, with countless voice- and sensor-controlled devices monitoring and assisting people in their day-to-day lives. Is the smart hotel room soon to follow? Technology monitoring systems can check for issues like water wastage through a leaking toilet and changes to temperature that might, undetected, otherwise lead to a guest complaint.

Moving beyond the operational, the installation of voice-activated smart systems, like those familiar to us from Google’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri, could streamline the guest in-room experience. Voice-controlled systems could do away with the need to have hotel information in a booklet in each room. Guests could ask out loud for directions to the swimming pool and be informed exactly of the route from their room while it simultaneously shows on the TV screen. Room service could be ordered and confirmed without having to pick up a phone.

Just as in our personal homes, not everyone would find the idea of voice-activated technology attractive. Privacy concerns would need to be considered sensitively and thoughtfully. For hotels, there is also a technical challenge of having technology that can understand a wide range of accents, and of completely wiping the data and preferences each time a guest checks out. Nevertheless, this is one trend we see gaining ground, particularly in luxury high-end rooms.

Hospitality Insider Issue 4