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What Will 2017 Bring to the Hospitality Industry?

28 December 2016


Well what a year this has been. Brexit, Trump, mergers and acquisitions of Hotel brands and the emergence of some scary but exciting new technology. MD of Umi Digital, Steve Lowy, & fellow Director , Harry Fielder,  take you through their thoughts on what they think will be the hot topics for 2017 in the hospitality sector


Political uncertainty is the norm

There is that famous infographic by Tom Goodwin featuring the likes of Uber and Airbnb and explaining that “something interesting is happening”. The Brexit vote (and Trump to a lesser degree) has undoubtedly had a significant knock on the markets which have certainly felt hospitality businesses across the world. Whether it is the triggering of Article 50, further referendum votes across Europe or a change in leadership across the main countries in the EU; next year will definitely throw up surprises. Where hospitality businesses in the UK have felt lost with initial fear around BREXIT regarding staffing and increased import costs, it has also meant the UK is the cheapest it has been for many years for visitors to come to the UK. The initial dip in the London hotel market early in 2016 and in mid-summer post-BREXIT has bounced back with some strong demand trends talking people all across the British Isles.

The safety fears caused by the various terrorism attacks across Europe has also dispersed demand from capitals and high profile venues in major cities across Europe, to attractions and destination that are felt as lower risk. This is something that I believe will continue and will allow cities like Brighton, Manchester, Liverpool, Edinburgh and Glasgow to continue to flourish.


AI & VR- The robots are coming

As our handheld technology improves supported by a now prevalent 4G (and soon to be 5G) network, the ability for companies to share higher definition and more engaging content to their customers using richer mediums like VR will grow substantially. 360 degree tours have been around for years but now with the technology enhancements, companies can now create and distribute highly immersive targeted content without breaking the bank. While the technology behind VR/AR is not that new, consumer focussed headsets and tools like Google Cardboard and the Oculus rift mean that there are now more and more ways and means of getting in front of customers in a far more intimate and immersive way.

Maybe more exciting (to me anyway) is the advancement made in AI (Artificial Intelligence). Once a fable in science fiction movies, AI and the use of algorithms in businesses of all sizes will become the norm. For hotels, I feel that the use of AI to aid Revenue Management will be something developed by Big Branded hotels as well as yield management tools. I also think this will allow accommodation providers of all sizes, and types (from hotels to hostels) to be come more strategic with regards yield management and rate strategy. who bought Pricematch some months back, have adapted that Yield Management tool to allow all accommodation providers to have access to stats that were really only available to big chains with vast resources. AI will also be used across fields from Web Design, to providing B2C interactivity in regards travel planning.


Voice Search and device connectivity – Hola Siri!

Voice search will grow in prevalence. Siri felt like a gimmick when it was first launched on the Iphone but with voice activation now being used on various devices, including the new Mac OS , it means that more people will have access to the technology. Things like smart fridges and watches have been around for sometime now, but I believe 2017 will be the year where they are embraced more and more as there are more apps created to be able to interact with the smart technology and voice activation. Our self-concsious barriers from preventing us chatting to our devices will begin to lower which too, will aid adoption. For travel, it could mean changes in the way we deliver things within a Tourism product or search. i.e. a smart TV where you can speak to it and order your room service at a Hotel will not be to far off (if not already in existence).

Consumable products that have just hit our shelves like the Amazon Echo and Google Home will further increase our affinity and comfort with talking to devices. Indeed The Wynn Las Vegas has announced that is is going to be putting an Amazon Echo in all 4,748 rooms!


Niche OTA’s

Our darling friends at have now broken the 1 million mark of accommodation options on their site (to be precise – at the time of writing there are 1,079,932 properties worldwideIncluding 541,456 holiday rentals in 96,746 destinations in 227 countries and territories). Like with many things, too much information and choice can be annoying. With the likes of Hotel Tonight and Hostelworld seeing some sort of resurgence it shows that the niche style of OTA can be successful. I also think there will be new players that will succeed around adventure travel, sports travel and also food tourism which will be the big tourism trend of 2017.


Brand Culling/merging

2015 and 2016 saw M&A in both the hotel brand world as well as the OTA world. Looking at the big 5 hotel brand consortia, it will be very difficult for them to operate all those brands. Therefore, i feel that some of the brands within the consortia will be merged and some will disappear. With so many of the brands overlapping in customer base, some location simply won’t have enough demand for particular brands if they are too similar. I can see more definition of some older brands and the push for consolidating what is there and making sure those brand are getting the right market share. I also think some softer brands that lack definition and continuity may struggle, as independent hotels find it easier to get their name out there through OTA’s and social without the restrictions and cost of a soft brand.


Dynamic Personalisation

The amazons and the ebays of the world have served us personalised product and content suggestions for many years; in the same way we are offered personalised targeted adverts through our social media channels. This personalisation seems to have not been so widely adopted in hotel websites with most properties simply showing a static ‘one-size-fits-all’ website to their prospective guests. As webmasters we now have a diverse set of tools to bring a more dynamic and personalised web experience to our guests. Several ideas to personalise the experience might be to:


Test, test, test! are constantly running thousands of tests on their website and booking engine and is one of the significant reasons why they have been so successful in taking such a significant market share. When you think about it, it really is very easy to book.. This testing is not just for the super-sites however and there are techniques that independent websites can use to drastically improve conversion rates. Using a technique called A/B testing, we can deliver different website variants to different segments of your visitors. One thing you might like to test is the call to action on your booking form;“check availability” vs “book now”. These two different ways of wording it have different conversion rates but without testing, you won’t know which one generates you the most bookings! Other tests might include which popup converts the best to take people your to special offer, or which homepage image contributes to the lowest bounce rate. Conveniently there is a tool that is built in to Google Analytics called ‘Google Experiments’ allows you to track, monitor and enhance your website over time with testing.


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