January 5, 2018
By Robert A. Gilbert, President & CEO, HSMAI
The past year we have all witnessed many of the predictions that we forecasted last year:
- More mergers and acquisitions
- Loyalty and branding as a key focus area
- Expect the unexpected in terms of the global geo-political landscape
- Technology applications will leapfrog
- Rate and pricing strategies will continue to evolve
- Accountability for better service standards
So what will 2018 have in store for us? Experts predict more of the same in all of the above, so what will change or what else should we keep our eye on?
- Hotel Performance
Predictions for the first quarter of 2018 show that the RevPAR increase in the U.S. will continue to be positive although supply growth will barely exceed this growth. An interesting analysis by STR however, illustrates that a larger number of submarkets in the U.S. are now experiencing a negative RevPar growth. There is a tipping point where these submarkets will tilt the scale on the national average. Nonetheless, CRBE predicts record level occupancies through at least 2019.
While hotel owner and asset manager expectations continue to vary, the debate about attribution and profit flow through by channel will continue. More and more business intelligence data now exists to help hoteliers optimize their channel strategy. This requires a paradigm shift among more in the industry to find or grow the talent to manage this.
Note to self: Know your owner expectations, your revenue and profit goals, and know how to optimize your customer and channel mix.
- Customer Expectations
The pace of expectations by all types of hotel customers continues to challenge all hoteliers. We have more unique generational differences traveling for business, leisure and attending meetings than we’ve ever experienced before. The expectations have clearly exceeded the basic need of wi-fi anymore. We’re witnessing customers who crave wellness, want to live like a local, immerse themselves – or their group - into unique experiences.
And then there’s contracts for meetings and events. The time required by hoteliers today to navigate the needs and wants of contractual agreements can be overwhelming. Streamline what you can so that sales people can focus on driving business.
More hotel companies are creating the role of the chief customer experience officer. It’ll be exciting to see what they have in store for us in 2018.
Note to self: As always, know thy customer.
- New tech frontiers
Artificial intelligence and virtual reality are not merely visions of the future anymore. There are real live applications that allow current and potential customers turn the corner and find the experiences they desire. The implications of multiple emerging technologies - ranging from robots to bots – are things we all need to consider as we seek the most effective ways to capture and retain customers.
Meanwhile, search trends continue to morph. Mobile search and bookings continue to skyrocket but now you have to also consider the growth of image and voice searches.
Note to self: Don’t be blinded by the shiny new objects. But make sure I have a digital marketing strategy that is NOT “do what I have always done” and is focused on results.
- The Data Scientist
Some have identified 2018 as the year of the data scientist. As you think about some of the things just mentioned above you are probably wondering WHO is going to do all of this. There is a lot of talk about big data, personalization, and seamless intelligence – all fueled by a loyalty craze in the hospitality industry.
More and more hospitality companies are stepping in to the deep end of this pond. And we all need to. Affordable technology solutions now exist to enable companies to not just capture data but convert it into actionable, revenue focused strategies.
Note to self: If I’m not on that path already, how do I get there?
- The Anxiety of Travel
Perhaps never before has our world witnessed so many events that have caused hotel customers anxiety as it relates to their travel experience. The safety and security of all of our customers must be paramount for all operators and marketers. But there are many variables outside of your control related to things like data security, weather, and geopolitical issues. Meeting planners now expect all hotels to have a crisis preparation and communications plan. If you haven’t heard this yet, wait for it – you will.
Note to self: Understand how important your role is in communicating the needs and wants of your customers to other key players in your organization and communicate to your customers the policies and plans you have in place to protect them to the best of your ability in any situation.
As the hospitality industry continues to evolve, HSMAI will continue to provide key insights and unique educational programming in order to benefit their members and the industry at large. In 2018, HSMAI is excited to activate our new Organizational Membership program. To date forty three companies and five hospitality schools have committed to engage more associates in executives forums that will develop and share insights. A cornerstone benefit of our new Organizational Membership program will be Curate. Produced twice annually, this executive leadership forum will provide leaders an opportunity to discuss the most pressing issues facing the hospitality industry and the disciplines of sales, marketing and revenue management. In addition, we will host seven executive round tables, produce conferences, white papers, webinars and facilitate conversations about emerging issues in the hospitality industry – all of which will be offered online and in face to face formats around the world in the Asia Pacific region, Europe, the United Arab Emirates, Brazil, and the United States. We will also continue to provide unique industry certification programs and recognize those top achievers in sales, marketing and revenue management. These are individuals who raise the bar for our industry and our profession. Stay engaged. And have a successful and productive 2018!