8 Trends that will define travel in 2014

Technology and economics are changing the way we travel, so it's important for hotels to keep up to date with these trends and provide the necessary information and functionality online, to give travellers everything they need at their fingertips.

8 Trends that will define travel in 2014

1. Rise of The Silent Traveller

The rise of digital has given rise to a new kind of traveller who is adept at all available online and mobile tools. These new travellers don’t need tons of handholding, they shun human interaction, and know their way around everywhere they go.

If the hospitality — the actual human to human interaction — part of the travel industry becomes less and less important, how does the industry define itself? How does it understand the needs of its customers and fulfill them?

This presents the global hospitality industry a paradox: the human part of the service economy may become less and less important with the rise of the independent, digital traveller forging his or her own way. But big data and personalization offer a way for travel companies to offer that invisible pillar of support. It also allows the travel industry an opportunity to balance the inevitable expectation of personalization while simultaneously enhancing the need to remain independent.

2. Blurring of Business and Leisure Travel

The boundary between professional and private worlds is increasingly blurred due to mobile devices, with profound effects on the traditionally defined silos between managed and unmanaged travel. It is also changing business travel as we know it.

Business travellers -- especially millennials -- are rebelling against their stodgy corporate booking tools and want to access the deals and tools that are readily available to them when they travel for leisure.

A recent survey talks about this blurring:

  • 43% of international travellers always take their mobile professional devices with them on holiday or on weekend trips
  • 89% of seasoned international travellers say mobile professional devices are a means of staying in touch with their loved ones.

While there is a real conflict between personal and professional lives of travellers, business travellers are more upfront about adding on leisure time at the end of business trips. This presents new opportunities for airlines, hotels and destinations alike, all of which have to configure their services to be flexible, and conference and meeting planners have to be cognizant of these changes. Corporate tools have to reflect these mixed realities, and most are not yet equipped to do that.

3. Curation Is Coming To Travel Listings

Travellers are overwhelmed by choices in booking online, while mobile is creating the need for better curated experience in a small form factor. Booking providers can deliver well-targeted information to travellers due to their mining and analysis of all kinds of data.

The growth of curation-centric startups like Top10.com, Room77, and HotelTonight is symptomatic of what consumers are yearning for to navigate the clutter.

4. Visuals, The New Language of Marketing in Travel

Visuals are the new language of the digital era. The rise of Instagram and photo sharing on Facebook speak to this, as do the surfeit of photo sharing startups that have come since.

Travel is uniquely suited to visual media. Content marketing -- especially through social media -- has been driven primarily by images, and now brands across the spectrum, including corporate travel brands like American Express, are adopting visuals as the primary way they speak to their users in digital media.

Technology that’s placed high-quality cameras in most travellers' hands has also fueled the marketing evolution. Brands like Starwood and Tourism Australia are tapping travellers' photos, videos, and social networks for their marketing materials. Travellers can lead the conversation independent of brands, too, using hashtags and geotagging to share their experiences of a place or attraction.

Moving forward brands' challenges will be to share engaging visuals that not only portray a place, but elicit emotion from the viewer.

5. The Rise of Smart Design In Travel

The future of travel is at the intersection of user experience and design, influenced by the Appleification of the world. Hotels are becoming a more efficient place to work, airports are becoming more design-centric, and every sector in travel is becoming more design-meets-UX savvy.

Much of the evolution is fueled by travellers' changing expectations caused by the instantaneous gratification they experience every time they order an Uber car on demand, book a hotel with a few finger swipes, or receive flight updates sent automatically via text.

The sophistication in user design gives travellers more control over their experience so, whether they ordering room service while in a meeting or booking a flight on the way to the airport, they choose how their experience will unfold. This means travel companies must introduce infrastructure that lets travellers guide themselves and that they must be nimble in the face of rapidly changing customer demand.

6. Rise of Local in Hospitality

The role of hotels has evolved over the last decade during the boom of interest in experiential travel. Guests are arriving to hotels with a wealth of previously researched information and demanding more from their stay.

In response, many independent and branded properties promote themselves as a “travel experience," versus merely a place to sleep, to a growing range of travellers defining who they are by where they stay. Global hotel brands have more recently jumped on the trend.

Hotels are catering to these guests by becoming both a portal to the local community and by turning themselves into a living exhibit of the local culture awaiting outside their walls. They partner with small area businesses on and off site, host and promote special events, and share local travel experiences via social media and blogs.

It's difficult to calculate the ROI in terms of increased bookings and room rates, but hoteliers view destination-specific experiences as a necessary step to remaining relevant with nextgeneration travellers. This is partly fueled by the growth of the sharing economy, which innately provides travellers with a more intimate local experience.

7. Continued Rise of Metasearch

Travel metasearch will build on its banner year of 2013, in which Priceline acquired Kayak, Expedia bought Trivago, and TripAdvisor rounded out its user reviews with a hotel comparisonshopping engine.

Metasearch is the fastest-growing sector in travel, and will likely attract new investment and see continued consolidation in 2014. Online travel agencies and travel brands are discovering metasearch anew as marketing vehicles, and mobile is a new territory, with various monetization and user experience challenges.

Consumers will continue to view metasearch as an efficient way to get a quick and relatively comprehensive view of the market. The year 2014 will be highlighted by hyper metasearch expansion as companies spread their reach way beyond their home-market comfort zones.

8. Mobile Isn’t a Trend, It is Everywhere!

Biggest action is around mobile booking.

Read full article by Rafat Ali, Jason Clampet, Dennis Schall and Samantha Shankman - SKIFT IE

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