Travel and hospitality are fast-moving industries, both generally and in terms of their adoption of new technology.
It’s tough to single out the most significant forecasts for next year, but we’re confident that the developments below will be ones to watch in 2020.
First up, an uptick in attribute-based selling (ABS) is very much in the cards. OTA Insight recently speculated that the functionality is going to fundamentally change the way that travelers search for and book hotels.
The process will become much more targeted, and hoteliers will be focused on finding more ways of meaningfully comparing their rooms’ rates with those of their competitors.
ABS and, more generally, personalization will have a huge role to play next year if how much the topic has been discussed by travel industry leaders at events this year is anything to go by. Personalization is a newer facet of the user experience that hotels are keen to improve and excel on.
Having a handle on the user experience and responding to it is not only a key way hotels can remain competitive against online travel agencies in terms of customer acquisition, but it also takes into consideration the consumers of the future.
The millennial traveler
The millennial traveler gaining even more prominence in the minds of hoteliers is my second 2020 prediction. Most commentators suggest a general economic global downturn is imminent, which is likely to coincide with the cyclical downturns we’re used to experiencing in travel and hospitality.
The millennial traveler could be an equalizer in this downturn. Generationally, they have shrunk the world and will continue to drive travel demand, although they will be very interested in value-based pricing.
The millennial traveler could be an equalizer in [an economic] downturn.
Dave Collier - OTA Insight
Provided industry players can continue to deliver unique experiences, they will be able to create demand from the millennial traveler through their social presence.
The millennial traveler may also have an effect on direct booking trends in 2020. This year saw evidence that the perseverance of hotels in continuing to use loyalty programs to draw in customers has paid off.
These results are borne out in a global survey conducted by Criteo, where 82% of senior travelers confirm choosing a specific brand because of a loyalty program; however, amongst millennials, this falls nearer to 60%.
Opt-outs from a hotel’s loyalty program amongst this millennial group tend to be due to receiving too many emails.
This means that in order for hoteliers to take advantage of a demographic who are going to be spending the most money in the coming years, they will need to adjust how they communicate and which channels they use in order to draw in a crowd that, with the relevant experiences and offers available, can become brand-loyal.
OTAs and newer, disruptive market players will also be making moves in the travel landscape.
Airbnb has spoken of its ambitions to become an end-to-end provider, whilst 2020 looks set to be a race between Booking.com and Expedia to deliver the connected experience, extending to flights, experiences and rental car options - all reliant on large amounts of customer data acquisition. These developments will challenge direct bookings once more and will provide interesting future speculation.
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But there are other changes coming to hotelier revenue and profit. The issue of parity isn’t going away, and it’s a racing certainty that another “rogue” OTA will rise to take Amoma’s crown. In fact, several will be competing for the title.
We recently tapped into some of our data analysis work to speculate on who it might be.
Before 2020 is out, we’re likely to know who to watch, and hoteliers will be as eager as ever to adopt technological solutions to monitor and take action on these issues.
We’ll also see further developments in Big Data and artificial intelligence. Reflected in sessions at events this year, such as HITEC in Minneapolis, travel experts spoke of leveraging advanced technology to best serve connected travelers who are demanding more high-quality digital and mobile experiences with real-time responses.
In 2020, the growing adoption of devices like Google Home and Amazon's Alexa means that guests will be increasingly using voice commands to search for rooms. This will impact hotels' SEO and marketing strategy.
Additionally, it becomes another channel that rates are being displayed through, and one that needs to be considered in terms of parity.