Disrupting the Old Order: Five Trends Affecting Travel, the World's Largest Business

By Mike Kistner President, Chief Executive Officer & Chairman of the Board, Pegasus Solutions | April 01, 2012

The 2011 holiday season incited strong holiday travel, especially during the last week of the month and most notably over New Year's Eve. Booking performance was solid even though it had a tough time matching the robust global levels achieved last year, and December's reservations surpassed 2010 levels in many markets, remaining greater globally than 2009, 2008 and even 2007. Average daily rates were the star of the show, rising in the corporate and leisure sectors, and reaching new record growth over last year in many leisure markets. Overall, 2011 was a year of major progress for reservations and rates.

Travel is expected to slowly but surely continue on its road to recovery through 2012, shifting gears as it encounters inevitable bumps along the way. Throughout 2012, it will be exciting to monitor how new and ongoing industry trends influence travel in the new year and the opportunities they will unleash.

Independent hotels, mobile adoption, distribution, hotel merchandising and partnerships/integration/alliances played key roles during 2011. So which trends will help shape travel in 2012? There are many, but the following five are especially important:

Mobile

Mobile adoption is accelerating in terms of the number of users researching or managing travel. Some industry reports are predicting a climb in the number of US consumers using mobile for travel research from 19.7 million in 2010 to 29.7 million in 2012. The number of guests expected to start booking travel via mobile is projected to double to 15.1 million in 2012.

It's clear that mobile is a critical extension of your hotel's distribution network on the Internet. And six months from now, there will be even more diversity in the number of devices and operating systems you will have to consider in your mobile strategy. There are products not yet in existence that will be thriving a year from now, which means your hotel or hotel group cannot be satisfied because you've done a good job with one device.

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Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.