Top trends in hospitality for 2019

Accounting for over 10% of global GDP and the creation of one in five new jobs according to the World Travel and Tourism Council, travel and tourism continues to be one of the world’s fastest-growing industries. It is also an industry undergoing rapid transformation, shaped by new technologies and the values and needs of an increasingly diverse range of travellers.

Emerging trends in sustainability, luxury, technology and innovation are all influencing the future direction of the hospitality industry. As worldwide hospitality education leaders, our responsibility is to provide aspiring hospitality professionals with the skills and knowledge they need, and to develop the next generation of leaders for the hospitality industry. Monitoring industry trends and adapting our education programmes accordingly is essential for us to ensure that our curricula are relevant for the industry and our students. With this in mind, these are some of the top trends to watch for in 2019:

Entrepreneurship and innovation

The hospitality industry continues to provide fertile ground for aspiring entrepreneurs, while innovation will be key for established brands to stay relevant and compete with new players.

Innovation strategies should also cater to the different profiles, needs and expectations of travellers. For example, the importance of social experiences to Millennials and Gen Z travellers has given rise to a new breed of urban boutique hotels offering social spaces and activities – sometimes at the expense of individual room size, as evidenced by the success of micro-hotels. Busy business travellers, meanwhile, are most likely to appreciate innovations in technology that enable them to save time.

But to entice luxury travellers, retaining the human touch will be key for hotels to deliver a bespoke experience. Understanding the different needs of guests is essential for brands to develop innovative concepts capable of yielding long term profit and business growth.

New technologies in hospitality

Thanks to new technologies, hospitality businesses can provide guests with greater customisation, convenience and control. Technology is also transforming the way customers interact with brands – even before and after their stay.

Chatbots, robots and other forms of artificial intelligence provide users with information on-demand and personalised recommendations. Facial recognition technology is opening doors (sometimes literally) to time-saving service, while smart hotel rooms equipped with internet-of-things connectivity allow guests to customise their experience with an app or their own voice. Loyalty programmes based on blockchain and cryptocurrency are also creating interesting new opportunities for brands to engage with customers.

While these examples provide a glimpse of current and future applications of technology to the guest experience, many of these technologies are still in their early stages, with the potential to change the industry in ways we have yet to imagine.

Luxury brand management and guest experience

Balancing heritage with innovation is essential for luxury brands to attract an increasingly diverse range of clients. Relying on brand history alone is no longer enough – brands need to bring their identity into the future in order to stay relevant. However, storytelling is still key for brands to convey their value to customers.

Global brands will need to reflect the increasingly diverse identity of their clients through multicultural awareness and sensitivity. To meet omnichannel customers, brands will need to build seamless transitions between offline and online experiences while retaining the high levels of service that luxury clients expect.

We can also expect to see more luxury brands branching into hotels and other hospitality ventures – adopting the codes of hospitality enables brands to provide customers with a uniquely immersive experience that goes beyond traditional retail. Finally, retaining the human touch throughout these interactions will be essential for luxury brands to nurture the personal relationships that build client loyalty.

Sustainable hospitality

The United Nations have pushed issues of sustainability to the forefront of public awareness, and conscientious Millennials and Gen Z travellers in particular expect global hospitality businesses to take a more comprehensive approach to corporate social responsibility.

Transparency and accountability are becoming more important as travellers want to know the impact of their footprint – not only environmentally, but socially as well. Sustainable and socially responsible strategies now range from the reduction of single-use plastics to the development of social business concepts and the shift towards a circular economy system, in which resources are recycled and regenerated, rather than used once and disposed.

Food and beverage innovations

Sustainability concerns have also become important within the realm of food and beverage. Interest in locally sourced, seasonal food and vegetable-centric cuisine continues to grow among eco-friendly and health-conscious consumers, resulting in the development of farm-to-table – and even seed-to-table – culinary concepts.

However, the pursuit of pleasure is also a key motivator for customers seeking new culinary experiences that delight the senses. Millennials are driving a shift towards the democratisation of dining, blurring the boundaries between formal and casual, and embracing high-quality cuisine at an accessible price point.

Street food and open-fire cooking are introducing diners to a wider range of flavours, traditions and experiences. And in the age of Instagram, visual delights are just as important as deliciousness – something which some of the world’s top pâtissiers already know.

As these trends reveal, the future of hospitality is increasingly transversal, shaping and being shaped by global movements, industries and consumer values. Despite these rapid changes, among consumer-centric industries such as luxury and hospitality, one constant remains: the importance of the human touch. Human relations continue to play an invaluable role in the delivery of memorable experiences and service, making human talent one of our greatest sources of innovation.

By Benoît-Etienne Domenget, CEO of Sommet Education, a group encompassing the prestigious Swiss hospitality management schools Glion Institute of Higher Education and Les Roches Global Hospitality Education

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