Technology and an emphasis on local experiences will define travel in 2018.
The hotel industry is changing in more ways than one. Thanks to a new generation of passionate, millennial travelers and growing competition brought on by the ever-evolving sharing economy, the industry is upping its game to cater to a rapidly changing customer base. To better understand these trends, U.S. News consulted hospitality experts to see if these innovations will last or if they're just fleeting fads. From intuitive in-room technology to a more interactive customer service experience, these are the top hospitality trends to look out for in 2018.
You'll be more connected.
Gone are the days of needing to call the front desk or concierge for requests. Today's hotel guests can text hotel staff members on corresponding smartphone apps. On the Marriott International and Hilton Honors apps, for instance, you can complete the check-in process before you arrive, unlock your room with a mobile key and even text the hotel staff for requests. Other brands, such as Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts and Loews Hotels, are following suit. According to John Lubanski, a AAA Diamond inspection manager, a hotel's quality of connective technology will become an industry standard that will factor into how AAA rates properties in the future.
Rooms will be more tech-savvy.
In 2018, keep a look out for high-tech amenities that go beyond in-room iPads and Wi-Fi access. Deanna Ting, hospitality editor at Skift, says that smart rooms are the next big thing. "All of the major hotel companies are testing this out in various stages," Ting says. For example, the Hilton Honors app will soon allow guests to adjust their room lighting, temperature and TV all from their smartphone, while Marriott International is dabbling in voice-activated technology, among other features. "All of this is just an effort for hotel companies to fulfill the desire they have to customize and personalize your stay," Ting says. "It helps them as much as it helps guests."
Millennials will continue to influence hotel design.
Pared down rooms and enhanced common spaces will be the norm in 2018. Bjorn Hanson, clinical professor at the New York University Jonathan M. Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism, credits millennials for this change. "Proven time after time, baby boomers go to his or her room and work alone or order room service, while millennials traveling alone have a propensity to be more interested in some kind of public, shared space," Hanson says. Rooms, on the other hand, are getting smaller thanks to both the desires of younger travelers as well as rising real estate costs.
Local experiences will be a top priority.
Airbnb's disruption of the hospitality industry has inspired traditional hotel companies to appeal to a growing population of travelers who want to experience destinations like a local. Hilton's Waldorf Astoria outposts already offer Unforgettable Experience packages, which include destination-specific experiences in the room rate. For instance, if you stay at the Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm Jumeirah, your Unforgettable Experiences room rate includes a camel ride and a desert dinner for two. And soon Marriott Rewards members will have access to PlacePass, a search engine that allows members to book more than 100,000 local experiences across 800 destinations.
Resort fees aren't just for resorts anymore.
Resort fees, or those small, often unexpected charges on your hotel bill that may include amenities such as in-room Wi-Fi access and on-site parking, are no longer just for resorts. According to Hanson, resort fees are becoming commonplace at hotels in urban areas, too. In New York City, Hanson says there are currently about 20 hotels that are charging a service fee that mirrors that of a mandatory resort fee. And it's not just the Big Apple. Los Angeles and Chicago, two cities that boast few resorts in comparison to vacation hot spots like Orlando, Florida, and Las Vegas, are home to numerous city center hotels that currently impose resort fees.
Expect stricter cancellation policies.
According to Ting, cancellation policies are about to get a lot more rigid. Major hotel brands, including Marriott, Hilton, InterContinental Hotels Group and Hyatt, have made their policies stricter, making it tougher for guests to alter their reservations with no financial penalty. Prior to these changes, most brands allowed a fee-free change up to 24 hours before check-in, but now the window is 48 to 72 hours, depending on the individual hotel, sub-brand or location. Even if you don't usually stay at brand-backed hotels, major companies such as Marriott and Hilton set the industry standard, and independent hotels may follow suit. If you don't want to risk forfeiting any funds, pay attention to these policies when making your reservation.