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Where will hospitality go in 2017?

Where will hospitality go in 2017?

Ammar Hilal highlights some of the hospitality trends to watch in the year ahead

Merger boom

Last year, was one of consolidation in the hospitality sector, with AccorHotels’ acquisition of FRHI, Marriott’s acquisition of Starwood Hotels & Resorts, MakeMyTrip’s acquisition of Ibibo, and others taking place.

In 2017 we should expect to see other hotel chains contemplating the same in order to equal the capabilities of the larger players and increase their share in the market. It is also a way of competing with online travel agencies (OTAs), which are increasingly scoring a larger part of bookings while charging hotels commission to appear on their websites.

Family travel

This is one of the fastest growing segments in tourism, accounting for a third of all leisure trips as per a recent study. It is predicted to continue to grow more than all other forms of leisure travel. Multi-generational family travel tops the list of travel trends. Families whose members are geographically separated often find that these trips are a good opportunity to reconnect.

Dubai’s geographic advantages have helped its incredible rise as the world’s air travel hub, and to facilitate the incredible rise in its impressive entertainment industry the emirate is introducing a world-class portfolio of family attractions and entertainment systems. Hoteliers should ensure they are offering products that appeal to younger visitors, without ignoring the enduring importance of catering to grown-up audiences.

Artificial intelligence tools

Travel sites have long toyed with the idea of implementing real-time messaging platforms and personalised automation technology. In the past, companies were geared toward desktop and mobile searches, but today you can use Google’s AI personal assistant or Siri to book your travel plans. Other artificial intelligence tools to watch include Lola – an on-demand travel app that lets you research or book your travel plans on the go – and Expedia, which is planning to launch an AI platform for personal messaging and customer assistance.

Mobile

Mobile is not a trend anymore – it’s a way of life. In the past year, conversion rates on mobile travel sites grew by 88 per cent. Mobile searches continue to skyrocket, and Google is switching to a mobile-first index. It is important for hoteliers to note that it will start penalising those that have intrusive pop-ups on their mobile sites.

Design

Hospitality interior spaces are designed with different strategies in mind to accommodate the needs of every guest, whether they are there for business, relaxation or socialising. Personalisation has been the biggest trend in hospitality and will continue to be so in the years to come.

Every service offering is an opportunity to have a very personal hotel experience. Fluid spaces translate to being able to cater to custom requests.

Company culture

Changing jobs is easy for employees to do unless they feel truly engaged and are supportive of the hotel’s mission. While job benefits are always a positive, they are now so commonplace that they cannot stand alone when it comes to employee retention. Take a note from how we at Sofitel Dubai Downtown treat our guests and create an environment where your team feels valued, cared for and respected. Then watch as your service scores reflect the work of a satisfied team.

Ammar Hilal is the general manager of Sofitel Dubai Downtown

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