The Hotel Industry Is Changing, but Do Guests Want It?

When we think of the traditional hotel industry, we think of booking rooms with a hotel or a travel agent as part of the holiday experience, then checking in at the front desk and enjoying the services and amenities provided before continuing with our itinerary.

In recent years, significant changes have taken place within the sector to transform the traditional hotel experience, such as technological advancements, changing guest preferences, and increasing market competition.

Photo by Francesca Saraco on Unsplash

As guests, it’s worth paying attention to these changes as they set the tone for the future, especially for the tourism industry.

What’s Changing in the Hotel Industry?

If you’ve taken a trip anywhere recently, you might notice that more hotels and travel agencies are adopting online systems and automation in their check-in process. Most hotels haven’t done away with their front desks just yet, but there are some instances where you can go the entire stay without interacting with a human.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – it’s convenient to book a stay online, then to check in and check out of your accommodation digitally. Housekeeping and room service can come in when you’re not present, and if you need any help, customer support is just one tap away for the more technologically integrated lodgings.

From the hotel perspective, technology and automation help reduce the amount of manpower required to service a guest during their stay. Booking and order systems can take over typical front desk work, freeing up staff to tend to other, more pressing things like conflict resolution.

Integrating technology into the customer support experience can also help guests troubleshoot basic problems before engaging a service representative, minimizing time and energy spent on smaller issues that can be resolved with a well-programmed chatbot. Customer support staff can then focus on the significant cases that make it through the system, increasing overall efficiency.

While the benefits of technology in hotel management are obvious, this does beg the question of whether the front-facing aspect of hotels and travel should be done away with in favour of convenience. For many guests, a large part of the hotel experience is the customer service experience.

Shifts Towards Sustainable and Eco-Friendly Practices

As most of the world shifts toward mindful consumption and eco-conscious practices, so too are hotels. Worldwide, the tourism industry produces more than 35 million tons of waste annually – hotels are taking the first steps towards waste reduction by removing single-use toiletries and reducing bedding and linen changes during room service.

Guests will notice that more hotel bathrooms contain bulk soap dispensers and fewer disposable toiletries compared to the abundance of little shampoo bottles we enjoyed before.

Housekeeping is now an opt-in service, with friendly note cards informing guests that they can leave their beds unmade and towels hung up to dry instead of having them replaced every single day.

Like with technology and automation, hotels shifting from mandatory, opt-out housekeeping services to opt-in cleaning done mostly after guests have vacated the premises will help in managing overhead costs like labour and laundry. It’s alright to go without daily fresh linens – if we can do it at home, surely we can also make do while travelling.

The prevalence of bulk soap dispensers isn’t just a cost reduction measure, it’s an environmental impact initiative modelled by large hotel chains and supported by global lawmakers. Reducing the amount of single-use plastic whenever possible will help mitigate the long-term effects of plastic use on the environment.

Of course, hotels will also benefit by saving on the cost of materials once the single-use plastic toiletries have been replaced – only time will tell whether this will make a dent in our planet’s plasticky problems.

While certain guests will have issues with cleanliness, this seems to be an overall good move, especially for environment and sustainability-conscious guests.

Alternative Accommodation Options 

Since its inception in 2007, Airbnb has disrupted hospitality industries across the world – homestays, dorms, and other alternative accommodations aren’t exactly new to the scene, but it’s nice to know that we have more options beyond the typical big hotel chains.

Fast forward to the present where guests are spoilt for choice at most destinations, with some even snubbing glitzy hotel rooms in favour of kitschy, themed accommodations. This does come with a caveat: guests are subject to house rules at smaller lodgings, while hotels usually take care of everything within reason and without much fuss.

On the other hand, hotels are stepping up by offering more value-added services and unique experiences. For example, a hotel would probably have gourmet buffet meals, a pool, and a spa while alternative accommodations might not.

As basic economic theory demonstrates, healthy competition within the hospitality industry is a good thing for customers – it leads to better goods and services, more variety, and lower prices across the board.

Personalization and Customization to Guest Preferences

Related to the previous section, guests can now experience a wide range of personalizations and customizations when it comes to booking travel accommodations. Gone are the days when you get a generic hotel room and call it a day – since your holidays are special, your lodgings should be special, too.

The onset of short-term rentals has alternative accommodations popping up like mushrooms, and with the sheer number of options available, they’re going above and beyond in creating unique lodging experiences tailored specifically to guest preferences.

In some cases, it’s also easier for alternative accommodations to modify bookings since it’s more likely that they cater to smaller guest volumes, allowing them to dedicate more time and effort to each guest.

Meanwhile, hotels are using technology to add a personal touch to the often sterile and detached hotel experience. Guests often make profiles on booking systems – the data accumulated over time lets hotels predict guests’ needs and adjust accordingly.

For example, using past booking data, a hotel can anticipate the needs of a family travelling with young children by offering babysitting services and kid-friendly activities, while an older, adventurous couple can get recommendations for outdoor activity providers in the area.

As we’ve said before, an increase in competition raises the bar for all participants, leading to memorable experiences and better service quality for guests.

Diversity and Globalization Leading to Shifts in Dining Offerings

Guests normally don’t have that many options when it comes to hotel food, but we’ve noticed an interesting trend in dining offerings – more and more hotels are adding international cuisines to their menus.

Global flavours like Mediterranean, Vietnamese, Mexican, Chinese, Caribbean, and Japanese feature prominently among hotel picks, giving diners a healthy variety of diverse cultures. Hotels are also using more organic and sustainable ingredients on top of increasing their plant-forward menu options.

Part of this is due to globalization making ingredients and culinary skills across cuisines and regions much more accessible than they would have been a decade ago. Today, hiring a chef from halfway across the globe to create a menu is a much easier task – they’re only a plane ride away.

Competition in the Form of Food Delivery and Other Dining Alternatives 

Someone we know has probably dealt with this particular hotel scenario before. Dining out is expensive or boring, and dining in-room can be more appealing for some individuals. You usually can’t cook inside a hotel room, though, so pizza it is.

With the rise of food delivery platforms, guests are no longer confined to pizza, room service, and hotel dining options – all you have to do is order a meal of your choice online and it’ll arrive within the hour.

Naturally, hotels can’t restrict what guests do as that would drive them away, so they have to evolve with the times. Some locations adapt by ramping up their dining offerings, while others provide alternatives such as a hotel cafe where guests can get something more conventional if the luxury dining options aren’t to their tastes or their budgets.

Integration of Value Added Experiences Like Leisure Activities 

While stand-alone hotels are relatively common, some newer hotels integrate with nearby attractions like amusement parks, local places of interest, and casinos where you can play Jackpot games to roll the guest experience into a neat, comprehensive package. Now, to be fair, some tourists rather opt for websites like SpinFever Canada instead of going to a casino, even if it’s within the hotel premises, but that is a separate topic.

As a guest, you’ll find that hotel-attraction combos often offer packages and deals that are cheaper than booking accommodation and leisure activities separately. This is especially convenient if you’re already planning on visiting the attractions and places of interest nearby since you only have to deal with one well-coordinated broker instead of a few mismatched ones.

From the hotel side, integrating value-added experiences leads to an increase in revenue and customer retention – the longer a guest stays at the hotel, the more the hotel profits as the amount of overhead for each guest reduces over time.

While a stand-alone hotel can only draw guests based on its own merit, a hotel-attraction combination means that guests can be drawn to the hotel, the attraction, or both at the same time, covering more ground than a stand-alone hotel would.

Some guests might be repelled by the idea of a congested, popular hotel, but the overall trend of creating cohesive guest experiences can only be a good thing for travellers.

At a glance, it looks like the hotel industry is making some remarkable changes to adapt to the evolving demands of guests.

Technology and automation have improved guest experiences with streamlined, convenient processes, and the rise of alternative accommodation and dining options has driven hotels towards innovation in creating unique offerings.

In order to stay relevant, hotels have taken advantage of globalization and diversity to make a wide range of experiences available to their guests while also shifting away from the previously generic, consumption-centric approach to the hotel experience.

Guests are the heart of hospitality, and the hotel industry’s response to these changes reflects their priorities in providing guests with exceptional and tailored experiences even as trends evolve. We’re optimistic that hotels will weather the changes in the tourism and hospitality industries, remaining relevant over time.