It’s a thrilling time to be a hospitality professional. This constantly evolving, multibillion-dollar industry is transforming with every passing month to keep pace with technologies, economies and the changing wants and needs of the American consumer. Here are 10 top trends that we find especially interesting to watch in 2016.
1. Technology-driven food delivery is hot.
Smartphones allow hungry customers to locate a restaurant, check reviews, order, pay, and within minutes, companies like UberEATS, Google, or Amazon facilitate home delivery. Customers can also order groceries. Baum+Whiteman, an international food-and-restaurant consultant group, ranks this trend as number one on their 2016 list.
2. Adventures over “stuff” attract younger travelers.
A Forbes study shows that 69 percent of Millennials self-identify as adventurous. They seek diverse, exotic experiences and cultural enrichment when traveling. This generation is inspiring huge sea changes in the industry by demanding properties and destinations that satisfy their craving for novelty and shared experiences.
3. Boutique hotels dominate large chains.
Millennials and luxury travelers choose boutique hotels over chains for the intimate, personal relationship enjoyed with the hotel staff and surrounding environment. Guests want to explore the art, culture, and people in their destination, while basking in the one-on-one service a smaller property offers.
4. Wellness tourism is exploding.
This multibillion-dollar sector is growing faster than travel in general, thanks in large part to aging baby boomers. For example, Celebrity Cruises and Arizona’s Canyon Ranch have partnered with SpaClub at Sea on ten Celebrity cruise ships. The Fairmont Fit program brings Reebok shoes, workout clothing, and a yoga mat to guest rooms, and some Four Seasons properties provide complimentary walking and hiking tours to guests. Eucalyptus fiber bedding, standing work desks, wake-up light therapy, and vitamin C-infused showers are just a few popular perks.
5. Airports soothe overstimulated travelers.
San Francisco International, Heathrow, and Helsinki offer travel-weary guests on-site yoga rooms. Vermont’s Burlington International provides a mat, a meditation cushion, and a shower. Dallas-Fort Worth’s yoga room boasts partial privacy screens, and Chicago O’Hare’s offers an endless-loop tape of others practicing yoga for inspiration.
6. Clean eating is influencing fast-food menus.
Restaurant-Hospitality.com points to a recent survey that shows a large percentage of consumers worry about chemicals, GMOs, and artificial flavors and colors in their food. Combined with the growth of farmers’ markets and eat local movements, many large chains are removing toxic ingredients from their menus. Baum+Whiteman points to Chipotle Mexican Grill’s purging of GMOs and Panera Bread’s ditching of more than 150 artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, and preservatives by the end of 2016. McDonald's and Chick-fil-A are converting to antibiotic-free chicken. Even White Castle has jumped on board with a veggie slider on a vegan bun.
7. Retailers compete with restaurants.
U.S. retailers continue to increase revenue by offering shoppers in-store snacks and meals to encourage them to hang around longer. Bass Pro Shops’ Outdoor World has partnered with Islamorada Fish Co. to install restaurants inside its hunting, camping, and recreation departments.
8. Travel agents find new clients.
A 2014 travel agent survey on hospitality trends proclaimed the good news that millennials are increasingly using travel agents to book vacations instead of going it alone. Of the travel agents who responded, 51.5 percent reported an increase in millennial clients.
9. No tipping policies increase.
Food and beverage service managers continue to institute policies that prohibit tipping of service staff in favor of a higher hourly wage for all workers. Proponents report that front-of-the-house and back-of-the-house employees receive equitable pay, and taxes are less of a headache.
10. Social media makes round-the-clock customer service the expectation.
One of most important social media marketing trends this year finds the service industry trying to satisfy customers’ needs for 24/7 communication. Lithium Technologies reports that, “More than 70 percent of users expect to hear back from the brand they’re interacting with on Twitter, and 53 percent want a response within the hour.”
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