Once upon a time, booking your stay in a hotel was a straightforward process that involved a telephone. You called the hotel, reserved a room, showed up, and checked in. There was no Internet, no reviews to read through, and certainly no Hipmunk to help you find the cheapest rates. Twenty years later, thanks to a combination of technology game changers like smartphones, and the demands of the travel-happy generation known as millennials, hotels have changed for the better. Here are six ways hotel trends have changed in the last 20 years.
1. Experience trumps all
Remember when people went nuts over Westin’s Heavenly Bed? Not only did they come up with a catchy name for it, Westin spent $30 million developing it with one promise: to deliver the best night’s sleep. Westin aimed to give us the luxury experience of feeling rested and pampered while staying in one of their rooms.
The result? Consumers flocked to try it for themselves. Some even splurged on bringing the experience back with them, opting to switch their mattress out for a Westin Heavenly Bed at home. For the record, the bed will set you back about $2,000 on Amazon.
2. They’ve embraced the sharing economy and co-branding
WeWork, Airbnb, Uber, and Lyft — I think it’s safe to say the sharing economy is here to stay, and hotels have certainly jumped on the bandwagon. They’ve partnered with pod hotels, co-living and co-working spaces, with an emphasis on collaboration and community.
Co-branding with other hotels and growing robust loyalty rewards programs have also evolved over the years. Through partnerships, hotels are able to offer you more incentives to earn free rooms, travel perks, and services. And it’s not just domestically either. The best small business credit cards will earn you free nights and rewards for purchases made globally as well.
Hotels have even expanded their partnership reach and joined forces with merchandising partners, allowing consumers to redeem points for flights, clothing, tech gadgets, and more.
3. Surge pricing for room prices
Surge pricing, also known as dynamic pricing, has changed how and when we buy. While you might typically think of surge pricing as it relates to ride shares, you can also expect to see fluctuations in hotel prices depending on the season and market demand. Thankfully, there’s a certain travel metasearch engine that helps you find the cheapest rooms possible. *hint, hint*
4. Hotels bend over backwards to meet our needs
As travelers and consumers, we’ve found a forum for expressing our intolerance for bad experiences. Was a staff member rude to you? Did your hotel room smell like cigarette smoke and cheese? Social media, here we come.
Hotels are willing to bend over backwards for you to have a seamless, personalized experience. They want the best reviews possible and may even reach out to you if they see a negative review you’ve posted. This has helped shape how hotels now operate.
5. A “smart” move
A smart hotel is one that integrates into the Internet of Things, allowing your gadgets to come “alive” through a Wi-Fi connection. This lets you easily access information (i.e. see the best restaurants nearby, things to do, weather forecast, etc.) to enhance your travel experience.
Although there’s still a long way to go with the futuristic smart hotel, subtle changes have already happened. Voice activated prompts are now available in certain hotels like Marriott, Westin, and Aloft, through Alexa for Hospitality. It’s a special version of Alexa that can be used to order room service, request housekeeping, or adjust room temperature.
Other smart hotel innovations include keyless hotel check-ins and more on-demand technologies such as messaging and streaming in-room entertainment.
6. Ban the beige
Gone are the days of generic decor. Hotel common areas have shifted to a brighter color pallette, while many now serve a specific purpose and offer a place to purchase beverages. Trendy coffee and cocktail bars are commonplace in many hotels, along with colorful seating areas decorated with unique artwork from local artists.
What will the next 20 years bring?
Hotel trends (and traveling in general) have changed significantly in the last two decades to make travel easier, more affordable, and memorable.
Trend forecasts show future hotel rooms with bigger bathrooms, smaller rooms to accomodate more people, more outlets (hurray!), and less bulky furniture. It’s hard to say what will change for certain, but technology and the ever-demanding need for the best experience will no doubt continue to pave the way.
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