What are the latest trends in the hospitality industry? As a testament to its resilience, agility and innovative spirit, this article reflects today’s increasingly dynamic hospitality industry in terms of its long, medium and short-term evolution. Discover the industry's adaptability and forward-thinking approach, shaping its trajectory in the face of challenges and opportunities, while staying attuned to the latest hospitality trends.
Best-selling author, Will Guidara, claims “We are entering into a hospitality economy” – suggesting that what underpins the essence of hospitality, (service excellence, human interaction, personalization and the co-creation of memorable experiences), is actually what many sectors of industry are desperately in need of today.
As we charge at break neck speed towards an ever-more digitalized society, the hospitality industry stands out as the successful hybrid that balances the implementation of tech innovation for improved operations whilst preserving the human need for connection, authenticity and real-life discovery.
With statistics predicting a healthy expansion of the sector (e.g., the bleisure and wellness markets on the up, room demand set to reach an all-time high, booking.com as the most valuable tourism brand in the world, and new positions opening up in the sector), we can confirm that the hospitality industry is poised for a significant transformation in 2024.
So what new trends are emerging? Driven by interlinked factors, including technological progress, evolving consumer preferences and a deeper focus on sustainability, hospitality businesses can capitalise on emerging opportunities to enhance guest experiences and position themselves for long-term success.
10 hospitality trends 2024 - Elevate experiences, embrace evolution
- Workforce empowerment: Transforming challenges into opportunities
- Artificial intelligence and technology: Choosing the best tech to revolutionize hospitality
- Culinary experiences: Putting experiences, authenticity and the senses first
- Bars and drinks redefined: Adding creativity and design to the drinks' menu
- Fine dining: In need of reinvention but full of potential
- Fine wine prices: Navigating the fluctuating vineyard market
- Rising interest rates: The impact on hotel property values and transactions
- Green hospitality: Beyond sustainability to net positivity
- Data-driven decision-making: Data-analytics for optimum personalization
- The power of social media: Crafting authentic narratives
1. Workforce empowerment: Transforming challenges into opportunities
Over the past two years, the industry's biggest challenge has not been attracting customers but rather finding and retaining staff. To address this issue, many hotel groups have begun to make improvements, and there has never been a better time for newcomers to the industry to negotiate better working conditions and salaries.
Today, many hotels offer their staff free or low-cost accommodation, increased wages and reduced peak-time working hours. They also invest in training programs to motivate staff and allow mobility up the corporate ladder. Empowered employees not only have a positive impact on how guests feel and their decision to become repeat guests, but also help attract other employees to build a cohesive, high-quality workforce.
2. Artificial intelligence and technology: Choosing the best tech to revolutionize hospitality
As Chat GPT celebrates its first birthday, we can only surrender to the fact that, like it or not, we have entered into an AI-accelerated world, and consequently, the pace at which the industry adapts has become a pressing issue. But which forms of AI best harness hospitality stakeholder outcomes?
Contactless services: Effortless technology, impeccable stay
Embracing contactless technologies is about redefining the hospitality experience to cater to modern travelers, not just adapting to the pandemic-driven shift toward touchless interactions. Contactless services simplify the guest journey by reducing wait times and physical contact points. Mobile check-in, digital keys and voice or tablet-controlled room automation allow guests to move seamlessly through the hospitality experience. The citizenM hotel brand has pioneered this minimum-fuss check-in and room experience with a hugely successful UX-friendly app.
Other popular tools such as WhatsApp allow hotel staff to remain in constant contact with customers during their stay, respond immediately to requests and thus provide bespoke services. It also streamlines operations by reducing the need for face-to-face interactions and human error, improving service delivery and lowering the burden on a scarce workforce. In line with contactless services, hospitality companies need to prioritise data privacy and security, putting solid safeguards in place to protect guest information against cyber threats.
Technology-driven innovation: Beyond boundaries
At the heart of technology innovation is the ability for managers and employees to centralize information at all times. Migrating to a fully cloud-based solution is a first but essential step. This enables real-time sharing, better service orientation and personalisation of the guest experience, improving all hotel departments.
Robotic systems (as used in the Henn-na Hotels in Japan) optimise processes and increase efficiency in back-of-house operations such as housekeeping or F&B outlets, reducing staffing requirements and allowing managers to respond to problems in real-time and with accountability.
The use of augmented reality helps with staff onboarding, allowing new employees to be put in real-life situations and trained before even entering a room. Pedagogically speaking, as practiced at EHL in the Virtual Housekeeping class, AR provides a more interactive and complete learning environment. Augmented reality also allows hotels and airlines to market themselves in an ad hoc style - an innovative and sustainable approach. Potential customers can better immerse themselves in the facilities and make more informed decisions.
Hyper-personalization: Tailored moments, lasting loyalty
In a world of commoditised practices, guests are increasingly looking for personalized experiences that cater to individual preferences and aspirations. In the hospitality industry, hyper-personalisation means relying on technology-based micro-segmentation to tailor each guest interaction to real-time needs and behaviours. For example, eliminating 'deadlines' such as check-in/check-out/F&B closing times, knowing whether a customer wants to be accompanied through check-in or do it contactless, personalizing room temperature, lighting and amenities or tailoring F&B options promptly and accurately. At Fauchon l'Hotel in Paris clients suggest the menu and define their portion sizes. From a hotel perspective, this enables better dynamic pricing strategies, higher guest-spent for experiences, or tailored loyalty programmes with commercial partners.
3. Culinary experiences: Putting experiences, authenticity and the senses first
The desire to experience rather than simply consume means that experiential dining has today evolved in new ways. Hotels are now required to offer a range of dining options to cater to different customer tastes and, when correctly done, can become a culinary destination where the restaurant is at the heart of the experience and not just an extension of the hotel. A good example is the Grand Resort Bad Ragaz in Switzerland which boasts seven restaurants, three bars, a bistro, a café and a sushi takeaway, (plus an array of Michelin stars and GaultMillau points), unsurprisingly making it a mecca for traveling gourmets.
Experiential design can also allow customers to taste food in a multi-sensory environment that stimulates all the senses, not just the taste buds (e.g., Ultraviolet by Paul Pairet in Shanghai). Some hotels have started to provide experiences even on a smaller and more dynamic scale. E.g., They offer four-hand dinners (an invited chef cooks with the in-house chef), organise kitchen parties (clients eat in the kitchen), or have a front-cooking area. Specialist cooking classes can complement this. The key here is to offer a unique experience like how to make your own gin, cook local food, or bake bread with the experts.
Another trend relates to children. A menu of unimaginative, standard food à la burger and chips is no longer enough; parents want their children to eat healthier, globally-inspired food with high-quality ingredients. Adding world food or plant-based products and packaging them in innovative ways will make for happy families likely to return.
A final significant trend in the food sector is off-premise dining and digitalisation. Although customers have returned to eating in restaurants since the pandemic, a large proportion mix on- and off-premise dining. Restaurants need to cater to this clientele to increase revenues, as takeaways are no longer limited to fast food but also exist for traditional and even fine dining. This means that restaurants need to reorganise their workflows and operations to cater to in-house diners and delivery, alongside designing appropriate, creative, high-quality packaging and optimising delivery or collection methods to be easy and inexpensive without competing with traditional delivery platforms.
This can also include ghost kitchens focusing only on food production for delivery and takeaway. Post-Covid, ghost kitchens have become an increasingly popular trend in the restaurant industry with statistics showing that they are projected to be a $157 billion market by 2030. As of 2021, there are over 100,000 ghost kitchens operating worldwide.
4. Bars and drinks redefined: Adding creativity and design to the drinks' menu
Today's bars need to stand out by offering unique drinks paired with a special, Instagrammable atmosphere to create an immersive experience for their customers. E.g., Ashley Sutton Design Bars are known across Asia for their ability to transport guests to enchanting, immersive worlds, offering not just a place to drink but an entire experience that stimulates the senses and sparks curiosity.
Gone are the days of a simple wine list and international beer and spirit brands. Bars and restaurants need to specialise and cater to an international clientele with evolving tastes. A dedicated beer menu with local craft beers, wines from specific vintages and terroirs with a narrative, eclectic spirits collections (after whisky and gin, look out for rum in the coming years), and fresh hyper-locally sourced juices are what customers want.
Mixology has been around for some time, but offering mocktails and non-alcoholic food pairings is also becoming essential due to stricter alcohol laws and healthier lifestyles driven by Gen Z and millennials. Faux booze has gone mainstream and now it’s not just a case of ‘dry January’, but mocktails all year long! Cocktail and mocktail innovations should go beyond traditional recipes to include unique ingredients, techniques and presentation styles (e.g., Bar Benfiddich in Tokyo) and be taught to customers in mixology classes.
The effect of economic uncertainty on hotels, restaurants and fine wines
5. Fine dining: In need of reinvention but full of potential
The pandemic has unexpectedly affected consumer behaviors: they now organize themselves on short notice, have become increasingly spoilt for choice and no-shows are today the norm. More and more restaurants are responding by asking for a credit card at the time of reservation. But this only treats one of the symptoms without solving the problem. "A full house one day, but only four tables occupied the next", is an observation that led Antoine Lecefel to shut his restaurant – sadly one of many fine dining establishments to do so.
Inflation and declining purchasing power play a part, but more generally, the fundamental problem lies in the inability of fine-dining restaurants to reinvent themselves. Unlike hotels and other players in the hospitality industry that increasingly compete with them through ambitious and innovative culinary projects, they have to contend with limited financial and human resources. They have neither the capacity to implement and manage a proactive strategy nor the means to invest in cutting-edge, highly experiential concepts. Initiatives such as Eatrenalin, which create a unique experience by combining gastronomy, décor and entertainment, offer a glimpse of this changing industry and the new competition facing traditional players.
Solutions? A strong, contemporary concept plus a business-oriented management that understands consumers, connects with them and is thought through from the outset to generate margins and create synergies and/or economies of scale. The Igniv chain is a shining example of this, driven by an extraordinary chef and based on the principle of “we love to share”, Andreas Caminada has created a unique and fully coherent concept, the success of which is now being rolled out in various locations, all of which have been rewarded with rave reviews from customers and expert guides.
6. Fine wine prices: Navigating the fluctuating vineyard market
Another challenge facing restaurants is cellar and wine list management. Restaurants with limited financial resources may even wonder whether fine wines still have their place on their menu. Indeed, fine wine prices have risen almost exponentially since the Global Financial Crisis of 2008. But here, too, the situation appears to have changed.
A year ago, fine wine prices were at record highs. Demand for rare, artisanal wines from regions with long-standing terroir reputations was at its peak. One could go on about Burgundy, but many other examples are as revealing. For example, the Châteauneuf-du-Pape Réserve cuvée from Rayas, worth between 150 and 200 euros (for young vintages) less than a decade ago, has soared to reach and exceed the 2’000 euro mark. At this point, voices suggested that this was normal; inflation should also positively impact the prices of fine wines. But there is no reason this should be the case: demand drives prices, not production costs. Fine wines attract wealthy people, collectors and investors. For them, the resources that can be invested in wine depend on economic conditions and financial markets. The latter have fallen sharply since the beginning of 2022. Not surprisingly, wine prices have followed the same trend.
The most spectacular move was in Burgundy wines. Prices had become so high that these wines had detached from the rest of the market. Just a year ago, many wines from the 2019 vintage were selling for several thousand euros a bottle. One wondered whether these wines had permanently changed their status and would never be traded at lower prices again. Today, the trend has abruptly reversed, and it appears more like a speculative bubble that has begun to implode. Time will tell. The fine wine market offers an almost perfect setting for this kind of phenomenon: herding behaviour is common, and, in the end, price levels depend not on financial arguments but simply on what people are willing to pay for a bottle.
7. Rising interest rates: The impact on hotel property values and transactions
As we have seen with wine, economic conditions considerably impact on the value of tangible assets. The same applies to real estate. The market proved relatively resilient last year, thanks to the ability of hotels to pass on (sometimes more than proportionally) higher costs to their customers, while maintaining high occupancy rates. The increase in RevPar thus more than offsets the rise in discount rates.
Today, consumers having finished dipping into their COVID-19 savings and interest rates remaining high, the very long upward cycle in hotel property values has ended. What remains as a stabilising factor is the fact that the pipeline of hotel projects is thin. In other words, supply is likely to stagnate over the coming years and should thus not contribute to aggravating the supply-demand imbalance. Nonetheless, we can expect pressure on prices. Refinancing transactions will further exacerbate this, which will take place on far less favourable terms over the next 12-24 months. As is always the case in this type of environment, we can expect forced sales, sometimes at substantial discounts to current valuations.
Another consideration is sustainability. The residential real estate market is becoming highly selective, making it hard to rent and make profitable properties with an unfavourable environmental record. This trend has already begun and will likely intensify, affecting commercial real estate in a major way. In other words, hotels that have not been renovated and adapted to today's standards and expectations will likely suffer more than proportionately.
Other trends that have been, still are, and will continue to shape hospitality
8. Green hospitality: Beyond sustainability to net positivity
After a period of harvesting low-hanging fruit, hospitality groups are increasingly looking for more innovative and meaningful ways to implement, measure and communicate their sustainability practices. In the F&B industry, local sourcing has become standard in many outlets. However, it has now started to scale up more by offering better traceability of products (e.g., The Europe Hotel in Ireland has its own farm with livestock, fish, and produce). In addition, guests are increasingly being educated on sustainable practices, e.g., cooking classes on how to use the entire ingredients and avoid food waste. It is no longer about doing good but rather showing customers how to do good.
Hospitality groups are also increasingly adopting sustainable building techniques and are generally trying to adopt a 360-degree strategy that allows them to be sustainable from the first brick up to the operation (e.g., the Beyond Now Network where industry experts have joined forces to transform hospitality businesses into environmentally friendly, efficient and profitable enterprises). Some are going even further, not content with being net zero but aiming to become net positive, exemplified by ‘regenerative tourism’ practices.
9. Data-driven decision-making: Data-analytics for optimum personalization
"Information is the oil of the 21st century, and analytics is the combustion engine" (Peter Sondergaard, senior vice president and global head of Research at Gartner, Inc.). The current trend is moving away from simply collecting data to engineering and analysing the vast amount of data efficiently into actionable decisions and gaining an edge over competitors.
Today's successful early-adopter hospitality companies have a data-driven business model. For example, through its platform, Booking.com has extensive knowledge of guest and hotel behaviour, which it can use in real-time to adapt its offers and displays and negotiate better deals with hoteliers. The Marriott International hotel chain uses data analytics to personalize guest experiences, with their loyalty program as a major source of data collection.
Data is reshaping hotel marketing, allowing hotels to better monitor guest satisfaction and desires to personalise experiences and better target the customer base. Finally, it enables hotels to increase revenue through more accurate yield and revenue practices by better forecasting demand and thus offering more dynamic pricing strategies.
10. The power of social media: Crafting authentic narratives
This consistent trend is entering a new phase of maturity. First, marketers need to find more innovative ways to capture the attention of customers who are constantly bombarded with messages. With their short video content, the rise of TikTok and Instagram seems promising. It allows the sharing of stories to enhance the storytelling of hospitality outlets (e.g., the customer becomes part of the act through employee or behind-the-scenes videos).
Second, the use of influencers has gained traction in the industry. On average, businesses generate $6.50 in revenue for each $1 invested in influencer marketing. Here, marketers need to find the needle in the haystack with influencers who have enough reach and best fit the hotel's values and story.
Third, with advances in technology and the many options available, marketers need to accurately measure the impact of their social media efforts and finetune the message accordingly. They also need to balance customer and organic content creation and paid or free content. Overall, the cost of social media must be commensurate with the benefits, be professional, authentic and follow a clear strategy in line with traditional marketing efforts.
Key takeaway from EHL's hospitality industry trends 2024 - Crafting experiences, influencing lives, and paving the way to tomorrow
In today’s hospitality landscape, it is difficult to confine ourselves to an annual update. Certainly, several general trends have been in place for years and continue to evolve, but by and large, this once cozy industry is constantly innovating and reinventing itself. It is not just adapting to customers. It is creating its own momentum, helping to shape the society and economy of 2024 and beyond.
From computer games to popular films and TV shows, the hospitality industry impacts our daily lives more than we realize. As a sector that thrives on personalized, immersive encounters, it caters not just to our desires for leisure, travel and memorable life experiences but also influences the way we interact, socialize and dream.