6 hotel booking trends we’re watching in 2018
1. Examine the platforms that are trying to dethrone TripAdvisor
The dominance of the world’s largest travel evaluation site will be strongly contested in 2018. With the poor performance of its hotel reservation product, TripAdvisor’s reputation has suffered revelations that it was censuring critics of allegations of rape in some hotels.
2. Airbnb to lead an end-to-end travel booking movement
Airbnb’s ambitions show no signs of slowing down. Along with the booming Experiences (part of its Trips tool), the company has made a huge investment in the Resy restaurant booking application. It is clear that Airbnb intends to be a one-stop shop for booking all your travel experience. The only thing he does not seem to focus on is transportation.
The company also seems to want to redefine travel for locals. With regard to Airbnb travel, CEO Brian Chesky recently said he wants “outsiders to feel like insiders”, partly by helping local people connect better to their own city. It’s a smart move that could help Airbnb build a base of regular local users. Add in discussion of the introduction of a loyalty program, and 2018 seems like a great year for Airbnb.
3. The big race to retain users
There have been a lot of developments this year in the game of loyalty. The biggest of all was the announcement by major hotel brands in the world that their direct bookings have pushed and that the loyalty rates have worked.
OTAs, which have traditionally played the game of marketing through aggressive search marketing and price competition, are now changing their tune. For example, Booking.com recently announced that it would invest more in TV commercials, a move to boost direct traffic and encourage repeat bookings. Expedia also revealed that they were going to get rid of their price guarantee.
On top of that, there is suspicion that Booking.com is taking advantage of Google’s audience targeting feature to advertise Genius rates to Genius users looking for hotels on Google.
4. This blockchain thing everyone keeps talking about
Aside from Bitcoin, few people really understand blockchain technology. Yet, while many are struggling to understand what it’s all about, the excitement is growing around industry startups like Winding Tree. Using the blockchain, this travel distribution platform promises to help suppliers regain control of their inventory and reduce costs for middlemen, reducing costs for the consumer.
There is also talk of how Bitcoin can fit into airlines, how it can improve security and even how it could be an asset for independent hotels. Is it the panacea for all the ills of the travel industry? Phocuswright described it as somewhere between “revolutionary and hyped”. Like most new technologies, we probably will not know the true utility of blockchain until we see it in action more commonly – something we expect next year.
5. AI race to better dynamic and personalized pricing
Artificial intelligence certainly has a lot of flashy applications in travel. In recent times, chatbots, travel apps and personal assistants have all captured the imagination. But in the future, hotels will find the real benefit of AI in pricing applications.
Applications such as Google Flights already offer “predictive pricing”, which provides consumers with suggestions on when they might find the lowest price. However, businesses can also benefit from the same technology. For example, Starwood spent the year testing its own AI-powered revenue strategy optimization tool, allowing for better dynamic power pricing and 20% better demand forecasting.
The introduction of more loyalty programs and “closed group” booking tools will also mean that personalized recommendations and marketing (if not pricing) will become easier to implement.
6. China is the one to look at in digital travel
China is one of the largest and most dynamic tourism markets in the world, and it is expected to be the largest by 2022. But even more surprising, China’s digital adoption rate far exceeds that of the region.
According to Phocuswright, if you only take Chinese mobile bookings, it would be the third largest source of bookings in all of Asia (after the Chinese total and Japan).