2017 FORECAST: The top hospitality trends to watch

november-29

Before we embrace Christmas whole heartedly, we look ahead to 2017 and the hospitality trends that look set to shape the future over the coming 12 months.

Hotel design guru and WATG trend forecaster Muriel Muirden shares her advice.

Trend 1 – The Road Less Travelled

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Jaded by the endless distraction of social media and the addictive nature of the smart phone, we are seeing a strong movement towards digital detox. The Times declared that the ‘dumbphone’ is very much back in vogue with the trusty, vintage Nokia handsets now changing hands for impressive amounts of money. Even social media addicts like Kanye West have declared ‘I got rid of my phone so I can have air to breathe’.

So what are the implications for tourism sector? We have seen and will continue to see a desire for wilderness experiences, extreme environments and the opportunity to immerse in a simpler way of life. People will seek experiences that give satisfaction in the challenge of being self-reliant. ‘Cabin Porn’ is now a bestselling coffee table book – demonstrating the aspiration for an off-line lifestyle.

We see strong opportunities to develop wilderness resorts – rustic, disaggregated and holistic – these may be eco-outposts for a more traditional coastal resort or urban experience but they must offer a plethora of outdoor pursuits meshed seamlessly with a strong holistic ‘wellness’ theme…..and total immersion and digital disconnection is a priority.

Trend 2 – The Edible Resort

Farm-to-table and ocean-to-plate experiences are now well established on the travellers’ wish list – local produce and indigenous eating experiences are expected and no longer hold a novelty factor. But now we see the rooftop-to-salad bowl and golf rough-to-entrée – in essence the emergence of the edible resort.

At the Bellevue Hotel in Cikat, Croatia the flat roofs of the hotel have been transformed into fragrant herb gardens and you can wake up, throw back the curtains and see kitchen staff picking herbs and salad stuffs for use in the restaurant. These micro-gardens transform redundant and frankly ugly roof space into an attractive and edible landscape feature.

Kittitian Hills in St Kitts has created an organic golf course with plant nurseries and arable landscape surrounding the fairways and greens. Goats are used to graze the course. Working with local partners, resort management harvest and bring the produce to the resort’s restaurants, sell produce at the farmers market within the resort’s village hub and the rest is given away to those in need in the greater community. Such innovations begin to chip away at the image of such resorts as being non-permeable – they encourage community engagement and create a more diverse and interesting environment for both golfers and non-golfers.

Trend 3 – A Healthy Obsession

Across the generations we have become preoccupied with our personal wellbeing – boomers strive to hold back the ravages of time, millennials aim to optimise their personal fitness. Our lives are jam packed with wearables, apps, healthy eating blogs, fitness mash-ups and endless pop-ups to lure us into the belief that if we become disciples we can live forever.

Yet, the hotel sector, with a few notable exceptions, lags behind such innovations. Hotel fitness facilities remain largely traditional in nature. This has to change.

As local entrepreneurs mash together entertainment-infused fitness options to replace traditional workouts, resorts rely on the more traditional morning stretch. New fitness start-ups are using DNA to create bespoke diets and skin care. Ancient ingredients, obscure seeds and friendly algae are making a comeback. Innovation is king…but not in the hotel sector.

I am being too harsh – we have some interesting brand combos and extensions happening. Equinox, the high end fitness operator is moving boldly into the hotel arena with its first property opening in New York in 2018. Likewise, 1 Hotel Miami Beach has teamed up with Soul Cycle to offer the popular spin classes’ in-hotel. Gansevoort Hotels have teamed with fitness company Exhale to offer barre (ballet aerobic fusion) and core fusion cardio in all their properties.

Trend 4 – Suite Dreams 

Arianna Huffington has a New York Times best seller that debates over 300 pages how to manage and perfect the art of sleeping. She observed that in the 1970s there were three centres in the US devoted to sleep disorders. Today there are more than 2,500. She also cites that in developed economies 40 to 60 percent of us are sleep deprived. How does that impact our productivity and creativity?

A good night’s sleep is the new holy grail and we will pay to seek it out. It is estimated that the industry for sleep apps and wearables will be worth $680m in just a couple of years.

So where is the hotel sector on this debate? Surely the primary purpose of a hotel is to provide a good night’s sleep. Are they applying the science in terms of creative solutions in bedroom design, in-room technology, sound and lighting strategies, sensitive wake-up tools and techniques? If they are they need to shout it from the roof tops. Qatar Airlines are investing in technology to conquer the red eye – controlling lighting and air quality to ensure we sleep deeply and awake gently.

We predict a strong movement into hotels exploring this lucrative sector and moving it back to the top of their marketing agendas.

Trend 5 – Simplification

Contemporary life is characterised by an endless tsunami of choices and decisions – from choosing fabric conditioner in a supermarket to selecting our latest smart (or dumb) phone. It is positively fatiguing. I often look to the retail sector, rather than the hospitality industry for evolving trends. I look at what people are reading on the tube and discussing at the coffee machine. Sleep aside, the buzz is all about simplification. Downsizing our decision-making for a less fatiguing life.

Why year-on-year do we hear how Aldi and Lidl are stealing market share from the supermarket Goliath’s? Simplification in a word – one brand of baked beans not 20. Marie Kondo, named on a list of TIME magazine’s most influential people on the planet, tells us to discard everything except those possessions which ‘spark joy’. We consequently detox our homes and free ourselves from the arduous tie/shoe/sweater decision making process at 6.30 am.

‘Buy Once, Buy Well’ mentality is back in vogue – durability over fast fashion. Who would have guessed cobblers would be the post-recession winners?

So what does this mean for the hospitality sector – be gone pretentious dining with menus and wine lists that emulate a Tolstoy novel – give us menu free dining, single ingredient menus (well done Soho House for your Chicken Shop) and simpler choices.

Declutter our bedrooms and bathrooms and give us a fabulous bed, wow factor shower and minimalise the choices we need to make – a commendation to The Hoxton who let you pop a paper bag outside your door at night which gives you a banana, yoghurt and granola breakfast.

Trend 6 – Loneliness – A Global Epidemic

Much is written about loneliness, most of it focused on the elderly. Acknowledgement of the issue has led to the creation of state and charity driven infrastructure to try to alleviate the solitude of old age.This infrastructure simply does not exist for younger generations and it is a growing concern as more young professionals work from home or migrate as school leavers or graduates to large urban hubs away from their family and friends.

The real world can be a sobering and isolated experience for millennials and their desire for tribing, kinship, community and nostalgia is driving new forms of lodging. Taking a break from ‘adulting’ is manifesting itself in the evolution of summer camps for grown ups. These are becoming increasingly segmented.

Camp Throwback focuses on revisiting a simpler life and is largely sports and activity driven with strong party elements. In short, it allows young professionals to relive those teenage years.

Camp Grounded focuses on the aforementioned digital detox with emphasis on mindfulness and wellness pursuits.

Accommodation focuses on bunk houses and rustic cabins with endless opportunities to socialise and share experiences.

 

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