2020 is expected to be a tough year for hotel owners, lenders, investors and developers in the UK. The political-economic environment is certainly unpredictable, meaning it’s now more important than ever to seize opportunities to stand out in the hotel industry.

This year’s sports events such as The ICC Cricket World Cup contributed to growth for London hotels, but maintaining a growing trend in 2020 might be difficult as PwC are forecasting a 0.6% decline in occupancy growth for 2020. According to PwC, in H1 2019 there has been a decline of 35% in UK hotel investment, compared to above average levels in H1 2018.

Additionally, the threat of a skilled workforce shortage post-Brexit due to changes in immigration laws could become a major issue for the hospitality sector, as stated by Deloitte.

With challenging times ahead in the hospitality sector, it’s vital for hotels to stay competitive by offering top quality services while cutting costs. Optimising supply chain management, goods procurement and keeping up with trends in the industry can make the difference between a successful hotel and a struggling one.

Below are the main trends that are shaping the industry and will continue to do so in 2020.

Catering to food and beverage trends

Traditionally, most hotels tailor their food and beverage menus towards the more indulgent options. Whilst this may appeal to luxury-seeking tourists, such options don’t necessarily satisfy or cater to the modern traveller.

Rises in allergen-specific diets mean hotels must align their menus to adhere to consumers’ needs. In 2017, gluten-free food sales increased by 27% and gluten-free diets continue to grow year-on-year.

Additionally, 2018 saw the explosion of food trends such as the ‘Year of the Vegan’, with predictions for ‘Veganuary’ 2020 set to attract half a million participants (16,666% increase since 2016).

Despite this, Veganism only accounts for 1.6% of the UK population. However, increased awareness in carbon emissions from cattle-farming supports the exponential growth in vegetarianism whilst flexitarians are making health-conscious decisions to seek meat-free alternatives and follow food trends.

In relation to this trend, fast-food giant McDonald’s announced that they’re set to launch their first ever fully-vegan menu in the New Year. Meanwhile, Taco Bell has developed its first meat substitute and leading QSR chain, Greggs, launched Vegan Sausage Rolls across its 1,969 sites this year. Greggs has since reported an ‘exceptional’ 11% rise in like-for-like sales, with plans to increase their vegan food options and continue building on this rapidly growing customer-base.

Essentially, food service businesses must reflect on these changes in consumers’ dietary needs and habits, and adapt accordingly. Commercial and boutique hotels alike must cater for this increasing market, from conference go-ers and business travellers to guests of leisure.

Conscious travel and sustainability

Research conducted by Booking found that 55% of global travellers are more determined than ever to make sustainable choices for their accommodation. However, lack of appealing or affordable options often make it difficult to put this into practice. So, how can hotels become more sustainable and attract those customers looking for socially and environmentally responsible accommodation options?

Hotel customers still want to be pampered by their hotels, but less wasteful solutions from hospitality procurement can become an added bonus.

Recycled/recyclable packaging for toiletries, locally sourced food, removal of single use plastic and monitored water usage are some sustainable solutions that won’t affect the quality of the service offered.

Guest-led digital transformation

An IHG/Amadeus report identified a trend called ‘tech-augmented hospitality’. Even though the majority (67%) of guests surveyed said they preferred engaging with a person, tech elements such as apps and digital management systems can be implemented to create a seamless experience and improve the efficiency of the service. This is the case with Hilton’s Connected Room, which enables guests to use their mobile device as an in-room remote to control their television programming, lighting, and temperature controls.

Reducing energy consumption through tech solutions can also make a hotel more sustainable, as hotels can power down devices such as TVs when guests are not in the room (typically 70% of the time).

Another feature which can be used to create entertaining and exciting features for guests is Augmented Reality (AR).

‘Tech-Augmented Hospitality’

For example, hotels are often able to make their location an important part of an established AR games such as Pokémon Go. Other examples are the AR experience created by Holiday Inn, which allows guests to visualise virtual depictions of famous celebrities in the hotel through their smartphone, and the Best Western’s AR feature that lets guests take pictures with virtual Disney characters.

Cyber security becoming a top priority

Hotels are increasingly relying on technology. Therefore, as activities become progressively digitalised, it’s extremely important to identify cyber security risks that might result in cyber-attacks or data breaches. Such incidents can have financial and regulatory implications, as well as a negative impact on brand trustworthiness.

Just last year, Marriot suffered a customer data breach which involved personal data including credit card details, passport numbers and the birth dates of up to 500 million guests.

As a result of this incident and others of a similar nature, security experts are now advising travellers to be on high alert when providing personal information to hotels. This means hospitality businesses will have to go above and beyond to reassure their customers and make certain that their data is safely stored and protected.

New types of accommodation

There is no doubt Airbnb has revolutionised the tourism industry, and hotels are now realising they need to evolve to remain relevant in the travel industry. As American Institute of Economic Research states, hotels are now entering the home-sharing market by adding homes and villas to their offer but also by creating original alternatives such as the Moxy by Marriott, Canopy by Hilton and Hyatt Centric.

Combining the efficiency and great service of a traditional hotel with the warm, cosy feel of a home, these hotels have the best of both worlds.

More and more hotels are also focusing on creating an experience that goes beyond the usual stay by enticing customers with 24/7 bars and common areas for socialising, with plenty of entertainment such as karaoke, board games and more.

A recent report by AlixPartners stated: “It is an uncertain time for the UK hotel market. After seven years of solid performance, RevPAR growth is slowing and costs are mounting.”

Essentially, hotels must be willing to adapt if they are to stand a chance of surviving the current economic state of the industry. Following the aforementioned trends will help hotels stabilise figures, increase RevPAR growth and performance once more.

Equinoxe Solutions can help achieve these results in the most cost-efficient way, maximising potential and helping your hotel to stay relevant in 2020.

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