Here it comes… The second of four travel industry predictions for 2019. This week we focus on hotel predictions. This year I simplified by having four sections of predictions. Here is my predictions calendar and when my crystal ball predictions will arrive in your inbox:
#1 – Expect to pay a $25 a night “destination” fee at many hotels is 2019 –
This phenomenon started as a $25 to $75 a night “resort fee” that resorts started charging years ago. Basically, it was just an easy way to hide the real cost of the room. The resort fee is prevalent in cities like Las Vegas and destination resorts around the world. Now big cities have all figured out how to add more fees to your room by adding “destination fees”. Let’s face it, it would be hard to stay in New York City and call it a “resort fee” so they simply renamed it a “destination fee”. The bottom line is your hotel costs will go up dramatically as more and more hotels stab you in the back with these hidden fees.
#2 – Hotels will all require a 72-hour notice to avoid a cancellation fee –
The hotel industry is struggling with how to deal with last minute hotel deals that have offered a deep discount for travelers to fill empty rooms. So when hotels have empty rooms they lower the prices and try to fill them. The problem is that savvy travelers were booking hotels in advance and canceling at the last minute to take advantage of lower prices. (sometimes even at the same hotel they were booked in). Hotels launched a 48-hour cancellation window in 2017 and will try to move that to 72 hours in 2019 with the hope it will drastically reduce last-minute re-bookings.
#3 – 2019 is finally the year for FREE Wi-Fi at most hotels –
2019 will be the year that the hotel industry finally stops beating the dead horse by charging for in-room Wi-Fi. Ironically many 3-star and below hotels for years have not been charging for Wi-Fi. Just by signing up for a hotel’s frequent guest program today allows for free Wi-Fi at most hotels. I think Marriott is trying to build a positive vibe with all the new members they acquired from Starwood Hotels and will be one of the dominoes to fall and offer free Wi-Fi.
#4 – Your phone will be your hotel key in 2019 –
Plastic Hotel key cards will soon go the way of the paper airline ticket as many hotel chains have started offering keyless entry using your smartphone. Now what started as a trickle is turning into a full tsunami. Using your smartphone to unlock your hotel room is the next big thing in the hotel industry. The reason that all the hotels want to move rapidly to replace the old plastic key cards with wireless Bluetooth using your smartphone is that this forces the travelers to download the hotel app on to their smartphone. Once you have downloaded their app they have many more ways to “touch” you in 2019.
#5 – Starwood Hotel’s SPG Members will start jumping ship in 2019 as Marriott makes free nights harder to earn –
The merger of Starwood (Westin, St. Regis, Sheraton, etc) and Marriott hits full swing in 2019. A new reward program will be launched later this year. However, the SPG credit card points have been watered down so that members don’t earn as many points and the points they earn are worthless. The new program does offer more options. However, former SPG members are starting to see the bloom fall from the rose.
#6 – Hotels will add Alexa to the hotel rooms in 2019 –
These artificial intelligence/voice recognition devices will replace the TV remote, the room thermostat, the clock, and even the light switch. The only problem is that our survey shows people hate the idea of Alexa snooping on them in their hotel room. Over 85% in our recent survey said they would refuse to stay in a hotel room that had Alexa as they worry what the device does to their privacy.
#7 – The number 1 item left behind at the hotel lost and found will be your cell phone charger –
I think we need to petition the phone companies to build a universal charger so we could use all the lost chargers at the hotels and we would never have to buy another charger again.
#8 – Three out of ten hotel rooms will go empty in 2019 –
Despite the hotel industry’s claim that the recession is over and that prices are rebounding the fact remains that about 34% of hotel rooms will be empty in 2019. Obviously, some markets like New York City, Chicago and other metropolitan areas will continue to see steep increases in hotel rates because of limited hotel room supply. However, many areas of world travel have not rebounded much and hotels will continue to offer very attractive rates.
#9 – 2019 is the year showers replace bathtubs in hotels –
Let’s face it, the biggest upgrade most hotels have done to their bathrooms in the last decade has been to add a curved rod for the plastic shower curtain so it does not stick to you when showering. In 2019 many hotels will get rid of those disgusting bathtubs and replace them with glass front showers. They will add rainfall showerheads and also really nice shower wands. The real nice showers will have a place to sit down or at a minimum a place to put your feet up on.
#10 – New hotels will have names you never heard of in 2019 –
Thousands of new hotels will be built in the United States. Many of these hotels will be new brands that you have never heard of like Sadie Hotel, Aiden Hotel, Hyatt Centric, Unbound, Tru by Hilton, Tribute, Motto by Hilton, Tavinos, Curio and Canopy by Hilton, Tryp by Wyndham, Even Hotels, 1 Hotels,Citizen M Hotel, Restoration Hardware Hotel, NoMad Hotel, Hotel ZaZa and many more. The movement in hotels is away from the chains and toward a more personalized and boutique experience. Ironically many of the mega hotel chains are branding these new boutique hotel names.
#11 – Luxury hotels are now for the middle class –
The difference of staying at a 4 or 5-star luxury hotel/resort versus a 3-star run-of-the-mill hotel is now only about a $100 – $200 a night. Most vacation travelers take only
one major vacation a year. People are now realizing that if they are going to travel they are going to do it up right and go first class. This is one area that will set the whole tone of how much you enjoy your vacation. Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish. Move up to a luxury hotel on your next vacation.
#12 – All-Inclusive resorts will be launched and grow rapidly in the U.S. in 2019 –
Twenty five years ago resorts in Jamaica, the Caribbean and Mexico were struggling to stay alive and compete with Hawaii as the tropical destination of choice so they launched the concept of an all-inclusive resort where people could leave their wallets in the room safe and enjoy food, drink, and fun that was included in their hotel tariff. Now more and more resorts are jumping on the all-inclusive rage. Even luxury 5-star resorts are now offering this preferred service. For the last 8 years, I have been predicting that some hotels in the U.S. and specifically Hawaii will break the mold and offer all-inclusive pricing. A hand full of resorts quietly offered all-inclusive options In the U.S. but in 2019 we will finally see an avalanche of offerings.
#13 – Hotels now make up the largest cost of a business trip –
Airfares now make up less than 30% of the cost of a business trip. Just a few years ago a business traveler used the price of the airline ticket as the gauge for the largest travel expense for a trip. Today a traveler going on a 3-night business trip can pay up to $300 for a car rental, $600 for a hotel, $300 for meals. Add these three things up and you are spending $1200 for car, hotel, and meals compared to $500 for an airline ticket. What used to be over 50% of a business trip’s expense is now less than 30%.
#14 – Business travelers will stay in better (4-star) hotels in 2019 as employers have less focus on cost-cutting in a strong economy –
It has been over 10 years since the last recession that caused business travelers to move down a tier (from 4-star to 3-star) of hotels. Moving that one tier down saved about $50 – $70 a night. Many businesses today see a booming economy and allow their travelers the added benefit of moving up one tier of hotel (from 3-star to a 4-star) and staying in a little nicer hotel as part of travel policy.
#15 – Major hotel brands will offer Airbnb type offerings –
The business traveler has been slow to utilize Airbnb as a business travel housing option. Many companies are very concerned about the security aspects of Airbnb. In 2019 several of the major hotel chains will expand their offerings to include more Airbnb type offerings. These will have very tight security and quality considerations that will make company travelers more comfortable staying there.
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