We talked to A.J. Singh, Ph.D., professor at Michigan State University’s School of Hospitality Business, about how the lodging sector performed in 2017, what he expects for 2018, and the one trend business event organizers should keep an eye on:
Did anything surprise you about the lodging sector’s performance in 2017?
The main surprise was the resiliency of performance of the sector. RevPAR has now been growing for the past seven years. However, the growth has been slowing compared to 2014 and 2015. It’s also surprising to see new hotel brands being introduced despite the obvious saturation of brands in the United States.
What can we expect from the lodging sector in 2018?
As demand and supply approach equilibrium, performance growth will slow down. An interesting study from MMGY Global [Portrait of American Travelers] [revealed] that not all affluent travelers are luxury travelers. Hence affluence (as measured by income) does not automatically convert into demand for luxury travel. Luxury travelers value memories and experiences over purchases.
We can also expect the hotel industry to adapt services based on what they are learning from Airbnb. The hotel concierge will need to be more than just a provider of information, as guests can get that. It’s the unique experiences about the city that add value that will differentiate.
What is one trend that meeting planners should be keeping an eye on in 2018 and beyond?
In the 1980s, John Naisbitt wrote a book called Megatrends, identifying 10 trends shaping the world. One of them was “high tech/high touch” — basically saying that the more technologically advanced we become, the more humans will yearn for interaction with people and community. Hotel investment in more technology will not necessarily create better experiences. Look for companies that recognize this fact and are investing in staff training to have a more emotional and empathetic connection with the guest — in other words, increasing the human interaction quotient in hospitality.