Key Takeaways From Skift’s Travel Megatrends for 2020

On January 8, Skift hosted their annual Travel Megatrends conference highlighting themes that will drive the industry over the next year. Below are the key takeaways for brands that want to evolve with the industry and their consumers.

1. Responsibilty

Three-fourths of Gen Zers polled prioritize sustainability, according to a recent Skift survey. While it may seem like Gen Z wouldn’t have as large of a consumer impact due to lack of spending power compared to older generations, they actually do. Gen Zers have a large sphere of influence among their friends and family members who do have more spending power. Additionally, over the next five to ten years, Gen Zers will have much greater spending power as they reach higher career statuses and increase earnings and wealth. The question of including responsibility as a brand pillar is no longer a nice to have but a need to have for brands who want to ensure relevancy, consumer growth and loyalty. 

The key takeaway: Travel brands should further prioritize and incorporate responsibility into business operations and offerings because consumers will seek the companies out who share their values around social, environmental and economic responsibility. 

2. Design

With 68% of the world’s population living in cities by 2050, the travel industry will shift its focus to urban areas by necessity.[1]  The hospitality and airline industries are already feeding into the “smart city” vision, sharpening urban design and planning to be more human-centered using advanced technology and more efficient through smarter design. CitizenM, a boutique hotel company, has placed smart city planning at its core by building modular hotels incorporating minimal, eco-friendly and efficient design principles. A second design trend taking hold globally is redesigning spaces with wellness in mind, which goes far beyond upgrading the on-property gym. Luxury hotel brands are rethinking how they design their indoor spaces to emulate the natural outdoors using biophilic design—incorporating nature in every aspect of design. It can be a cost-effective way to enhance guest experiences through deeper sensory engagement while improving well-being. 

The key takeaway: Understand the important role design plays in the travel experience and weave it into your experience offering. 

3. Lifestyle

Today, hospitality brands need to be lifestyle brands. Those that are successful have crafted strong brand attributes that resonate with specific consumer demographics. Consumers expect the ability to lead the same lifestyle while traveling as they do at home, and for this reason, they choose hotels that cater to their interests. For example, Arlo NoMad’s brand concept focuses on hotel service designed for younger business travelers and curious urban explorers. The interior design is purposefully unexpected and innovative to create a stimulating feeling that imitates the electricity of New York City streets. After doing some guest research, Arlo determined that its guests are curious, well-informed and open to new experiences; many also work in the entrepreneurial and creative industries. 

The key takeaway: Build out strong consumer experience programs that allow guests to further connect with themselves, their interests and their surroundings by creating meaningful memories. 

4. Experience

Consumers not only value experiences more than material goods but also expect the actual value of the experiences to be personal and meaningful. Brands that invest in the creation of experiences that satisfy these requirements see a tremendous return in consumer loyalty and number of brand advocates. In 2020, it is nearly impossible to achieve success without focusing on customer experience management. With two-thirds of companies in 2020 making big investments to meet the changing needs of their customers, the focus of collecting and analyzing customer feedback has never been more crucial.[2]  Take the airline industry as an example. More airlines are rolling out long-haul flights in 2020, allowing customers to reach new and distant destinations more efficiently. Airlines know passengers can be uncomfortable when confined to a small space and seated for an extensive period, and the airlines are using data- and science-backed initiatives to improve the traveler experience. Qantas, an Australian airline, partnered with Boeing to program cabin lighting to shine in a color sequence complementary to time zone changes. (Blue hues can make people feel awake, while red and orange can induce sleepiness.)[3]  This simple change can greatly improve the experience of all passengers and make them inclined to book again based on their positive travel experiences. 

The key takeaway: Ramping up brand investment in customer experience initiatives is a crucial strategy to bolster customer base and loyalty while staying competitive within the industry landscape. 

As travel companies plan for 2020 product and marketing shifts, brands should strategize how these four megatrends can be applied or experimented with to grow customer loyalty and brand affinity.

Written by Julia Gundlach

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