Hotels.com released 10 travel predictions for 2015 and customer engagement among millennials will be a crucial trend as they represent the fastest-growing segment among travelers, Taylor L. Cole, APR, travel expert for Hotels.com, told Loyalty360.
Here are the Top 10 Travel Predictions for 2015 from Hotels.com:
1. Detroit's resurgence will continue and the city (currently ranked the 28th most popular domestic destination according to HPI) will join Chicago (ranked 6th) as the only other Top 25 U.S. destination in the Midwest. After emerging from two years of bankruptcy, new hotel openings, such as the Aloft Detroit at the David Whitney, and the addition of new downtown entertainment and nightlife options will help the ongoing revitalization of Detroit.
2. The travel industry will continue to see robust growth in mobile hotel bookings in 2015 as hotel and travel companies continue to find new ways of reaching millennials – the fastest growing segment in travel. Easier online payment methods – the use of more mobile payment services, hotel gift cards and the emerging smart watch market – are making the booking experience more convenient.
3. Denver's tourism will continue to surge, making it a Top 15 domestic destination. In 2014, Denver (currently ranked 17th) enjoyed a record year in business travel according to the Colorado Convention Center, while Colorado's legalization of marijuana sales sparked travel interest.
4. More Americans will flock to mid-size beach towns, such as Key West, Florida, Ocean City, Maryland and Palm Springs, California, and at least one will become a Top 50 domestic destination. All three beach towns were among the most searched destinations on Hotels.com in 2014.
5. Bangkok will once again become a Top 20 international destination for Americans following a steep drop-off in 2014 (from 14th to 21st) due to political unrest. Bangkok's Department of Tourism reported an increase in airport arrivals for November 2014, which were up 2.5% compared to November 2013 when the protests began.
6. Innovation will continue to be a point of differentiation for new hotel properties. While many properties won't go the way of a robot concierge or drone delivery service, smart innovations such as keyless mobile entry and automated check-in kiosks will begin to become standardized.
7. Latin American countries will account for one-third of Top 50 international destinations for Americans. While the majority of top international destinations remain European cities, Latin American destinations have been on the rise, with Mexico, Brazil and Puerto Rico accounting for nearly 20 percent of the Top 50.
8. Pop culture tourism will be a boon for small towns following a year in which Albuquerque, N.M. rose in popularity after being portrayed as a key character in a popular TV series. Montauk, N.Y. and Cape Girardeau, Missouri also garnered recent attention and next year's TV and film releases should bring other destinations into the spotlight.
9. There will be more demand for complimentary breakfast. Free Wi-Fi has long been the most important hotel amenity, but complimentary breakfast was also recently named at the top of the list.
10. Venice and Florence will see more American visitors. The Hotels.com Winter Holiday Travel Survey found that Italy is the second most popular 2015 travel wish list destination for Americans (after Hawaii). Both cities have been popular international destinations for Americans (ranked 12th and 13th, respectively), but may see a boost as a result of heightened interest due to some big celebrity weddings in 2014.
“Millennials comprise 32% of U.S. travelers and are the fastest-growing age segment in travel,” Cole told Loyalty360. “Their desire to explore budget-friendly destinations and get the most for their travel dollar is the drive for most of these predictions. Detroit is a good example of a booming budget-friendly destination. According to our Hotel Price Index for the first half of 2014 (Jan-June), Detroit’s average hotel room was $118 per night, while Americans paid an average of $137 per night across all U.S. destinations during the same period. This, combined with the positive stories coming out about the city's resurgence, makes Detroit an intriguing and accessible destination for people across income levels, especially millennials. Similarly, destinations like Bangkok and smaller beach cities such as Ocean City offer tremendous value for travelers of all ages.”
Cole said that this consumer point of view will challenge destinations to be more accommodating in terms of pricing and perks like complimentary Wi-Fi, breakfast, and cocktail hours.
“We’re seeing an increase in travelers booking within a shorter timeframe before an upcoming stay,” Cole said. “Mobile is definitely a factor here. According to our data, approximately one in four travelers are booking hotels via a mobile device, and nearly 70% of those bookings are made for same or next-day check-in. As travelers are looking at those less-traveled destinations and yearn for an authentic experience, we also expect to see an increase in voluntourism and different modes of exploring a city such as biking. Many cities like Quebec City, Kissimmee and Houston are significantly improving their bike trail systems to accommodate this new group of adventure-seekers.”