What’s ahead for hospitality?
What are the top trends in hospitality? We ask three industry experts to identify the factors driving the sector
“Coffee shops may have reached saturation point in cities, with Starbucks, Insomnia or Costa at almost every street corner.” Photograph: iStock
Paul Keeley, Fáilte Ireland
“In terms of big macro trends, we are seeing continued interest in heritage and culture but increasingly in ‘learn to’, that is, not passive engagement peeling back the layers, making sure the experience is more accessible, and allowing people to have a more immersive experience. It’s about moving beyond the bricks and mortar and telling me about the story, the people, the place. Advances in virtual reality and augmented reality will enhance our power in that respect. It’s all about the story teller as opposed to the more passive and static ‘looking at’.
“The whole notion of wellbeing is being redesigned. Where previously it was almost exclusively around spas, increasingly it is being expanded to include the great outdoors and feeding through into things like walking and cycling. So, landscape is not just about being out in it, it’s about wellbeing too. For example, it’s about leveraging the Wild Atlantic Way to unlock walking and cycling routes and encouraging people to get out into nature from the perspective of wellbeing.
“Sustainability is coming through now loud and clear, both in terms of business tourism and on the leisure tourism side. At one point, it might have been seen to be marginal but it has now mainstreamed and is a conscious influencer. When we are bidding for conferences and events, it’s what is being looked for. As more and more companies are doing CSR [corporate and social responsibility] activities, so conference programme is changing too. People now want to get out and engage with the local community, which could be litter-picking or supporting community projects.
“Another part of sustainability is around managing sustainable growth. A part of that is regionality and seasonality – spreading the benefits more widely and not having just a summer glut. We’ve seen what happens in places such as Iceland and Barcelona when tourism gets it wrong. Sustainable growth makes for more manageable visitor flows that are less intrusive on community life.
“Accessibility, the notion of tourism being accessible to all, has historically been thought of in terms of disability. Now it’s also about thinking more broadly about things such as people living longer and so making sure your product is more accessible to older people too. It means thinking about people with obesity or with autism. It’s about tourism opening itself up to what all people’s challenges are and saying let’s get our customer service right for all these issues. Regulations look after the building side but it’s about businesses understanding some of the challenges people have. We’ve seen great examples at Shannon Airport, for example, opening its sensory zone especially for families travelling with someone with autism. It’s tourism as a force for good, for inclusiveness.
“Fáilte Ireland’s research tells us that tourists are not always aware of our high-quality produce and sustainability credentials around our food and drink before visiting here. However, the quality of our food offering is repeatedly called out by visitors after they have experienced it. They leave Ireland with a hugely positive experience and view of our food and drink offering and leave rating it much higher than on entering. Fáilte Ireland recently launched ‘Taste the Island’, an all-island initiative that will significantly enhance Ireland’s reputation for its food and drink experiences, in conjunction with Tourism Northern Ireland and Tourism Ireland. ”
Frank Corr, hospitalityenews.com
“Hotel bedroom demand in Dublin continues to exceed supply and while some 1,500 new rooms will come into the market by the end of 2019, shortages will remain a feature of a market driven by rising visitor numbers, a buoyant conference sector and demand from multinationals. Weak sterling is dampening leisure business from the UK, but overall, room rates remain high, making for profitable hotel operations. Demand is also high in tourism ‘hot spots’, but patchy in many parts of the country.
“Restaurants are opening and closing at a rapid rate throughout the country. Commercial rates, local charges and insurance and the ending of the 9 per cent preferential VAT rate have combined to make margins exceptionally tight. Rising visitor numbers have, however, increased demand, making location a critical factor for success. This is particularly true in Dublin and other cities.
“‘Sustainability’ has replaced ‘traceability’ as the hot customer demand. Restaurants are now expected to source and prepare food in an eco-friendly manner.
“Coffee shops may have reached saturation point in cities, with Starbucks, Insomnia or Costa at almost every street corner. Small boutique coffee shops, specialising in organic beans, buying from artisan roasters and offering a range of speciality coffees, are on the rise. Several have fallen the victim of soaring rents, high overheads and regulations.
“Rural Ireland is losing its pubs at a rapid rate – more than 1,000 closures in recent years. Urban pubs have become virtual restaurants and entertainment venues. The pub is also no longer the prime venue for watching sport on TV – losing out to large TV screens, cheap take-out drink and pizzas in the home.
“Double digit growth of recent years has faded, with a fall in the value of sterling, but significant growth from North America, helped by a strong dollar and many new direct flights, as well as ‘emerging markets’, has continued an upward curve of 2-3 per cent this year.”
Keith Slowey, iHotelligence
“Hotel guests are becoming more savvy when it comes to shopping around online for best rates. They are increasingly visiting hotels’ own websites, as usually this is where best offers are available. This is due to the cessation of rate parity clauses [the legal agreement between hotels and online travel agencies wherein the hotel must use the same rate and terms regardless of the distribution channel]. As a result, we have seen an increase in the number of telephone reservations as guests are aware of high commissions hotels are paying to online travel agents such as Expedia and Booking. com.
“We also see an increase in hotels wanting to enable guests to use their own devices, such as smartphones and tablets, to manage reservations, check-in and even opening the door of the room. Technology allows the guest to easily order and pay for room service, a meal in the restaurant or a pint at the bar from their own phone. We are implementing this tech for casual dining restaurants and bars now also.”