Industry Experts Bullish with Experiential Travel to Pave Way in 2019

We at BW Hotelier sought the industry experts’ views to know about the travel trends followed from the year 2018 into 2019, for which, the respondents unanimously hailed that ‘Experiential Travel’ married with Technology-driven activities has been a major contributor to the industry and will find its way ahead in 2019 as well.

WITH THE travel and hospitality industry coursing its way into a new year, we at BW Hotelier sought the industry experts’ views to know more about the travel trends followed from the year 2018 into 2019, for which, the respondents unanimously hailed that ‘Experiential Travel’ married with Technology-driven activities has been a major contributor to the industry and will find its way ahead in 2019 as well. Furthermore, they shared details about the bigger picture with everything on offer from their organisation in order to cater to the aforementioned trend, followed by the perks and exclusivity that one can enjoy with their brand. Excerpts:

Harleen Mehta, Vice President, Sales Operations - India, Hyatt Hotels and Resorts

2018 was a dynamic year and the industry saw many new trends and developments, but the biggest change has been in the kind of traveller we have been trying to target. There is a new traveller - younger, social media-friendly and interested in interesting travel experiences. These modern travellers are willing to go beyond the typical vacation or hotel stay. With these changes, we saw an opportunity to introduce Hyatt Centric to India to cater to this growing segment of millennial-minded travellers in India. The Hyatt Centric brand was born out of the need for Hyatt to service these curious-minded travellers who want to be in the middle of the action.

Also, today’s guests perceive loyalty in a different way and are giving equal importance to the F&B experiences that hotels have to offer. Based on the understanding that guests value holistic experiences, we launched The Hyatt Dining Club, our lifestyle rewards program for India. Hyatt Dining Club aims to move beyond standard dining rewards programs, with incentives not just limited to restaurants but also in-hotel elements such as spa treatments and social events and more through exclusive deals with third parties like Xoxoday and PVR Cinemas. It’s a unique way of engaging a very unique set of guests, who are constantly looking for interesting but personalised experiences.

Modern-day travellers seek experiences that add value to their stay and this has led to experiential tourism gaining significant momentum. Personalization is another trend that helps determine how we meet our guest’s needs. At Andaz Delhi, our aim is to deliver experiences which immerse guests in the local communities and cultures of the city and create a point of distinction for us. We enable guests to discover the capital city through experiences from learning calligraphy from a local artiste to visiting little-known monuments and so on.

As we enter 2019, we believe that India’s rising middle class with an increasing disposable income will continue to support the growth of domestic and outbound tourism. Indian travellers are keen to explore new markets, and at Hyatt, we plan to expand our footprint in India by introducing Hyatt Regency Dharamshala Resort, Hyatt Regency Jaipur Mansarovar and other hotels in smaller, yet popular towns.

The blending of business and leisure trips is another trend that we’ll continue to see in 2019. Our Hyatt Place hotels are designed anticipating this switch between business and leisure travel and have distinct zones to sleep, work and relax.

Also, the youth are the drivers of the travel industry in India today. Millennials are looking for experiences both inside and outside the hotel and it is Hyatt Centric with its

unique brand and personality dedicated to the modern and savvy explorers that have the potential to cater to the growing segment of millennial-minded travellers. We recently launched our Hyatt Centric MG Road Bangalore property and will soon launch Hyatt Centric Candolim Goa.

Piyush Tiwari, Director (Commercial & Marketing), India Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC) Ltd.

In the year of ‘Inspired’ travel, people have often dared to explore new territories. Fuelled by this evolution, the business travellers from all around the world have discovered the potential in the MICE segment in India. Consequently, for international and national travellers, there is a fine line between business and leisure travellers. A combined segment ‘Bleisure’ is on rise in the industry leading to high occupancy in metro (Tier-I & II) cities. The GST Council’s decision to levy goods and services tax on actual tariff charged to customers for hotel rooms instead of declared tariffs is a landmark decision and welcomed and appreciated by the entire industry. This would make the business much more rational and easier by improving occupancies and yields.

Concept of Homestays and B-N-B (bread and breakfast) further made inroads into some of the tier-II tourist destinations to offer a new experience to tourists, weaving the thoughts closely, gives us a picture of how the initiatives were taken up by government and developments in the industry are forming a strong base for the hospitality industry.

One of the key trends which have surged beyond expectations in the hospitality industry is ‘sustainability in business.’ The brands are striving to be meaningful towards the environment. Hotels are investing in steps to do one more thing towards keeping a healthy environment and giving back to society.

It is not merely an interesting change to see hoteliers shift focus towards the environmental, economic and social impact the business can create. The hospitality sector has drastically altered ways to consume energy and water, consumable and durable goods, and disposal of solid and hazardous waste created in the processes. Hotels have also started educating and sensitising guests about preserving resources like water and electricity by promoting reuse of linen during short stays.

Last year, our flagship property Hotel The Ashok, New Delhi was accredited LEED GOLD certification under US Green Building Council and is in the process for getting Platinum LEED certification by the next year. Hotel Samrat, another hotel under the brand is also in process of getting Gold LEED certification along with energy audit for both the Hotels.

The hotel industry for 2019 promises to be characterised by travellers who are highly sophisticated, with a native affinity to technology and higher hotel service expectations. We believe technology is shaping the future of the travel, tourism and hospitality industry. Technological advancement like Artificial Intelligence, Voice Technology, Automation, etc., are going to play an important role.

ITDC being a pioneer organisation in the hospitality domain always strives for the best and is expanding its horizons. Excerpts:

Our education imparting division, AIHTM is focusing more on job-orientated short-term courses. Apart from imparting skill development training in areas of food production, F&B services, accommodation operations at the front office. It aims to work towards making a difference to the academic culture for the students by offering a globally competitive curriculum and infrastructure, and eventually on contributing significantly to the supply of trained manpower in the hospitality industry. AIHTM has joined hands with Jamia Milia Islamia and Amity University Haryana to jointly offer short-term job oriented courses to aspiring youths.

Another major source of business, Duty-Free Shops under AITD division is growing as ITDC ventured into major seaports in India with 13 duty-free shops at Kolkata, Haldia, Paradip, Visakhapatnam, Kakinada, Chennai, Mangalore, Mumbai, Goa, Krishnapatnam, Tuticorin, Cochin and Ennore (Kamarajar).

ITDC’s flagship property Hotel - The Ashok ¬– received the third consecutive award for “Best Hotel Based Meeting Venue” at National Tourism Awards 2016-17, during the year.

Karan Anand, Head, Relationships, Cox & Kings

The period of one year is too short time for any trend to set in or change. Still, would like to mention few interesting observations about the year 2018 in which travellers have started focusing more on immersive travel experiences as they want to connect with local culture, customs, festivals and food. The idea is to switch off, enjoy the holiday and experience a place more intensely. Also, the demand for cruises, adventure, luxury trains and glamping has surged in this year as compared to the last year.

Travel needs of travellers in specific segments like adventure, culinary, self-drive, senior citizens, disabled travellers and women travellers are different than that of regular tours. Hence we need to cater to each of these segments separately to serve them in a better manner. Over the years, Cox & Kings has added multiple brands to its kitty like Trip 360 (adventure tours), Self-Drive 365, Getaway Goddess (women travellers), Enable Travel (tours for disabled people and senior citizens), Curious Cat Chronicles (educational tours), Master-chef Travel (culinary tours), Deccan Odyssey (luxury train) and TUTC (glamping) in order to understand and address the travel needs of special interest travellers in a systematic way.

Gen X or millennial travellers are more likely to make their travel decisions based on the travel posts of their peers on social media because social media is a more authentic source of information. At the same time, it is important for them to capture their best travel stories through photos and videos and inspire their circle of friends and colleagues to take up travel. Wi-fi enabled places and hotels is bliss for such travellers as it enables them to post live travel updates.

Factors influencing a traveller's destination choice is fast changing. The holidaymakers are becoming more discerning and conscious. In order to deal with the issue of ‘over-tourism’ at certain destinations, a number of travellers are likely to travel more in the off-season and also explore the new destinations near the saturated ones. Travellers including majorly the millennials consider themselves equally responsible for the disaster and duty-bound to reverse it. The coming years will see a spurt in the number of responsible travellers demanding for sensitive travel packages as well as sustainable operators to ensure a guilt-free tour. Plastic-free travel, Voluntourism, Sustainable and green tours are predicted to be extensively used terms in the travel space.

The year 2019 will see more people experiencing luxurious camps, villas, embark on exquisite journeys, traverse in luxury trains and embark on luxury cruises. While the developing nations are at the forefront of the growth acceleration, an increase in the disposable incomes in these countries is favourable to luxury travel. Although currency fluctuations in different nations slightly affected the segment, it has made the developed nations seek luxury travel at further discounted prices, fuelling the growth. A rising number of travellers are keen on exploring what's beyond at some of the most remote locations in the world. To unravel the hidden secrets and visit the untouched lands are the latest trends.

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