HX: The Hotel Experience Has Its Own Story to Tell

The Hotel Business team just returned from this year’s HX: The Hotel Experience, which was held in New York City at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. As we usually do post-event, we talk amongst ourselves about trends we noticed at the show, held in conjunction with BDNY. And while the latter—and now larger—show was abundant with design trends (let’s just say blue seemed the prevalent color; bold, geometric forms the dominant shape; and metallics a common thread…pun intended!), the more traditional “hotel” side of the convention center had its own story to tell.

Guest amenities were a hot item. Not just the typical chocolates for the pillow, but gourmet delicacies and distinctive items. Fragrances, essential oils, toothpicks hand-steeped in Kentucky Bourbon—all supported the idea that hotels are vying to provide that memorable experience that guests crave. Towels and robes are plusher, blankets and pillows softer—or maybe firmer. But that’s just it: customized products to meet the personal needs of every guest. It’s the Goldilocks effect: The mattress, for example, can’t be too soft or too hard. It has to be “just right.” So take, for instance, the Sealy Posturepedic Hybrid Series: half foam, half springs— and all bases covered. That’s a trend we all noticed, not only during our few days in Manhattan, but in our everyday lives as magazine editors.

As I was writing this, something crossed my desk and it fit with the theme of trends, so I figured I’d share it with you. WATG, a 70-plus-year-old firm that offers integrated design solutions in the hotel space, and, more specifically, its trend forecaster, Muriel Muirden, who advises the firm’s global leaders on tourism trends and market opportunities based on proprietary research, just released a report citing the top trends that will shape the travel and hospitality industry in 2017. Here are four key ones, according to Muirden:

The simple life. People are increasingly seeking a respite from the pressures of modern life, i.e., social media, deadlines, etc. The hospitality sector is responding with less-is-more models, including menu-free dining and the rise of wilderness experiences, which offer total immersion and digital disconnection. Don’t be surprised if we see the emergence of summer camps for grownups, Muirden noted, “offering lonely millennials a break from ‘adulting.’”

The science of your stay. The hospitality sector will continue to increasingly apply data and science to help guests to be more efficient and sleep better during their stays. Next year will see a prominent rise of travel-oriented apps aiding us to experience the smoothest of stays as guests, from monitoring the line at the breakfast buffet to digitally controlling the ambiance of our rooms. Hotels are also predicted to engage with the functionality of sleep apps and wearables by going beyond blackout shades to design rooms incorporating creative solutions like sound and lighting technology, and sensitive wake-up tools and techniques. 

A healthy obsession. A preoccupation with mindfulness and wellness will see the rise of what Muirden calls “feel-good hotels,” which will jump on the fitness bandwagon by offering bespoke classes and exercise mashups. We’ll see hotels committing to cultural and environmental conservation by using locally sourced vendors and employing indigenous people. “Edible resorts” with micro-gardens, olive groves and vineyards are on the rise alongside a return to resorts anchored in eco-agriculture and ambitious village nature concepts. 

Friendly lodgings. Legalized recreational marijuana, a nearly $40-billion industry, Muirden noted, has brought cannabis tourism to the U.S., and WATG predicts the evolution of cannabis-friendly accommodations will boom in the coming years. [Sounds like fodder for a future Editor’s Note!] And while plenty of hotels currently allow pets, we’ll see an even greater evolution of top-notch, pet-friendly programs with amenities, including plush beds, food bowls and dedicated dog parks.

Before signing off, I want to turn back to HX. Make sure to check out our video interviews and booth tours on hotelbusiness.com. You’ll see innovation from Ramler, Rinnai, Front of the House (FOH), HD Supply and Savioke. There’s everything from a smartphone-charging banquet chair (which won Best New Product and Best in Show in the Editor’s Choice Awards, for which I was a judge) to tankless water heaters to robotics for the hotel industry.