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The world of travel is moving at such a frenetic pace. To keep up, the travel industry has been really on the move to match the tempo with new technologies. It’s the world where mobile is having more and more impact on the purchasing behaviors of today’s connected traveler.

So let’s take out the crystal ball and look ahead to 2017. We’ve identified focus points that will have a large impact on the entire travel sector. It ranges from hotels to airports, airlines to bookings, food to adventure and travel management platforms.

The increase in bleisure travel

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Before we get started, someone has to surely come up with a better name than “bleisure”. What it’s trying to describe is business travelers combining more leisure with their business trips. And why not? They’re extending their trips and bringing along friends and family. This means that brands need to learn how to adapt. Traditional business-orientated hotels in the future will be developing special programs that are exclusively orientated towards children and couples. 

In 2017, airlines too will have to raise their game. Like providing faster and better Wi-Fi service for travelers who need to be connected all the time, so there’s more time for them to relax and enjoy themselves when they reach their destination. Airlines may even have to find ways for travelers to better interact and network in the air so they can then do all the business which will enable them to be completely worry free when they touch down.       

 

The rise of experiential travel  

More and more hotel chains are realising that they need to create unique experiences that are out of the box on social media, in order to attract new clientele of the millennial variety.

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A perfect example of this is the Curio Collection from the Hilton group. This is a superb line of unique, independent hotels that are constantly expanding in the travel experience marketplace. Each Curio property offers something different, creating an authentic local experience for every guest.  

 

Keeping fit and well

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The wellness movement is emerging into commercial travel in a big way with resorts like St Lucia Body Holiday, dedicating entire weeks to detoxing, destressing and getting their clients fit and healthy. Four Seasons properties around the world have introduced running, walking and hiking tours, all free to their guests. The perennial favourite cocktail menus have been replaced by juice menus in hotels and even major chains like the Westin have dedicated running concierges. There are many other hotels and airlines putting plenty of money behind the wellness revolution and the trend will continue into 2017.

  

Food, glorious food

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 It’s got business travelers taste buds salivating at the thought. Culinary travel experiences. Food of all descriptions still has that extraordinary capacity not just to satisfy, but connect the senses to places that are always remembered. Local cuisine on so many levels allows the business traveler to get to the heart and soul of a region. It a wonderful opportunity for them to experience taste sensations that they would never find in a well-heeled restaurant. Take South East Asian street food. It has emerged as a superb taste attraction. So much so, that Michelin has added a section in its annual star ratings to profile the best food stalls in Hong Kong and Macau.    

Hospitality, cruising, and aviation brands across every budget tier are also providing the business traveler with options by incorporating local products and producers into their marketing strategy.

 

 

Going on a big adventure

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Business travelers around the world are increasingly viewing their trips as a real adventure. There’s now an emphasis on having experiences that can make an impact on their personal lives and careers. Surveys reveal that a high percentage of business travelers really do look forward to business trips and are excited to fly. The journey itself is playing an increasing role in offering them time to relax, think and get inspired.

 

More intuitive customer service

More and more, hotels and apps are learning to sort through data about your preferences to tell you when to fly, whether you want an upgrade, what time you check in, and whether or not you want to visit the Louvre in Paris. A great example of this is Utrip. It takes a measure of your preferences and crafts an entire travel itinerary for you, including sightseeing, restaurant plans and hotel reservations. All you have to do is state what you like and what you don’t like and a step by step itinerary is created in seconds.     

 

The Interaction trend

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The primary way people interact with each other will become web chat, text message, and Facebook Messenger. It will be the preferred way that people interact with business. 

Take Hotel Tonight for instance.  It has an innovative system called Aces. A chat feature that connects guests with the company’s team of insiders for access to everything from local tips to recommendations, to room and hotel requests. It means that you never have to pick up the phone and ask for anything – an extra towel, an early morning wake-up call, or a snack at two in the morning.

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More and more hotels are letting you order room service via text – even via emoji. Or on an in-room Ipad, like the ones now standard in the rooms at SLS in South Beach in Miami, the Hotel Jerome in Aspen and certain Hilton Conrad locations. Then there’s Airbnb, Roomarama, and Stayz. Their digital storytelling continues to sell the accommodation experience without the need for human interaction.

DIY travelers are more often than not, very active on social media, commenting on, liking or criticizing.  It means the creation of digital experiences must be able to match the expectations.

Yotel Hotels have established a benchmark with corporate travelers by providing digital check-in stations, robotic luggage concierge, free WiFi, techno walls and digital breakout areas.

Traditional hotels are also making moves to satisfy the DYI traveler. The Marriott Hotel, for instance, has created a social hub in their lobbies enabling interaction between fellow travelers.

  

Every picture tells a story

Clever brands have learned that a customer’s feelings determine what they buy. Using video, brands are now telling emotive stories that can create an immediate connection with a particular audience. And Marriot International is leading the way. They operate an entire video content studio which produces original short films and animated clips, designed to target specific travel groups. Some airlines are also making videos to keep their audiences informed and entertained. Turkish Airlines Delightful Stories Campaign for instance profiles travelers from around the world expressing their motivations that drive them to travel.    

  

Flying is now a whole new experience

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For far too long, flying has been incredibly predictable, reliable and a very dull affair all round the globe. With market shifts, customer demand and the emergence of technologies, that has all changed for the better. Thank heavens, we all say. Airlines have now made changes to their reservation systems offering ancillaries at the time of booking and closer to the date of travel through email and SMS promotions. 

Airlines are also using apps to sell products and services at the right time, during the journey when passengers are more relaxed and less price sensitive, and more open to suggestions. In another step forward, JetBlue Airlines are making it easier for passengers to buy in-flight food and beverages with Apple Pay or their Apple Wallet, or through the airline’s app.

Airlines are also taking advantage of its passengers smartphones and tablets, using the in-flight entertainment systems, airlines can sell more ancillaries including last minute upgrades to empty premium seats, lounge access to connections, duty-free items shipped home, in flight meals, comfort products, premium entertainment, hotel reservations, ground transport and special events.  

A bright future ahead...and one that keeps me excited every step of the way!

For more information on the trends that are redefining business travel, download your free eGuide, '5 Corporate Travel Trends to Watch in 2017' below:

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