Changing technology, costs, demographics and tastes are changing hotels and resorts. Several trends are emerging for 2018. Some are big, some are small, but they all will affect your bill and your overall experience, whether you are traveling for business or pleasure.
Trend: More Fees
So-called “resort fees” that are tacked on to the room price fall into the same things-we-hate category as airline baggage fees. Until now, resort fees have been limited to resorts, and you pay it whether or not you use the pool, gym or golf course, or even if you don’t have kids who don’t use the arcade room. Also until now, resort fees have been mostly $25 per day, but up to $40 or $50 at some top luxury resorts.
Resorts that float, also called cruise ships, call their resort fee an “automatic gratuity fee” or something similar, for tips to cabin attendants and restaurant servers. And those are going up, too, in 2018. USA Today reports that Celebrity Cruises is hiking its automatic service fee by 7%.
Resort fees are despised by a majority of us. A recent poll commissioned by Travelers United, a non-profit group with 23,000 members, found that 80% of consumers want resort fees included in advertised pricing so that we can comparison shop. And 87% said they would be less willing to stay at a hotel or resort that charged a fee for activities or amenities they did not use. And most respondents said hotels and resorts should be required to include mandatory resort fees in advertised nightly rates.
- Bad news – Resort fees will migrate beyond resorts into downtown hotels.
- Good news – These fees are outside the room rate, so they are not part of the hotel’s occupancy tax, saving you paying tax on additional fee.
ecoXplorer smart spending tip:
Hotels are just as unlikely to be “transparent” about these fees when you book a room as resorts have been. Avoid expensive surprises at check-out and ask before you book. That means phoning the hotel directly, even if you book through a third party like Orbitz or Expedia
Trend: Perks for Direct Booking
Hotels and resorts are fighting back against the discounted rates offered by booking sites like Expedia and Orbitz with special rates and other perks to guests who book directly. InterContinental Hotel Group, which operates brands including Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts, Hotel Indigo, EVEN(TM) Hotels, Holiday Inn Hotels & Resorts and Staybridge Suites, offers special discount rates for direct booking. Chains including Hilton have offered fourth or fifth night free or double points for loyalty club members, for booking direct.
- Good news – You’ll often get a better deal booking direct than through a discounter site.
- Bad news – There isn’t any, except for the discounter sites.
ecoXplorer smart spending tip:
It’s FREE to join loyalty clubs, which come with perks including automatic room upgrades and FREE WiFi.
Trend: Less Service
Expect nightly turn-down service and fresh towels twice-a-day to disappear at all but top luxury destinations, where that’s part of the brand marketing. That also means the sweet little chocolate treats and even the card with tomorrow’s weather report also will disappear. It’s a staffing issue.
- Bad news – You’ll have to buy your own midnight snack, check the weather on your smartphone, and use a towel more than once, as you do at home.
- Good news – Housekeeping won’t be walking in on you when you in the shower, getting dressed for dinner, or doing something private with your travel companion. And you won’t be returning to a room where the TV or radio has been turned on to “welcome” you back for the evening, scaring you silly when you open the door because it looks like a stranger is in your room (yes, it’s happened to me, and probably to you, too).
Trend: More Services
While hotels are cutting back on the bedtime sweets, they’re adding more local services to enhance and personalize the guest experience. Bloomberg reports Marriott’s strategic investment in PlacePass unlocks 100,000 walking tours, biking excursions, and culinary classes in 800 destinations around the world, and the Waldorf Astoria’s new “Live Unforgettable” campaign links hotel guests with celebrities at high-profile dinner events. Also, more hotels, resorts and B&Bs are adding free charging stations for guests arriving in electric vehicles.
- Good news – Anything that shares local, insider secrets is a good thing.
- Bad news – There isn’t any.
Trend: No More Front Desk
The formal marble-topped counter check-in space in the lobby is now being seen by a growing number of hotel brands as a barrier to guests. What will replace it? Living room-like check-ins, where you and the hotel staffer sit to do business, more like the concierge desks at upscale hotels. This will not work in huge hotels such as the multi-thousand-room ones in Las Vegas, so don’t expect front desks everywhere to morph into conversation pits.
- Good news – More hotels are offering mobile check-in and check-out, so you can bypass the front desk entirely
- Bad news – Everybody can find a front desk, but it will be disorienting to find an unmarked sit-down experience in a crowded hotel lobby.
- Bad news – Such sit-down check-ins may take more time, not less time, than the conventional front desk. At least that’s been my own personal experience in hotels and resorts which have downsized or eliminated the front desk.
Trend: Co-Working Spaces in the Lobby
The barren and hard-to-find “business center” tucked in a corner of the basement is moving up, replaced by more public spaces in the lobby. Sheraton has been doing this for years in downtown locations, and the idea is spreading.
- Good news – You can have a mini business meeting or family planning session without renting a conference room
- Bad news – The more public co-working spaces also mean you have less privacy from prying eyes, including the bad guys who piggyback on public WiFi to steal passwords, even your entire identity.
- SEE How to protect yourself from identity theft when you travel.
Trend: More Technology
Cars are connected. Homes are connected. So it’s only natural your hotel room goes high-tech, beyond letting you check-out via the TV in your room. Marriott is working with Samsung to offer digital showers that remember a guest’s preferred temperature, automatically start an exercise video ten minutes after your digital your wake-up call, even allow you to add personal photos to a digital picture frame.
Also expect the traditional key card to disappear. You will open your hotel room door via a digital “password” code, or by pointing a QR code on your smartphone at the lock. That will be an especially welcome technological advance if you locked your phone in your room and are trying to retrieve it, or if your phone is out of power.
- Good news – Guests who already use Alexa or Echo at home will love the high-tech rooms.
- Bad news – Guests who don’t will hate the frustration of trying to figure out how to open or close the drapes, turn the lights or TV on or off, change TV channels or change the shower temperature to prevent being scalded or frozen.
- Yes, it happened to me, in a high-tech boutique hotel in Milan, where there were no instructions on the electronic panels on the wall, not even in Italian that I could try to translate to figure out what button was for what light or lights, or for the drapes.
- I hated having to write down the complicated letters-and-numbers electronic code for my room to keep in a pocket, just like a conventional key card, which this digital code was designed to replace.
Trend: More Wellness
Spas are big business – worth more than $16 Billion a year, according to the International Spa Association. With Boomers and even Milennials aging every day, wellness and what’s called “mindfulness” is increasingly important in the travel industry, starting with the small “runner’s route” maps many city hotels now offer.
Expect more “wellness week” and “wellness weekend” packages, both at resorts and downtown hotels, combining yoga with meditation and nutrition workshops. It’s worked well for wellness retreats like Canyon Ranch and Utah’s Red Mountain Resort & Spa, and the idea is spreading to prevent our waistlines from spreading. Hyatt recently bought legendary wellness brand Miraval for $375 million, JW Marriott has partnered with the Joffrey Ballet for on-demand barre classes, Four Seasons has developed wellness rooms with de-chlorinating showers and Deepak Chopra meditation videos.
- Good news – With more wellness packages offered, there’s more opportunity to comparison shop for the best value
- Bad news – There isn’t any.
Trend: More Emphasis on Sustainability
Going green isn’t a new trend, but it’s a growing one, as the hotel industry cements its recognition that good environmental practices are good business, and customers respond. Hotels and resort chains are actively marketing their sustainability practices, including luxury chains, to show that going green does not mean scrimping on luxury.
- Good news – Helping save the environment by using less water and more locally-sourced goods, and saving money in the bargain, is all good
- Bad news – There isn’t any, except for the hotel chains who haven’t gotten with the eco-program.
What changes are you hoping for in 2018? Which ones do you dread? Add a comment below.