At this time of year, we are all, in every industry, trying to read the proverbial tea leaves. Predicting the future is a way of trying to see spring through the darkness of winter. We know it will get sunny again, but our predictions warm us, they act as a comfort in the cold and dark.

Except for hotels in warmer climates, we are in the business of keeping guests warm and comfortable in the cold of winter. Seasonal predictions and trends impact strategies for the next fiscal year, which is why every prediction, including this one, has to be applied uniquely to every hotel and budgetary scenario.

Two general and far-reaching trends which will impact the whole industry (depending on your location) is the rising affluence of two large new customer groups: Chinese tourists and Millennials’. (Gen Y: born between 1982 and 2004).

Both groups are tech savvy, will happily travel alone or with family / friends, are looking as much for convenience as new and interesting experiences, and have increasing amounts of disposable income. The growing prominence of these two groups impacts the following predictions in ways that need to be taken into consideration.

1.     Mobile is no longer a “nice to have.”

Mobile apps and mobile ready websites (for all platforms, browsers, and devices) will dominate bookings in the next five to ten years. Given the shift from e-commerce to m-commerce, it would come as no surprise if mobile overtook the browser for travel bookings within five years.

According to the 2014 Expedia Mobile Index 76% of travellers said their smartphone / tablet is “very important/critical” in the booking process. About the same percentage of business travellers said the same.

2.     Loyalty Programs Also Need to Cater to Leisure Guests

Business travellers aren’t the only ones who now expect some luxury personalisation and pampering. The retail sector is going that way to accommodate consumer’s demand for an experience-based service. Guests want something different. They don’t want to get the same experience in a boutique property as they would in a motel with thousands of properties. Experiences, differentiated service, personalisation will become mainstream during 2015.

3.     Easier Management of Systems with a Hotel ERP

Adopting an Enterprise Resource Planning system (Hotel ERP) is the way many hotels are already going. Trying to tie together dozens of different systems; some legacy, some new, with staff all needing access via smartphones is no longer manageable for many hotels. The best response is integration through an ERP, which can allow for personalization of guest interactions and a simple tie in with marketing suites. There are other challenges the industry will face next year, but the more we can do to look after our guests, the more equipped we will be to face any challenges that come our way.

What are your predictions for 2015?