The Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI) Americas Board of Directors members recently offered their predictions for what to expect in hospitality sales, marketing and revenue optimization in 2016. The HSMAI Americas board consists of a wide range of hospitality professionals from all areas of the industry, including representatives of 24 hotels and hotel companies. I’m excited to share some of their insights and provide my perspective into the industry trends and changes ahead.
Prediction: There will be a vast amount of innovation in marketing – especially in personalization strategies.

Consumers are demanding more and more personalization and hospitality has generally been a laggard relative to other industries. The hospitality industry is finally beginning to see various cost effective technologies that should allow lodging to specifically enhance what they are already doing.

Prediction: Evolution of loyalty will be big; new models and new entrants will make us think differently about loyalty.

Loyalty may have a different definition in the eye of every consumer. Traditional hotel brand loyalty programs have followed the airline model: earn points and rewards. These models do not always endear loyalty; they recognize frequency with a currency. Loyalty is a behavior that makes people want to stay with you. Loyalty in the future may not always be about the hotel brands. Today there are booking brands and stay brands. Will consumers be more loyal to a booking brand than a stay brand? Not every lodging establishment is branded. Consumers may look at lodging from an agnostic point of view. When going to Austin, should I book at HomeAway, Expedia, Airbnb, a bed and breakfast site or The booking and distribution journey and even the trip purpose may be more important to loyalty in the future than the lodging product.

Prediction: Watch Cuba – development will probably start with cruiseline visits since infrastructure there is still weak

Infrastructure is already in place and it will be much quicker to add ports of call before new hotel construction with Western world consumer standards can be developed. It may be a new competitive destination for much of the Caribbean, Mexico and even some U.S. leisure destinations.

Prediction: Rate and distribution parity will be redefined by laws in other countries with broad implications.

If future rulings make rate parity illegal like they have in some European countries already, the entire distribution landscape can change dramatically. If consumers really can find better rate or better values when they book direct, how does that change the unique value propositions of the various intermediaries and distribution channels?

Prediction: There will be a rebellion against a level of “second screen” elite – a generation realizing that they were missing something in life because of too much screen time.

This perspective implies that some consumers will reach a point of maximum technology consumption and may want to go into a “detox” program for a weekend, a week or maybe a month. Some consumers may reach a point in their life where they have been so tethered to technology that they feel life has passed them by. Family relations, kids growing up, the passing of a loved one. You can’t rewind everything. Quality of life may resurface as a priority for some consumers or entire generations. Lodging implications are that these are our customers and we need to recognize what they need – or don’t want – when they stay with us.

Prediction: Revenue management analysts will evolve into data scientists.

The fundamentals of revenue management are not just about setting rates in high and low demand times anymore. Many hospitality companies today are already well beyond these fundamentals. They are measuring total revenue management, yielding conference space by the square foot, making channel distribution decisions based on the cost per channel and the net contribution of the room night, implementing variable food and beverage pricing. Any way to optimize revenue and profits will be enhanced by a data scientist, not just a revenue manager.

As the hospitality industry continues to evolve, HSMAI will continue to provide key insights and unique educational programming in order to benefit their members and the industry at large. In 2016, the organization will host seven executive round tables, produce conferences, white papers, webinars and facilitate conversations about emerging issues in the hospitality industry – all of which will be offered around the world in the Asia Pacific region, Europe, the United Arab Emirates, Brazil and the Americas.