Top five trends which will shape US Hospitality industry this year

The first generation travellers who are connected to the world with internet have become the fastest growing customer segment in hospitality industry. Travellers aged between 18 to 34 comprise the largest and most diverse segment of US population. These hyper-connected travellers are communicating with the entire world in a new way with their always connected device- using laptop, tablet or mobile phone.

In the LIVE in New York, an event organized by us to discuss the hotel technology trends, from our partners BookingForce, HRS and roomlia to hoteliers from Hilton, Marriot, Wyndham, Warwick Hotels, Wellington Hotel all talked about the challenges of dealing with the hyper-connected segment. With the advance of technology, the shift towards mobile is dramatic and disruptive. According to a PhoCusWright report around 75% of U.S. travelersown a smartphone and the numbers are continuously increasing with 4 out of 5 mobile travel booking are being made for hotel accommodation. With half the year gone, here are five definite trends that I reckon, are shaping the US hospitality industry this year.

Mobile does not mean last minute

The growing popularity of HotelTonight and BlinkBooking is a testimony to the growth of last minute bookings. PhoCusWright reports that one in four mobile bookings are made at the last minute, where OTAs with stronger presence score high against the brand sites. In fact for every 10 last minute bookings, 7 are being made at the OTA sites. This has prompted major OTAs like Booking.com to invest heavily in this segment. Earlier this year, Booking.com launched Booking Now, a mobile app which lets guests book up to 48 hours in advance.



However, mobile’s influence on traveler goes beyond last minute, and now has impacted all phases of the travel life cycle. Research says, about 37%of US travelers use a mobile device in their trip planning – with a significant majority of them switching between the tablet and smartphone. Interestingly, a significant 27% of the mobile travel audience belongs to the high income category earning over $100,000 per year. Clearly, if you have not yet invested in your mobile channel, it’s high time to do that.

Mobile Wallet: New smart payment option

You might have your hotel in finest location and offer thebest rate on your brand.com site and pride yourself of providing superior facilities to your guest, but have you integrated the mobile wallet?



Today’s modern guests want a hazard free travel experience- expects not to face front desk of the hotel to check-in or pay bills. According to a recent survey by SmartBrief and The Wall Street Journal shows more than 75% US travellers carry a smartphone and 50% travellers carry at least two devices while they are on vacation. This means your guests expect there should be an arrangement so that they can use their technology at your hotel- whether to conduct business, contact the valet, request service from housekeeping or pay from their mobile device. Here comes the mobile payment option which eliminates unnecessary delays. One of the largest hotel groups in the world Marriot Hotels was first to launch mobile check-in and check-out options on its mobile application back in 2013 and now offering its guestsApple Payment option. Another big name in Hotel industry Starwood Hotels is also offering the same service to its guests- now guests have the ability to pay accommodation charges using their mobile wallet, Apple Pay. This means hotel guests will no longer have to carry their credit cards or cash in their wallet. As smartphone going to replace physical wallet more and more hotels in the coming years will implement this medium to enhance their guest experience.

In next part of the article I’ll talk about three more trends which are shaping the US hospitality industry.


Jan Murza is Director of Sales- Americas at eRevMax.  He can be reached at janm@erevmax.com  

More power to Ctrip as Expedia exits China

With over 1 million transactions everyday makes Ctrip the largest OTA in China and a serious player in the online travel sector.  But with the latest news of Expedia selling its stake in eLong, China’s second largest OTA, shows that even a global giant is no match for the mighty regional online player. 

Last week, Expedia announced that it is selling off its entire stake in Chinese online travel company eLong to rival Ctrip.com International Ltd and other interested parties.  With Expedia’s share in eLong being 64%, this acquisition means Ctrip will have over 37.6% stake in eLong, making it the majority shareholder in the second largest OTA in China after CTrip.



In picture Fan Man (left), Co-founder, Vice Chairman and President of Ctrip; in a discussion with Vincent Lo, Chairman, Shui On Group at Fortune Global Forum 2013
To put things in perspective, Ctrip has a market share more than 6 times the size of eLong. After the acquisition, Ctrip with eLong will control over 60% of the Chinese online travel market, which according to PhoCusWrightestimates is pegged to be over USD 30 billionin 2015 excluding call center bookings. With online travel expected to grow in double digits, and accounting for only a quarter of total travel bookings, the scope of growth, needless to say, is enormous.

With Priceline’s$500m investment into Ctrip, the focus for Ctrip now shifts to newer and fast-growing rivals such as Qunar, Tuniu, and Alitrip, the travel arm of China’s largest e-commerce company Alibaba. Meta-search engines continue to be the greatest lead generator for Chinese OTAs and this causes concern even for Ctrip. Qunar – owned by China’s largest online search engine Baidu Inc – is considered the market leader in meta-search and the fastest growing travel channel and in 2014, Ctrip ended its strategic relationship with Qunar and prompting a price war between them.



For Ctrip, a strategic partnership with both Expedia and Priceline means access to broader inventories, which will help the channel to meet its objective of having wider product coverage. Already Ctrip has seen over 200 million downloads of its mobile application so far. Ctrip’s aim at the broader market has been quite visible for a while now. Earlier this year they entered into an agreement with Amadeus, whereby the GDS will provide content to Ctrip in international markets outside of China. With Chinese outbound travel growing at 20-30% buoyed by an increase in disposable income by the Chinese traveller and more flight routes and hotel inventory in new destinations will all help Ctrip capture the majority of these outbound bookings.

Over 100 million cash rich Chinese travelers are set to travel aboard this year in 2015. As more Chinese travelers travel beyond Asia, with strong branding and being a well-established online and offline channel make Ctrip best poised to benefit from the growing travel demand in China.  For the hotel industry trying to capture a piece this high growth Chinese market makes working with Ctrip a must.

Image Courtesy: FortuneLive Media, Ctrip
John Seaton is VP Sales, EMEA & APAC at eRevMax.  He can be reached at johns@erevmax.com