Dubai, as ever, put on a spectacular New Year's Eve show to welcome in 2022 - and rightly so, too. There's a lot of positivity about the year ahead that deserves celebrating! Hotel demand is expected to reach pre-pandemic levels, and the GCC's F&B market is anticipated to reach US$36 billion.
It's definitely an exciting time for the hospitality sector, and there are opportunities aplenty for anyone looking to get their slice of the pie.
Here are three top trends to take advantage of in the coming year.
1 - Digitalisation and personalisation
While there was already a shift towards tech-driven experiences before the pandemic, COVID-19 has accelerated demand for smart solutions. As consumers, we've become accustomed to walking into a restaurant and scanning QR codes instead of browsing a physical menu, or using apps to order room service and check out of hotels.
This is just the tip of the iceberg; contactless is more than here to stay, it's here to thrive.
Tech offers the immense potential to deliver convenience, reassurance and safety as we continue to work through the pandemic. But perhaps an even greater opportunity is the ability to leverage smart solutions to offer the personalised service that consumers want.
A report by McKinsey & Company states that 71% of consumers expect companies to deliver personalised interactions, and that a whopping 76% get frustrated when it doesn't happen.
Figures like that make it pretty clear that a personal, technology-first approach is what's needed to succeed, earning this combination of trends the top spot on this list.
2 - Sustainability
This is another trend that's been growing over the last few years. The need for increased sustainability was catapulted into the spotlight early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, when images of a world in lockdown really drove home the impact we have on the environment. From clearer skies to dolphins swimming in crystalline Venice canals, we're perhaps more aware now than ever before of the need to cut back - and this shift in consciousness is rippling through the hospitality industry.
Three in 10 global consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable products and services, with many accepting to pay on average a premium of 25%.
This is something that's especially important to the Millennial and Gen Z generations - brands wanting to build long-lasting customer relationships should start to cater to their sustainability wants now.
In line with this trend is the want for more localised offerings. Restaurants showcasing local produce and hotels that openly support local businesses are in increasing demand. Why go through the emissions-heavy import process when there are perfectly good alternatives available on the doorstep?
The trend towards more sustainable practises is only going to grow in the GCC, especially as countries like the UAE continue to push strongly for a greener future.
3 - Essentialism
Inspired by the sustainable mindset shift, essentialism is pretty much as it sounds: cutting back to just the essentials.
Bars of soap, elaborate toiletries, a sewing kit and room slippers have been room staples for years. Now, inspired by 'travel guilt', consumers would rather see those extras sidelined. It's been brought to light just how wasteful these nice-to-haves can be, with initiatives such as Clean the World making it their mission to recycle discarded soap and plastic bottles from hotels.
That's not to say that guests don't want soaps and shampoo in their rooms - they're just looking for more eco-friendly alternatives, such as bulk dispensers.
The restaurant world can also benefit from tapping into the essentialism trend, especially when it comes to take-away and delivery orders. Cutting back on non-essentials and switching from plastics to alternative materials can help to win favour in the eyes of more sustainably-minded consumers.
One thing to bear in mind is that even though there's an expectation for less, the demand for quality is still high.
Essentialism isn't about cutting corners, it's about making conscious choices that benefit the planet and deliver to expectations.
Of course, there are even more exciting trends that are shaping the sector: staycations, the new 'bleisure' concept that combines business and leisure travel, customers' desire for unique experiences, and more cloud kitchens popping up around the region, to list just a handful.
There's also a strong focus on health and wellness in both the restaurant and hotel scenes. Reducetarianism - an alternative to the vegi- and flexitarian lifestyles that sees a reduction in the quantity of animal products consumed - is even slated to become more popular this year.
Overall, the shift is towards more conscious experiences. From thoughtful technology conveniences to making more mindful choices, consumers have increasing expectations for the brands they interact with to be in tune with their desire to have a more positive impact, both emotionally and physically.
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We’d love to explore how we may be able to support you with your guest experience, so please reach out and someone from our team will be in touch shortly.
PO Box 393942, Dubai, UAE