Hotel and Resort Trends for 2021 and Beyond

As the world, some parts more than others, finally starts to get past COVID-19, people are more excited than ever to get out and explore. Many experts predict a great resurgence of restaurants and resorts — busier lobbies, fuller dining rooms, and more profitable gift shops than anything even before the pandemic.

But the excitement of the return of maskless vacations and in-person conferences will only sustain the industry so long. Leading hotels and resorts are already eyeing the next hot trends and consumer demands — always seeking to stay one step ahead.

Here are our top trends for hotels and resorts in 2021 and beyond:

Smart Rooms

This one’s not a new trend, but more like one that’s become a necessity for any accommodations beyond the basic budget-friendly hotel. Guests, especially after the coronavirus, want to be able to check-in without (gasp!) encountering a human. They’d love to use their phone as the key and go from the hotel to car rental to room without paperwork or small talk.

In the room, “smart” can mean a tablet that controls the shades and temperature (bonus points if you can also order room service or control the entertainment systems from the same tablet). But some resorts are deploying integrated systems that remember the guest’s preferences from previous stays (or even stays at sister properties) and provide the perfect temperature, lighting, and even aromas from the moment the guest arrives.

The trend has benefits for properties, too. This includes enhanced security controls and fewer demands on staff. Plus, smart rooms can sense when guests have left and adjust energy consumption to keep power bills lower. Other than resorts or unique experiences, a smart room might not sway very many guests to make a first-time reservation, but you can bet the delightful experience will increase the chances they make a return visit.

Local Tourism

This used to just be for cash or time-strapped individuals and families, but for those hesitant to travel amid the pandemic but dying to get out of the house, “staycations” became a popular solution. Guess what? Many have realized just how fun, easy, and inexpensive they can be for a long weekend “away.” When you only have three days — the less travel, the better.

One male and one female bartender, dressed in black, working behind a luxurious hotel bar with mirrors and gold columns behind them

Hotels can take advantage of this by partnering with local attractions to create packages and undertake co-marketing initiatives to drive people to experience what’s waiting for them just down the street. Host a happy hour with a flight of cocktails with ingredients from locally sourced distilleries or provide complimentary transportation to popular hot spots.

You don’t have to be a major resort to make guests feel like they’ve escaped reality. Invest in easy-to-host programs and make improvements to standard amenities so guests feel like they’ve gone at least 100 miles, not 10.

Soft Brands & Boutique Hotels

Millennials and future generations are less keen on big brands. They’ll happily bypass the benefits of efficiency to access a unique (feeling) experience. Of course, this becomes even more pronounced for those on a “staycation.” If they’re going to stay in town, they might as well do it while snapping pics in front of a hotel marquee that can’t be found in every single city across the country.

Larger chains are taking advantage of this by either building their own, or buying existing, boutique hotel experiences. Because of their size, this comes with the benefits of a stronger, more diverse supply chain — lower costs, proven systems, and better marketing.

Independent hotels are catching on and maintaining their autonomous style while benefiting from the infrastructure of large existing brands by loosely, but officially, associating themselves with well-known chains.

Did that 40 room inn down the street just associate themselves with “Big Holiday Hotel” or did “Big Holiday Hotel” build it from scratch? Guests might not know or notice, but operators are seeing the impact on their bottom line.

Green Initiatives

After jetting off to vacation, guests often want to leave a lighter carbon footprint on their destination. This trend became more pronounced with millennials, but again, it’s nothing the baby boomer generation hasn’t seen. The difference? Future generations are continuing what the millennials brought back, but to an even greater degree.

Adjusting your property to serve this trend could improve guest perception and increase rebookings. But unlike most smart hotel amenities, this can actually make the difference when enticing potential guests. If someone can stay at your hotel, not lose any comfort or amenities, but feel more responsible while they do it, the choice is pretty simple.

Asking guests to reuse their towels isn’t going to be enough. Hotels need to make conscious efforts in the design of the property from the ground up or be willing to substantially invest in improvements that reduce power and water usage. If hotels can generate their own power (hint Coastal Solar specializes in solar power for hotels), even better.

More hotels are seeking LEED certifications or just otherwise making sustainability an actual priority. It’s for a good reason, too…

Sustainability efforts like solar power not only please guests and increase bookings, but actually reduce costs and more than pay for themselves — even without a bump in additional bookings.

Guests are also looking for sustainable, farm-to-table dining options. If you can add those to your offering (or link arms with an existing one), you’ll benefit. See more of our favorite farm-to-table restaurants and green hotels.

Unique Accommodations

Whether guests are looking for a hip staycation spot, or they’re traveling hundreds of miles, they want unique experiences. The itch boutique hotels used to scratch now takes something a bit more extreme.

Outside of a large, tan, modern tour bus parked on a street.

With more people than ever blending work and vacations, hotels need to be conduits for this guest preference. Some properties include full-fledged coworking spaces for their guests — sorry, that business center with the printer that never works isn’t going to cut it anymore.

Others have commingling or cohabitating spaces that are essentially luxurious hostels. Not all guests choose this for budgetary reasons, but (no, really) for the experience itself. Does your ideal guest fit into this group?

A coworking space inside of a hotel. Long wooden tables with a nicely-appointed, backlit wood bookshelf behind them.

Of course there are also the extremes — underwater hotels or those smack in the middle of a wildlife preserve are guaranteed to get attention. But that’s hard to do for existing properties in a set location. Of course, not all hotels are in a set location…

One final extreme, just for fun — traveling hotels are rising in popularity. These are small bunk rooms on luxury-style busses (usually manufactured by a brand like Prevost) that give each rider a private space, bed, TV, and access to amenities like a nice, shared bathroom and even a shower. The point of these? Usually the bus starts in one location and ends hours away. So basically it’s a great way to leave San Francisco in the evening and wake up well rested for your 8am meeting in Los Angeles.

High-end art gallery experiences

You’re probably familiar with the Bellagio Conservatory. It’s the famed lobby of the Las Vegas icon that has dozens of full-time staff members who create unique, seasonable exhibits. It’s free to visit and is on many Vegas tourists’ must-see list. Of course, the Bellagio knows that a bunch of those visitors will also be stopping by the casino or splurging on an exorbitant meal at Michael Mina.

But your property doesn’t need to be in Vegas to capitalize on this trend. Guests, especially those looking for boutique experiences or a local getaway, will go out of the way to stay somewhere with great art. Count it as part of the “experience” they’re looking for.

21C Museum hotels has made an entire brand out of the concept of blending art galleries with accommodations. From Louisville to Chicago, their properties are thriving. And given the experience-heavy focus, probably fared better than most during the pandemic.

inside of an art gallery with pictures hanging on the walls. 4 exterior walls are white and two interior walls are red and yellow and form aisles. The ceiling has glass panels for natural light.

You don’t need a Picasso to use art as a driver for business. Hiring local artists or partnering with talented designers can make even a standard hotel stand out. This, again, might not result in more initial bookings, but will mean that those guests will choose your property every time they come back in the future.

Here’s to a stronger future

Guest preferences are always changing, and those in the hotel industry have the exciting challenge of meeting those demands. There’s no reason for even a basic hotel chain location to be stagnant.

Employing new techniques or incorporating green practices (ahem, a few solar panels would look nice on your hotel) could make you stand out and work better than any old loyalty card ever could.

We’re thankful to serve the hospitality industry, and boy are we glad to see you back. We’ll meet you in the lobby!

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