December may be a time to reflect, but January is a time for renewal and forward-thinking. No industry adapts and evolves better than travel, and here are a few predictions we at AllTheRooms see through our crystal ball.
More Ambiguity Between Hotels and Vacation Rentals
It's no secret the vacation rental market really took shape against the standard hotel option in 2014. Now there are a slew of companies trying to find a niche and get a piece of Airbnb's revenue. A not-so-surprising evolution of sites like Onefinestay will attempt to offer the best of both worlds. As some rentals attempt to sway potential customers with amenities and services hotels currently offer, a new trend called a "poshtel" is starting to take shape. It's exactly what it sounds like, combining the affordability of hostels with the ambiance and amenities of hotels. Many are getting into the action and fixing up their low-end properties to appeal to budget-conscious travelers. Places like AllTheRooms that offer every type of accommodation will see higher interest as people look for more variety than standard hotel and vacation rental sites.
Mobile Concierge and Front Desk
As apps become more and more commonplace it's no surprise many hotels are adapting to stay hip, and now allow check-ins on phones. Marriott and Starwood are already implementing it, and there's an app called CheckMate that allows any hotel to implement so customers can avoid the front desk completely. Imagine getting a text confirming your room is ready, then bypassing the lobby completely, and just walking to your room and opening it with your device. At some point a lobby might go away completely, as many properties are already using a virtual concierge to help guests make plans during their stay. Sites like Jetsetter and Mr. & Mrs. Smith already offer a personal planning service. You'll soon even be able to make a hotel and restaurant reservation from your car .
New Wave of Uber-Style Travel Sites
Uber created a monster with its ride-sharing idea for cars. Now everyone is trying to get their hands on it to be the "Uber of Something Else Travel-Related." In the air space BlackJet, Flytenow and JetSmarter are trying to bring private plane travel to the masses. Obviously it's not going to be as cheap as flying coach between L.A. and San Francisco, but it's appealing for those who have a little extra money. For restaurants try Reserve or Cover, which is a concierge-type app for booking a table at your favorite restaurant. Uber itself is in the mix, working with Hyatt to integrate their app for hotel stays. There are too many Uber-style apps for activities to even mention here.
Tracking Anything and Everything While Traveling
These phones we have are amazing pieces of tech for the discerning traveler. First you can track your flight with an app. You can track when your room is ready. You can track how long it walk to your destination from the hotel. You can track when your table will be ready. Want to steal that hotel towel? Be warned because it might have a flight tracking chip in it. You can even track your luggage to make sure it's in the belly of the plane.
Peer-To-Peer Meals & Activities
Believe it or not, eating with a local is becoming a big thing in Europe. People go to local homes and try their cuisine. This started with home-sharing sites where locals rented out their rooms, then offered meals (all-inclusive) as well. EatWith.com is one of the many companies that are starting a trend. Eat pasta with Leonardo in his Venice apartment overlooking the sea, have crepes with Pierre in his South of France villa, or have Paella with Miguel in his Barcelona flat over Las Ramblas. If you're looking to tour right there are also loads of city guides who will show you the sights, give insight, tips, and take you to places that are off the beaten path. Sites like SideTour and Vayable are there to give unique experiences by insiders from that destination.
Every couple years a few companies try to get into the last-minute game. LastMinute and Hotwire were built on this model, and sites like HotelTonight, AllTheRooms and Groupon are making it even easier to find distressed inventory. It's growing into other areas of travel too. Goldstar and Scalpr are pushing unused event tickets, while GameTime and Tickts are planning to nail down the sports market. While last-minute airlines are still trying to figure out rules and regulations there are some like AirFareIQ.com and SkippLagge attempting to work around the system (and getting sued along the way). Some sites have pricing grids that show the range of prices, just like hotels. Air New Zealand already might be leading the way with their Grab A Seat option that marks down fares that are departing in the next couple weeks.
Mergers and Acquisitions, Oh My
We saw Priceline purchase Kayak, Expedia partner with Travelocity, TripAdvisor acquire Viator, and so on. So who is next? Travelzoo has had rumors in the past with Priceline, and their stock is at one of their all-time lows. Orbitz is still out there alone in the OTA world, but how long will they last? Amazon is already starting to dive into the hotel space after an almost decade-long hiatus and might look to buy instead of grow, and eBay will most likely jump into the fray sooner rather than later. Yelp is still out there, too. They could go either way - purchase a smaller travel company and integrate it or get acquired for a hefty sum. Google already tried a couple years ago before walking away, but either Yahoo! or Facebook could make a bold acquisition with their billions in the bank.