• Looking forward to 2014

Trips to Latvia, big sporting events and film-inspired tourism are all tipped to help drive the hotel market in 2014. Those are the predictions from Hotels.com, which has used a combination of web search evidence, and crystal ball gazing, to suggest how the coming year will look for the leisure sector.

Sporting events will drive tourist visits to several key destinations through the year. The new year starts with the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, while the world cup in Brazil kicks off in June. Hotels.com says it has already seen online searches for key dates in Brazilian cities rise fourfold. The winter games have led to the construction of 30 four and five star hotels and 54 three star hotels in the region.

In the UK, the Commonwealth Games being held at venues around Glasgow is expected to deliver around GBP30m of spend into the local economy, from 100,000 visitors. The Tour de France cycle race will also extend into Yorkshire during 2014, building on the growing influence of cycling and boosting the region’s visitor numbers. There will also be golf’s Ryder Cup, being hosted in 2014 at Gleneagles.

Latvia is tipped as a popular tourism destination during 2014. The country changes its currency to the Euro on January 1, and is also featured as the European Capital of Culture, with a year-long programme of events. Hotels.com says that, at an average of just GBP60 per night, the city’s hotels offer visitors great value.

Also in the spotlight will be locations that feature in films. Hotels.com says searches for hotels in Las Vegas spiked 159% after the 2013 release of Hangover III in May. A new film, simply titled Las Vegas, will launch in 2014 to keep the visitors coming to Sin City. Also potentially driving visitors will be a new Hobbit film, encouraging visits to New Zealand, and The Grand Budapest Hotel should give the Hungarian capital a boost.

The UK has been flat footed in responding to the significant growth in outbound Chinese tourism. Despite recent encouraging noises from the UK government, visitors from China are still liable to make costly and bureaucratic visa applications prior to travelling. A pilot has been promised that will link a UK application with the application for a Schengen visa. “We’re hopeful that the promised changes to the visa application process for Chinese visitors will soon come into force, encouraging more travellers from China to visit the country for business and pleasure,” said Hotels.com’s Alison Couper.

Finally, apps will play an increasing role in finding hotel accommodation, encouraging the growth in last minute bookings. Hotels.com’s own apps have been downloaded 25 million times, and are now being integrated into in-car systems. The company has teamed up with Ford to put an app within the car’s information system, heralding the day of hands-free, in-car hotel booking.

 

HA Perspective: Event-driven travel has long been viewed by the hotel sector as the chance to indulge in some spectacular rate increasing and really shake down those customers whose life ambition is to attend the World Cup or Olympics.

This sometimes works, but largely there is disappointment on the one side and anger on the other. The rise of the online travel agents has also meant that, through greater transparency and the chance for comparison, it has become harder to jack up rates around events and get away with it.

One of the more interesting aspects of this study is its source – Hotels.com, one of these pesky OTAs. The underlying message of the report for the hotel sector is that the OTAs are a) already preparing for these events and b) have already seen potential guests using them to search for rooms. This means that c) hotels need to work out how to effectively compete with the intermediaries but also, how best to work with them, both to sell rooms and harness their significant marketing powers.

Too much of the past few years has been about OTA-bashing, maybe 2014 will be the year in which hotels stop taking the lazy route of attacking them while blindly using them to sell rooms and take the time to create strategies to work together.

 

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