Trendline Issue 05: Playsumers

Bi-Monthly Newsletter

Welcome to Trendline, a bi-monthly newsletter created in partnership between The Gettys Group Companies and TrendWatching. Here we examine TrendWatching’s global insights into numerous industries through the hospitality lens, considering the possible implications and applications to our industry. 

In each issue, we will focus on one of TrendWatching’s sixteen Mega-Trends—their comprehensive list of the ways in which human needs and expectations are changing while defining modern consumerism.


Issue 05 / Playsumers

In this issue, we’ll examine the trend of Playsumerism—our ageless quest for fun. No matter the age on our IDs, we welcome it when brands invite us to engage in play. Play brings joy, joy leads to positive affiliations with a brand—and that leads to increased brand value.

With mobile devices always at our fingertips and technology all around us, there is more opportunity than ever for brand engagement, interaction and play. As we examine these trends, the hospitality industry should consider:

  1. How can hospitality experiences be designed to activate hotel environments that create the conditions for play, particularly where some virtual element is integrated into a “real life” experience?

  2. Where does the unique brand voice and personality get integrated into the experience to ensure that each space, place and stay is tied to the brand promise and brand story?

  3. Where might there be partnership opportunities to develop, implement and maintain the freshness of these playful experiences?

Fantasy IRL

The line continues to blur between reality and fancifully imagined alternative realities, allowing us to experience more than one version of the world in the same place at the same time. This richer experience is nearly always available to us through smart devices, computers and game consoles—in both 2D and 3D, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). With that comes new ways to imagine, escape, explore, create and connect.

Iwamotocho Theater “Live” Performances: Viewers don VR headsets to visit this virtual theater, becoming part of the audience and waving virtual glowsticks at “live” performances by virtual J-pop groups.

To find the origins of this trend toward Fantasy In Real Life (IRL), we need only go back two years to what TrendWatching referred to as The Virtual Experience Economy.

In 2017, VR reached a tipping point of consumer access; smartphones became AR viewers through games like Pokémon Go, and Google Cardboard made VR readily available with an increasing library of content. More affordable, professional-quality and consumer-ready VR and AR head-mounted displays (HMDs) became available, allowing gamers, architects and the tech-curious to be transported to alternative and enhanced worlds. Escapist fantasy was becoming more accessible to all.

Urban Rivers Trashbot: When floating habitats on the Chicago River became clogged with trash, a prototype trash-collection robot proved not only efficient, but entertaining.

In 2018, online and offline gaming intersected in new and playful ways, such as a garbage-collection game created by Illinois non-profit Urban Rivers. Players use their keyboard in a web-based game to actually guide a real robot’s efforts to clean up the Chicago River.

"The Musée du Louvre had a record 10.2 million visitors in 2018—an increase of 25% in comparison with 2017. No other museum in the world has ever equaled this figure. Interest in the Louvre was bolstered by ...Beyoncé and JAY-Z’s “Apes**t” video, with its tribute to some of the museum’s greatest artworks."

-The Musée du Louvre, January 3, 2019

And finally, this past year, Beyoncé and JAY-Z’s music video for “Apesh*t”—shot on location in the Louvre, Paris—led to such an unprecedented spike in visitors to the museum that curators developed a tour based on the viral video.

Online and in-museum tours follow the Carters’ path from one masterpiece to the next while providing educational background about each work of art.

The Gettys Group Companies: It seems like the first adopters of the Fantasy IRL movement are brands with avid fans or loyalists—such as Nike’s use of digital avatars and hashtags to allow sneaker-heads to digitally wait in line before limited edition shoe releases. Do you think that hotels should be investing in online/offline playsumerism? Or is too early?

TrendWatching: Well, I can’t speak to the return on investment, but there is definitely a first-mover advantage to hotels and other hospitality companies if they can jump on it. An example is a project you guys at The Gettys Group Companies just collaborated on, the new Celebrity Edge ship. Projected video content of animated chefs has made that dining room the talk of the cruise industry—and has led to a huge spike in demand for trips on that ship.

Le Petit Chef: Ceiling-mounted projectors display a miniature chef who creatively plates virtual dishes before servers reveal the real dish.

TrendWatching: We’ve previously discussed how hotels are looking for ways to create programmed activations or events in their public areas as a way to bring guests to revenue-producing areas in the hotel and as a way to bring non-hotel guests into the building. Fantasy IRL could be a way to bridge that digital and physical divide and create some buzz and profit for these hotels. Have you designed anything like that into your projects?

The Gettys Group Companies: We’ve come up with some pretty cool stuff around that idea, but in a slightly different context; we proposed a tool for NASA’s Kennedy Space Center that would allow the people on tour buses of the launch sites to “time-travel” back to see historic launches through an AR app on their phones. Right now, we’re also building an AR app that brings portraits to life in a speakeasy so guests can “meet” the hero of our backstory. We think there is a really cool opportunity around AR to see something that happened at an earlier time using geolocation.


When we think about the possibilities of Fantasy IRL and Playsumerism, we should consider the broader motivation; we want our guests to experience moments of joy so that they form a positive association between our brands and their experience.

Play is a golden opportunity to create the conditions that allow consumers to form a positive and memorable relationship, particularly if we—as the brand curators—can help make some of their fantasies come alive.

For a complete list of Mega-Trends and more examples of trends being spotted around the world, please visit

Read the Previous Issue


Trendline Issue 04 / Youniverse

In a consumer’s personal “youniverse”, their individual preferences reign supreme, changing expectations from a hope for to a demand for customized products, services and experiences.

How will hotels—which have traditionally been designed to serve the masses and appeal to the widest possible common denominator—incorporate new thinking to personalize offerings?

Read more…

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With a passion for pioneering ideas and new approaches to hospitality, Ron identifies strategic growth initiatives for the company and serves as the lead in charge of the Branding Group, directing planning, design and strategic thinking for projects ranging from boutique properties, large-scale events and international brands. A collaborative and an innovative thinker, Ron has shaped dozens of hotel, resort and brand initiatives during his three decades at The Gettys Group Companies.



Maxwell is the head of TrendWatching’s North America office. He speaks at conferences around the world and delivers consumer insights to clients such as Google, the Walt Disney Imagineers, Spotify and the Dubai government. Max has been quoted by The Financial Times, strategy+business and The Next Web. He previously ran the company's 3000-member spotter network and wrote the book Trend-Driven Innovation.