Usually, we spend each issue of Trendline focused on one of TrendWatching’s Mega-Trends—their comprehensive list of the ways in which human needs and expectations are changing while defining modern consumerism.
But in these not-so-usual times, our attention is laser-focused on the trends that can guide the hospitality industry through COVID-19 and beyond.
With more than 300 other industry experts, we’ve kicked off a unique project that’s examining hospitality’s needs in both the short-term and in the near future. In our work with this project, The Hotel of Tomorrow®, we’ve spent the past month sourcing inspiration and sharing research to build a gallery of innovative ideas that will inform us in developing new concepts for hospitality.
Smart, or connected, spaces are not a new trend. With products like Nest or Alexa, many consumers already live in smart homes where their thermostats, lights and even lists of groceries are managed with smart devices and sensors.
With the proliferation of affordable sensors, there’s been an increasing amount of smart physical spaces—from hotel rooms to stadiums—already tracking and reacting to inhabitants in order to manage energy more efficiently, improve safety and more. Now, as businesses gradually reopen after isolation orders, they’re faced with the additional challenge of maintaining safe occupancy levels and safe distance between customers:
Surfaces in the physical world—from small screens to the sides of skyscrapers—are delivering dynamic and valuable messaging. Some of this messaging provides visualized data, like Hanwha Galleria in South Korea; its colorful facade dynamically changes hue to indicate the current level of air pollution. When fine dust levels are particularly bad, the mall gives complimentary face masks to visitors.
These messages can also be attuned to viewers’ emotional states. Recently, New York City’s Empire State Building has become a beacon of support for those suffering from COVID-19 and the frontline healthcare workers caring for them through an hourly light display that mimics a heartbeat. At Mircosoft’s campus in Redmond, Washington, the photo-luminescent installation Ada changes its hue in response to the facial expressions of the people around it, “reading the room” and displaying the general mood of the building’s occupants through light.
Architecture meets AI: The first architectural pavilion project to incorporate artificial intelligence, Ada’s knitted light immerses visitors in a responsive and interactive glow of photoluminescence driven by individual and collective human-expression data gathered and housed within Microsoft Research Building 99.
Orders to stay at home have resulted in a resurgence of enthusiasm for do-it-yourself projects, from baking to gardening. The billions of people who suddenly lost access to regularly used services discovered—or rediscovered—the joy of creating something with their own hands.
Meal kit services have provided a high level of convenience—both for consumers who started cooking for themselves for the first time, and for those balancing cooking with new demands on their time at home, such as round-the-clock childcare. Blue Apron alone added 25,000 subscribers in the first quarter of 2020.
Other brands that are reliant on physical locations—like hotels and retailers—found that they could stay top of mind with consumers by appealing to their stomachs. DoubleTree by Hilton revealed how to make the brand’s famed welcome cookies, while IKEA offered up its Swedish meatball recipe. But IKEA didn’t stop there:
— DIY.org (@DIY) May 27, 2020
Förtress: To brighten up consumers on lock-down, IKEA developed technical instructions for a variety of fanciful forts that can be built with their products.
Nintendo’s latest entry in their Animal Crossing series launched just in time to become the darling of the pandemic, offering virtual islands for escapism and self-expression. The game’s customization features are rife with opportunities for smart brands and even political movements—as seen in virtual stand-ins for real-life destinations and even virtual protests. Cultural institutions are even getting in on the fun.
— Getty (@GettyMuseum) April 27, 2020
Animal Crossing Art Generator: While The J. Paul Getty Museum is closed to visitors, they’ve created a tool to place your favorite works of art into Animal Crossing: New Horizons, the popular Nintendo Switch game that’s sold over 13 million copies since March 20, 2020.
Robotic technology is still advancing at a gradual pace, but interest in it has intensified in an effort to break the chain of disease transmission in cases where human-to-human contact is unnecessary. Some robots are getting more specialized—single purpose, but with complex functionality—such as agile, high-speed robots that can automate farming tasks like herding sheep.
Other robots have been developed to be emotional beings with distinct personalities. With inspiration from two of Hollywood’s cutest robots—the form of Star War’s BB-8 with a name reminiscent of WALL-E—Ballie can activate a home’s connected features while also feeling like a playful companion, not just a device.
Samsung Ballie: Introduced at the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show, the small rolling robot seeks solutions for people’s changing needs to be actively helpful around the house.
We usually wrap up Trendline with ideas about how the hospitality industry can translate these trends into new ideas for hotels and restaurants—but you’re going to have to wait just a little longer for those ideas this time. They’re currently underway—by the 300 designers, owners, operators, architects, research institutions and more who are collaborating in The Hotel of Tomorrow® Project. We look forward to sharing our final concepts in late summer 2020.
To keep up with the project’s news, we invite you to join our email list:
Trendline Issue 07 / Pricing Pandemonium
As consumers wade through a tsunami of competing offers, they expect something in return when they give a brand their loyalty: more recognition, personalization and trustworthiness.
How can hospitality brands evolve their loyalty programs to include creative new methods for both earning and redeeming points?