Bob Diener – Co-Founder of

Hotel operators can expect 2015 to be a significant year, with the country jumping out of the recession, which in turn encourages people to travel more often. Rates and occupancy levels will be higher, especially for the upscale properties that will see continued demand from affluent consumers.

What does the future hold for the industry in 2015? Here are four trends that will shape the New Year:

Mobile technology transforms the hotel experience. Smartphones and tablets have fundamentally changed how consumers process information and conduct transactions and altered how businesses operate. The hotel industry must recognize this shift and continue to allow transactions and other actions to be completed through mobile devices. Hotels will build more refined branded apps in 2015 that offer mobile check-in and check-out and give users the ability to place special requests such as a higher floor room or a separate mini-fridge. It also gives the hotel a conduit for third-party offers, such as daily deals for area attractions. App users generate data, which can be valuable for hotel management that want to tailor offers to certain groups.

Specialty hotels will see continued growth. Destination hotels that offer focused programs for yoga, spa services or health will enjoy fast growth. Travelers want to combine their core activities and interests with their vacations, and specialty hotels can carve out profitable niches by offering a unique experience at a premium price point. These types of hotels are becoming more mainstream and mirror the younger generations desire to be more active while on vacation.

Free (and fast) Wi-Fi is vital. The Millennial generation expects to have online access that is easily accessible and operates at a fast speed. For hotels, offering Wi-Fi is an important amenity, and operators will need to spend more to ensure guests are satisfied with their internet connectivity. Poor Wi-Fi can be a black mark on a hotel’s reputation as it turns away both personal and business travelers. Wi-Fi will increasingly be free (every coffee shop offers it), but there are some chains such as Hyatt that are offering tiered connections, with the fastest speeds requiring a fee. Spending on IT in 2015 will increase as hotels need to ramp up Wi-Fi speeds, improve their apps, and streamline booking processes.

Social media will drive traffic. Many hotels are setting up direct booking through Facebook and pushing efforts to attract more “likes” and “followers”. Travelers often use Facebook as a place to search for information (bypassing search engines), so hotels need to make it easy to move from their Facebook page to a direct reservation. Hotel operators will use Facebook to feature one-day sales and other promotions to increase loyalty and drive reservations during slower periods. Twitter is ideal for such communications due to its immediacy and potential for viral sharing. Hotels such as Hyatt have even created “Twitter Concierge” pages. Facebook is also a convenient communication tool that allows hotels to respond to posts or engage in private chats with potential guests or current guests.

New technology and consumer demand is at the heart of the changing hotel industry. Operators should put in place strategies to match this demand order to remain competitive in 2015 and beyond.