As the calendar year races to a close for 2017, I thought I'd recap on the changes in the global hospitality industry and look ahead to where 2018 will take us. I've gathered intel from hospitality industry luminaries finest to talk trends, the power of social media, and what's next in the world of travel and hotels; from solo travel, to laid back luxury, to the continued evolution of boutique hospitality.

(If you don't yet have a copy of my newly published book on customer service and hospitality, The Heart of Hospitality: Great Hotel and Restaurant Leaders Share Their Secrets [Micah Solomon, Select Books, New York], readers can get two free chapters here or purchase the book on Amazon.) 

Frances Kiradjian, CEO and Founder of Boutique & Lifestyle Lodging Association talks boutique hospitality evolution for 2018 - what's new and upcoming.

Micah Solomon: What's next for boutique hospitality in 2018? 

 Frances Kiradjian: Continued collaborations resulting in enhanced recognition, combined strategies and real ROI for the entities involved. We anticipate seeing more focus on direct bookings and implementation of technologies that serve to connect a guest to a property before they arrive and long after their stay. A concerted effort put forth by hoteliers, technologists, designers, developers, investors and all who are hospitality adjacent, will see further proliferation of practices that create an immersive, boutique experience.

 Micah Solomon: What is something you're excited for in 2018 - any restaurant / hotel opening / hospitality partnership?

Frances Kiradjian: In 2018, BLLA (Boutique & Lifestyle Lodging Association) will announce new partnerships, including an alliance with one of the most notable financial institutions in the world. Additionally, we're finalizing an educational program aimed at arming the next generation of boutique hoteliers with the industry knowledge needed to succeed.

The potential for lifestyle properties in 2018 knows no boundaries. The boutique boom that gained an unprecedented amount of traction recently won't be slowing anytime soon. Boutique and lifestyle brands will continue to expand globally. There now exists a Nobu in Vegas, Miami Beach and Manila with another five locations planned. Virgin recently announced their planned expansion into San Francisco and DC. Along with the growth of existing groups, we're sure to witness more brands gain their footing in this niche hotel sector (see Shade Hotels, which recently opened its second property). Disruption of the industry by boutique brands created a wave of inspired change. Rosewood Hotels is a perfect example of a group who is implementing dynamic marketing and branding strategies to appeal to tomorrow's patrons. Boutique didn't knock on the door of opportunity, we leveled it.

 Ariela Kiradjian, Vice President of Boutique & Lifestyle Lodging Association shares insight on millennials in the boutique hospitality:  

Micah Solomon: How is the world of boutique hospitality shifting from being just hotels, to a more boutique experience? 

Ariela Kiradjian: The hospitality industry is growing from what we traditionally think of as a hotel, to aspects much broader. Rosie O'Neill, the Co-Founder of Sugarfina, spoke at this year's BLLA Leadership Conference, about how she provides a "boutique experience" in her luxury candy shops. The hospitality industry is growing with a whole new generation who will create this new sector, "boutique hospitality" that will include boutique hotels, boutique restaurants & bars, boutique fitness studios and boutique retail shops, with Stay Boutique as the face of this next generation.

Micah Solomon: What will millennials seek out, in particular, in 2018?  (As you know, I extensively cover millennials as customers in my book, Your Customer is The Star, [Micah Solomon, Select Books, New York], as well as in my writing and consulting. Readers can get a free chapter of Your Customer is The Star here or purchase the book on Amazon.) 

 Ariela Kiradjian: Millennials are going to seek of course a continuation of "instagrammable moments" but they will also seek more engagement from businesses. This means that businesses need to go farther than the experience and create an immersion factor.

Micah Solomon: What is the next big thing for 2018 in hospitality? 

Ariela Kiradjian: There's a new generation of hospitality that will include Stay Boutique's entire boutique community. Something big is coming at the end of 2018 for the industry, but can't say quite yet what that is as we're collaborating with a lot of amazing brands to unveil this new disruption. But for 2018, the boutique industry will continue to grow and adapt to the current culture


John Graham, Managing Partner of Twin Farms in Vermont, shares intel on "laidback luxury" for 2018 and the solo travel trend that we will see integrated even further into hospitality in the new year.

Micah Solomon: What's the next big thing for travel in 2018? 

 John Graham, Twin Farms: Of course, everyone has been talking personalization, but we think the customer wants more - they want real relationships, and real connections.  They want to us to know who they are what they want, and don't want to have to answer silly questions for things we should be able to deduce on our own.  They want us to effectively read that their needs shift as they go through their stay.  Wanting us at times to engage and recognize when they prefer to be left in peace.   

Trend-wise, we will see and encourage "solo" travel.  Guests are happy to travel on their own, happy to experience wonderful food, settings and meaningful experiences - all on their own, particularly women.  See them processing major moments in life, celebrating milestones, breakups, sometimes processing loss, and moments self-reflection.  We see lots of really specific dietary needs and wants - and see our guests have become absolutely accustomed to those needs effortlessly catered to.  

Micah Solomon: There's been a lot of talk and movement toward "laid back luxury" - do you have any thoughts on this?

John Graham: We see laidback luxury more as a state of mind - and connect back to our guests desire to develop real as opposed to virtual connections and relationships.  Yes, they don't want to have what they can and cannot wear to dinner dictated - they never did.  They are about what is real -as opposed to fluff, and we'll see more and more hotels in the new year adapt to this.  The true luxury of having experiences that are genuinely memorable.


Sarah Evans, Partner at J Public Relations, and a well-known media maven and travel expert, shares thoughts on the power of social media. 

 Micah Solomon: How is social media affecting bookings for hotels?

Sarah Evans: Social media is driving people to book certain destinations and hotels by appealing to their sense of discovery, capturing their imaginations with high quality imagery and showcasing real-life experiences that their friends or family have shared - social media has taken traditional word of mouth and amplified it. Whether it's initial interest in a location from an influencer's post, a "like" on a friend's vacation photo, or a hotel's own Instagram content.  And, word of mouth via social channels and deliberate social media advertising is continuing to drive heads in beds.

Advertising via Facebook and Instagram is still relatively affordable in many cases, allowing venues of all sizes (and even those with smaller budgets) to compete and reach new customers in their key demographic and feeder markets - and it's working.

Micah Solomon: How is Instagram, in particular, shaping hospitality? 

Sarah Evans: Instagram is a travel inspiration and branding tool. Imagine having a gorgeous website but then an Instagram channel that doesn't match. Ensuring that a property has a gorgeous Instagram channel, is a key component in building an overall brand today. By setting up photographic moments at your property, your hotel has the opportunity to attract future guests that want to capture the same image. More and more people use Instagram as a travel guide.  People use destination hashtags and geotags to find inspiration for their own trips making it vital that hotels put thought into the little on-site details that make them "Instagrammable."

Influencers in the travel sector are providing additional exposure and impressions for travel and hotel brands, and should be used as brand ambassadors in 2018.

Micah Solomon: What's the next big thing for 2018? What will be trending in hotels next year?

Sarah Evans: Meaningful travel continues to dominate. People have limited time and they want their vacations to matter. Whether it's a volunteer vacation, a solo vacation or a multigenerational trip with your whole family, travelers are choosing deliberate experiences that mean more and have lasting memories. DNA Travel is also hot, mapping out destinations to visit based on your ancestry.


Erina Pindar (Managing Director) and Michael Holtz (Founder and CEO) of Smart Flyer, a "next generation luxury travel resource," share travel tips and tricks: 

Hottest travel trends: Active vacations are huge. A big segment of that is biking trips - bicycle outfitters are coming out strong and SmartFlyer is getting a lot of inquiries. It's a way to plan a trip and create an itinerary that digs deep into a destination.

New way to see a destination: River cruises with boutique outfitters, especially in more exotic destinations like Myanmar, we love Belmond's Road to Mandalay here. Also, Vietnam, going down the mighty Mekong river with Aqua Expeditions.

Aviation: Private aviation is becoming more affordable, and there are more ways to "buy it well." It will continue to grow and become more common with high-end clients. First-class airfare is more affordable for US travel than ever.  Delta has been the leader with domestic First Class fares that can be as little as $50 more than a coach ticket. This often includes a meal and a checked bag.


Destinations that will be big in 2018:  Here's what my industry contacts have been hearing and saying.

Southwest Ireland: Southwest Ireland is having a boom, from golf courses to castle re-openings to daily flights being added from the US to Ireland, 2018 will see the rise in travel to the Emerald Isle. One to watch: The recently debuted Adare Manor will open its golf course this coming spring, designed by Tom Fazio.

United Kingdom: With royal wedding fever in the air, and with the very low British Pound, 2018 will be the year of the UK. The Cotswolds also makes a comeback in 2018, with the newly opened Lygon Arms, a luxury property in the British countryside. The destination is also getting a music venue in 2018 run by husband and wife actors and the Downton Abbey farm is getting a major refurb.

Where to stay for the Royal Wedding: One option to consider is Cliveden House, an Italianate mansion located just 15 minutes from Windsor Castle.