Marriott: Future trends in travel

HONG KONG, 17 September 2021: There are grounds for optimism over travel rebound as dominant trends emerge, such as safety and cleanliness, events that mix and match in-person and virtual formats and holidays that deliver wellness and cut stress.  

In a nutshell, those were the takeaways from Marriott International’s first hybrid event in the Asia Pacific – “Be There with Marriott International – The Path Forward for Travel and Events”.

More than 1,100 travel industry professionals from the Asia Pacific participated in the panel discussion held last week combining virtual and in-person formats.

Topics focused on emerging travel trends, changing business travel policies, events and luxury travel, and consumer behaviour in a post-pandemic era.

Standout trends to watch

Customer experience is still key: Cleanliness remains the top priority for many consumers, and expectations around safety and hygiene have increased dramatically as part of the customer experience. Social distancing, facemasks and hand sanitizers are expected essentials. Marriott International offers event organisers tips on setting up events in the new normal through the company’s ‘Connect with Confidence’ commitment.

Hybrid events become de facto: There has been rapid adoption of technology and digitalisation across the MICE industry. Virtual events were the norm at the peak of the pandemic. However, 47% of respondents surveyed post-event said that more than half of their events next year would revert to an offline format. Hybrid events, which combine live interactions and the convenience of going digital, are expected to become the de facto meeting format.

Planning events in the ‘new normal’ have taught Industry leaders to keep testing, thinking, assessing and learning, so they can be nimble and change what is not working. MICE industry leaders must recognise the importance and power of face-to-face meetings complemented by hybrid technology in bringing out the human experience and connection.

As borders reopen, customers will seek events that are more intimate; and the networking that comes with these events will also be prioritised given many lost connections over the pandemic.

Wellness is the new luxury: The pandemic gave travellers an opportunity to think about rebooting travel for the better. Wellness travel, associated with the pursuit of enhancing personal well-being, is driving demand for weekend anti-stress getaways, hidden all-inclusive resort stays, spiritual retreats and off-the-beaten-track emerging destinations.

According to a survey conducted by Marriott International, three in four travellers surveyed indicated the desire to travel to relieve stress. There is a higher demand for slow travel, where people are slowing down and visiting just one place, taking their time to get familiar with the destination and its surroundings and culture, rather than a fleeting visit. Industry leaders should adapt to these rising trends and curate experiences that cater to changing market demands.

In partnership with technology partner, NowEvents, the hybrid event took place in Renaissance Hong Kong Harbour View Hotel, The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore and JW Marriott Gold Coast Resort & Spa. The in-person events saw the use of technology where panellists appeared to be in the same room even though in different locations.

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