Column: The Travel Forecast for 2016

Ruthanne Terrero, CTC, vice president–Content/editorial director
Ruthanne Terrero, CTC, vice president–Content/editorial director

1 Hotel consolidation: What do you do when Marriott buys Starwood and Accor buys the holding company for Fairmont, Raffles and Swissôtel? That’s what’s happening in 2016 if all goes according to plan and the bottom line is that brands may be consolidated. Some may go away, others may get larger as more properties fall under their umbrella. Loyalty programs will be combined, which always creates angst for the consumer, and when there’s angst for the consumer, there’s angst for you. Remember that knowledge is power so keep informed of what’s happening by relying on your local sales reps to explain any changes you’ll need to know about.

2 More cruise ships: 2016 is going to be a stellar year for new vessels and we all know people love shiny new boats to sail on. Watch for Holland America’s Koningsdam; Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of the Seas and Harmony of the Seas; Viking Ocean Cruises’ Viking Sea; Carnival’s Carnival Vista; Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ Seven Seas Explorer and Seabourn’s Seabourn Encore to debut and be ready to synergize your efforts with any marketing programs being promoted in the consumer marketplace. The all-new Crystal River Cruises launches the Crystal Mozart in the coming year with more on the way for 2017; watch for new vessels as well from Viking River Cruises, AmaWaterways, Avalon Waterways, Scenic Cruises, Haimark and Uniworld.

3 Hip new hotel brands: Marriott’s Moxy, Red Lion’s Hotel RL, IHG’s EVEN, Best Western’s Vib and Canopy by Hilton will become more prolific and all are geared to the Millennial mindset. Know the difference for each so you’ll be able to answer your clients’ questions about them. Look here for a primer on these and more.

4 On the luxury front: There are plenty of sparkling new hotels opening, such as Amanera in the Dominican Republic; Canyon Ranch in Bodrum, Turkey; Four Seasons on Oahu and in Dubai, where Jumeirah Al Naseem will also debut; Il Sereno on Lake Como, Italy; Park Hyatt in St. Kitts; Rosewood in Puebla, Mexico; St. Regis in Mumbai; The Beekman in downtown New York; the Branson Estate on Moskito Island, BVI; the Fontenay in Hamburg, Germany and Ritz-Carltons in Geneva and Budapest. Yes, please.

5 Improved travel product: What’s great about all of the above is that innovation rules on all fronts. Whether it’s the authentic experiences tour operators are offering their guests, fascinating new technology on cruise ships, or service levels in hotels and on sea reaching new highs, the travel product you’re able to offer your clients is getting better and better as suppliers try to stand out from the fray. This is true for all product levels, by the way; it’s often the mass-market or premium-level players, where competition can often be the fiercest, that raise the bar on innovation for the entire industry.