Digital on the Rise: 3 of the Hottest Tech Trends in Hospitality in 2024

Upcoming digital trends for the hospitality industry are beginning to reveal themselves, and it’s a mixture of the expected and the not-so-expected. For example, we’ve known that the use of AI for both travelers and destination marketers is growing quickly, but this year we’re going to find out just how much – and how fast. (Spoiler alert: It’s a tsunami.)

Here, we’re diving into a few of the tech-related trends that hospitality professionals should know heading into the new year.

1. Generative AI

For a long time, artificial intelligence was a futuristic, intangible concept that only appeared in sci-fi movies. But in 2023, it landed squarely in real life, giving us a new way to research, create, and problem-solve. 2024 will be the year that we move from the “shiny new toy” stage to understanding just what AI can do, and how it can bring more opportunities to the table.

From a hospitality marketing perspective, generative AI has already started making waves. According to a recent Sojern study, AI will have a “monumental influence” on how destinations market to travelers. The main areas of focus seem to be content creation (49 percent) and predictive analysis and forecasting (40 percent), as well as data analysis and content personalization.

In stark contrast, the same study revealed that 71 percent of DMOs don’t believe that AI will have much impact on their team, especially in areas of creation and optimization, creative media, and web, app, and platform creation.

Wherever you fall on this spectrum, the first step is to really understand what the current state of AI is capable of (and what it’s not) for not only your team, but for travelers as well.

AI for Marketing
One of the biggest changes AI is bringing to the marketing industry across the board is the ability to better understand and analyze data. While some larger companies have experts on staff or third-party partners who have traditionally done this work for them, many agencies do their best to understand it themselves.

When you pour all of your data points into an AI bot, however, you can get bigger, better insights into your customers – their journey, their behaviors, their intent, and so much more. AI can help optimize marketing campaigns and create personalized experiences, but what it can’t do with any consistency or quality right now is design and write.

That all might sound a bit daunting. But once you understand the basics of AI, what it can and cannot do, and how to make it do what you need it to do, it can truly change the marketing game.

AI for Travelers
The concept of texting to request housekeeping service or getting a dinner reservation is still somewhat new. But now that travelers know it’s possible, they aren’t going back. AI is making everything about travel easier, but one of the biggest game-changers is its ability to help plan trips. AI can help aggregate property reviews to give an overview of the general consensus, and it can make actual relevant recommendations for travelers who know what they want but are not sure where to get it (goodbye, manually written “What’s Your Travel Personality?” quizzes with limited, pre-programmed responses) and to track prices online.

Expedia has been using AI for a while now to power customizations like price tracking and personalized recommendations. In April, the company signed a partnership with ChatGPT to act as a chatbot within the app.

2. Year-Round Paid Media Investments

The Sojern survey discovered that 96 percent of DMOs are making “significant” investments in paid media for their marketing campaigns. The number of marketers who take a year-round approach is at 58 percent, with an immense focus on social media advertising and search engine marketing.

Some of the more traditional tactics include keyword buys on Google Ads, targeted paid social media, and especially for destinations, paid influencer partnerships. But one interesting trend is using earned media as paid media through third-party endorsements. Here’s an example: A national media outlet ranks your city or property as one of the best places to visit in 2024. DMOs, in turn, share and promote that media article as a sponsored ad.

For many DMOs, the year-round spend makes more sense than just a seasonal or special-occasion push, especially to maintain brand awareness and search rankings. It’s also an opportunity to tailor the basic brand story to fit local events, holidays, and travel peaks.

To achieve the highest ROI on your paid media campaigns, we recommend setting clear goals, targeting your audiences effectively, developing strong messaging and creative, and committing to constant analysis and optimization (something AI can help with!).

3. Navigating the Post-Cookie Internet

Google is eliminating third-party cookies – which track a user’s browsing data – in mid-2024. As a result, the marketing agencies that rely on cookies to better understand their customers are in a scramble to figure out what’s next.

For consumers, this is a bit of a win/lose situation. Many have been wary of cookies for some time now, but they also seek personalization – something cookies provide. Google says it has no plans to replace the concept of cookies, and the business that comes up with a viable (even better!) alternative will set the new standard moving forward.

In the meantime, marketers plan to rely more heavily on first-party data. This may be one reason that the trend toward paid social and search media is on the rise at the same time.

Other digital trends on the radar include AI-driven search recommendations, personalization, and favoring a more automated front desk. Keeping up with these fast-developing trends can be overwhelming, but Hawthorn Creative has a team of experts who can help you determine the right paths for your organization.