Last updated: 03:00 PM ET, Fri December 25 2015

Hotels Outlook 2016: The Biggest Stories For The Year Ahead

Hotel & Resort | Patrick Clarke | December 25, 2015

Hotels Outlook 2016: The Biggest Stories For The Year Ahead

With the holidays in full swing and 2015 wrapping up, it's time to look ahead.

Here are the biggest hotel stories we've got our eyes on heading into 2016.

Marriott, Starwood Merger

It's been less than two months since Marriott International announced plans to acquire Starwood Hotels & Resorts in a $12.2 billion blockbuster deal. While the acquisition won't be completed until mid-year 2016, Starwood has already named a new CEO to lead the transition and Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson has hinted that all of Starwood's brands should remain intact. 

Nonetheless, looking ahead to 2016, there are still plenty of questions that will need to be answered. Perhaps most importantly, what will become of Starwood Preferred Guest?

The popular loyalty reward program will merge with Marriott Rewards and Sorenson said that the final product will combine the best of each program. However what exactly the finished product will look like remains to be seen. 

That said, members of both programs will be watching closely throughout the new year. 

The Advancement of Mobile

As more hotel guests book rooms via mobile apps on their smartphones, hotels have begun to embrace mobile. 

Notably, in August 2014, Hilton began allowing guests to select their hotel room via a digital floorplan on their phone. Then, in August 2015, Hilton launched a digital key feature allowing its HHonors loyalty program members to skip past the front desk and unlock their room with their phone.

It's safe to say that technology will only improve in 2016, so guests should be excited for what's coming to their smartphone apps in the new year. 

The Emergence of Airbnb

2015 was a big year for short-term rental service Airbnb and the company's future appears even brighter.

Airbnb won a huge vote to defeat a measure that would have restricted short-term rental services in its hometown of San Francisco last month and recently launched a "smart pricing" feature that makes hosting even easier. In addition to attracting more hosts, the feature is sure to boost revenue for the company.

What's more, more and more boutique hotels are looking to Airbnb to list their available rooms. 

It's clear that Airbnb has presented a sizable disruption within the hotel industry, but 2016 should provide more clarity as well as answers to how hoteliers plan to combat that disruption. 

Water-Based Hotels

This past year generated plenty of buzz and excitement surrounding the potential for water-based hotels, whether above or below the surface. And we can only hope those ambitious designs take a step closer to becoming reality in 2016.

A floating luxury hotel room made headlines this past fall, but it was an eye-catching design for a floating hotel complete with a restaurant, pool and helipad that really got our attention. And if you're a fan of scuba diving, the Planet Ocean Underwater Hotel project is certainly worth keeping an eye on. After all, the project's managing director Tony Webb has received a U.S. patent for his design and efforts are already underway on a prototype. 

Here's to hoping that 2016 is the year of the water-based hotel.


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