Travel 2015: The Hotel and Resort Stories of the Year
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2015 signaled another productive year for the travel industry, and the hospitality sector in particular.
There was expansion, there were acquisitions, mergers and several new trends that emerged. And as technology continues to advance, hotel companies are faced with the challenge of searching for new ways to attract and appeal to travelers.
But we'll worry about that in 2016.
With 2015 coming to a close, let's take a moment to reflect and revisit the year's most notable hotel and resort stories.
Starwood Merges with Marriott
Starwood Hotels & Resorts began the year with high expectations. But following the resignation of president and CEO Frits van Paasschen in February, many began to speculate about the company's future.
Despite swirling rumors that Starwood was poised to be purchased by Hyatt Hotels or one of three interested Chinese buyers, the company confirmed a merger with Marriott International in November. While surprising, Marriott's acquisition of Starwood, its many recognizable brands and the beloved Starwood Preferred Guest loyalty program, is set to produce the world's largest hotel company.
With the deal expected to close in 2016, this story will be one to watch throughout the new year.
Expedia Acquires Travelocity, Orbitz
In January, Expedia announced that it would acquire Travelocity in a $280 million deal.
Just weeks later, Expedia announced that it would acquire Orbitz Worldwide and all of its brands in a $1.6 billion deal. At the time, Expedia president and CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said the "acquisition will allow us to deliver best-in-class experiences to an even wider set of travelers all over the world."
The purchase was met with resistance from the hotel industry, though, as the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA) expressed concern over Expedia's acquisition of Orbitz and encouraged the Department of Justice to prevent the deal from being completed.
Nonetheless, the purchase was made official in September, with Expedia cementing its status as king of the OTAs.
Hotels Do Away with Adult Entertainment
With most hotel guests traveling with smartphones, tablets and laptops nowadays, a pair of hotel giants announced they would be doing away with in-room on-demand adult entertainment in 2015.
In August, Hilton Worldwide confirmed it would begin phasing out pornographic content at all of its hotels around the world. Two months later, Hyatt Hotels announced that it would no longer offer on-demand adult entertainment to its guests.
Both announcements were met with praise from the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE), with the organization encouraging guests to show their gratitude by staying at the companies' various brands.
The year began with short-term vacation rental service Airbnb announcing that it had paid millions in hotel taxes and penalties to its hometown of San Francisco. But since then, it's been mostly smooth sailing for the company, which continued to expand in 2015.
Airbnb announced over the summer that its business travel program had grown by 700 percent since its July 2014 launch and followed that up with an expanded selection of tools for participating companies.
Just recently Airbnb won a monumental decision in San Francisco, defeating a short-term rental service restriction measure. On top of that the company launched "smart pricing" to simplify hosting and boost revenue.
More Guests Booking through Mobile, Digital Channels
This past spring, data from Hotels.com's Hotel Price Index revealed a whopping 80 percent rise in mobile bookings from 2013 to 2014. One month later, TravelClick's North American Distribution Review showed an impressive jump in bookings made through digital channels, with OTAs experiencing a 15 percent increase in the first quarter of 2015 compared with the same period the previous year.
In November, TravelClick released another review showing that both mobile and digital channels were driving North American hotel bookings and revenue despite a declining reservation pace.
Watch for that trend to continue in 2016.
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