Hundreds of destination marketing leaders learned of the profound changes forecast for how, when and where people work, vacation and enjoy leisure time, thanks to a presentation Sunday by Delaware North at the U.S. Travel Association’s annual Educational Seminar for Tourism Organizations (ESTO) conference.
“Now What? Industry Insights Post COVID,” the opening keynote for the four-day conference in Grand Rapids, Mich., highlighted Delaware North’s most recent “future of” report, “The Future of Recreation, Travel and Hospitality,” or “FORTH,” released in June.
Delaware North CEO Jerry Jacobs Jr., who helped guide the global hospitality and entertainment company’s recovery from a near total shutdown during the pandemic, was joined by Brandon Presser, a noted travel writer, author, TV host and Executive Editor of FORTH, in presenting the report. They also discussed its ramifications for the travel industry during a panel that included Amir Eylon, President and CEO of Longwoods International.
“Today’s travel leaders are preparing for a future that promises to be more sustainable, more innovative and more secure for global travelers. It’s a priority shared by every segment of this industry in the United States and our partners in the federal government,” said Tori Emerson Barnes, Executive Vice President of Public Affairs and Policy at the U.S. Travel Association. “The Delaware North report, presented at U.S. Travel’s ESTO conference, offers valuable observations on the future of travel and recreation in the years ahead.” The FORTH report charts the possible course of massive social transformations and explores how emerging technologies might forever alter hospitality and travel businesses, including how climate change and other factors could significantly impact travelers’ destination selection. A team of 16 veteran journalists, including Presser and members of Attention Span Media, interviewed experts across diverse industries to produce the report.
“Like many other hospitality, travel and foodservice businesses, Delaware North had to fight for survival during the pandemic and adapt to daily changes in circumstances,” Jacobs said. “Nothing could be more timely or important than taking time to understand the seismic shifts that are taking place in our business and trying to understand where we are headed and to better understand the changes our customers now want and expect.”
Jacobs said Delaware North has already begun to discuss how the company can use the report’s findings to shape investments and business lines going forward. Among the possibilities are exploring opportunities to acquire or build lodging adjacent to less well-known national parks and possibly under-developed northern regions.
“As summers grow hotter in parts of the South, we might start to see a phenomenon of ‘sunbirds’ – Southern residents who seek to spend the summer in the moderate temperatures afforded by the Great Lakes,” Jacobs said. “This presents the opportunity for tourism agencies and lodging companies to identify extended stay lodging to meet the rising demand.”
Among the report’s predictions:
- Work from anywhere will change the travel industry: The pandemic gave the white-collar workforce a crash course in working away from their offices. This tectonic shift creates massive new opportunities in the travel industry. Freedom to work from anywhere creates freedom elsewhere in people’s lives, including where they live and how much of their time they can spend traveling.
- A billion new travelers: By 2040, another billion people will be jetting off around the world as countries with young populations – especially in Asia – are poised to mint new legions of urbanized individuals with substantially higher earning power.
- Climate change will alter destinations: Climate change will attract travelers to northern destinations to experience longer tourist seasons. Beach destinations will begin to move northward. For example, the beaches of Maine could host the jet set that traditionally goes to South Beach in Miami.
- The sharing economy will dominate travel and leisure: Sharing platforms such as AirBnB will increasingly partner with a network of real estate developers, interior designers, property managers and cleaning services to develop an inventory that more closely mimics traditional lodging options in terms of price point and consistency.
- A new style of working: The remarkable rise of the gig economy – using short-term contract and freelance workers as opposed to permanent employees – has pulled workers away from lower-level jobs in the hospitality industry. It is a key reason they are not returning. The most advanced large employers will build their own gig-like apps to maintain an available workforce while providing employees the flexibility they desire.
- Blockchain revolutionizes airport security: A decade from now, most passports may well be backed not by the full faith and credit of the government, but rather by the blockchain. This readily accessible and ubiquitous digital identity platform will transform the travel experience.
Delaware North’s first two “Future Of” reports, in 2015 and 2016, focused on sports and correctly predicted the rise of esports, the legalization and proliferation of sports betting in the United States and the move to live stream sports events. Subsequent reports focused on parks, as well as medicine, which was undertaken because of the Jacobs family’s strong support of the University at Buffalo and its Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.