The Forecast: What We’re Seeing for 2019

As we reflect on this past year and all the changes and innovations that shaped travel, hospitality, and design in 2018, we welcome and celebrate new beginnings, adventures, and opportunities. Over the past year, we saw the Instagram aesthetic continue to dominate, hotel lobbies emerged as hotspots, a cruising boom, and CBD was everywhere, adding another element to wellness-centric travel.

Will 2019 be the year audio immersive travel experiences and “retailtainment” become the norm? Will we look to the countryside when booking a highly-curated cultural getaway? Should we squeeze in a visit to Japan’s remote beaches on our next jaunt to Tokyo?

Read on for our 2019 travel and design forecast.

Transformative Travel Without Leaving Your Zip Code 

We were fascinated by what the New York Times Magazine produced in their recent “Voyages” issue. Editor-in-Chief Jake Silverstein introduced the publication’s first ever audio immersive travel experience whereby readers were asked to play a guided soundtrack while thumbing through images of far-flung destinations. This was an experiment dealing with sense of sound. In his intro, he poses the question to readers “what if we travel to hear?” Our sense of listening has become an extremely important part of the transformative travel equation. Through newer ways of storytelling, audio immersive experiences are on the rise. One can experience the crackle of volcanic lava in Hawaii without even leaving your home!

Destinations are also picking up on the trend. At a recent “Uncover Puerto Rico” event, the space was completely transformed to make guests feel like they were immersed in the destination through projected images, sounds of coquí frogs, the ocean, birds, as well as diffused tropical scents of Puerto Rico. “To help make sure people understand the rich beauty and culture of Puerto Rico, which is as enchanting today as it was before 2017, the event featured sensory experiences that illuminated all that is wonderful and vibrant about the destination.” – Tavia Robb, Area Director, Public Relations, Luxury – Marriott International Caribbean & Latin America

Maximizing the Micro-Trip

With ever-fewer vacation days and ever-expanding work hours, people are packing more travel into shorter time periods. Not to mention, putting more pressure on their trips to deliver lasting impact. The rise of the micro-trip, even to far flung destinations, is a response to our busy schedules and the solution to staying sane through long periods without a lengthy getaway. Art and music festivals, where people gather and find like-minded travelers, often provide just the impetus one needs to get up and go. Chris Orlikowski, Group PR and Communications Director at COMO Hotels and Resorts says: “The micro-trip is particularly interesting for destinations such as Miami, Barcelona, or Tel Aviv where several styles of holidays can be enjoyed in one destination. Travelers can spend time on the beach as well as exploring the local culture, art and shopping scene. Big events in these cities are also helping the local economy. Take Miami for example, where Art Basel Miami has really put the city on the map and we can see a year-on-year increase in bookings at COMO Metropolitan Miami Beach.”

Retailtainment: Where Retail Meets Entertainment

Experiential retail is without a doubt the future of retail. Shopping has become much more dynamic and interactive experiences while shopping have become the expectation. This trend goes far beyond the notion of concept shops such as, Apartment By The Line, Regular Visitors, Glossier’s new flagship and Restoration Hardware’s six floor showroom and restaurant in NYC’s Meatpacking District. With retailtainment, there is an element of enticement that creates a robust experience for shoppers. Consumers are now more interested in investing in experiences, and retailers have been responding to this by creating memorable moments for consumers ensuring they leave with more than just product. We’ve been especially admiring the Roman & Williams Guild, created as a way to pull back the curtain on the brand’s inner world, by exposing their aesthetic and providing access to consumers. The space is programmed with retailtainment elements including a fabulous coffee and patisserie by La Mercerie, Roman and William’s favorite florist Emily Thompson, a section of leather upholstered sofas and a vintage Assouline library. At the West Village popup for online mens’ outdoor gear retailer Huckberry, shoppers – while looking for a new hoodie or hiking boots – are encouraged to explore the immediate neighborhood, the Catskills, or as far afield as Iceland, using one of the brand’s seven thoughtfully curated itineraries. “Retail is the next frontier of content marketing,” says Peter J. Frank, a former editor at Travel + Leisure who now advises firms on content and social media strategy. “The most successful brick-and-mortar shops will be the ones that bring their brand’s story to life in a personal and immersive way.” 

We’re also seeing the emergence of highly curated, creative pop-ups in hotel lobbies – which is further contributing to the idea that the lobby is the hotspot of the hotel and a destination for both locals and guests alike. Take the Hoxton Paris’ Christmas pop-up Keur filled with customizable clothing and accessories or the newly opened Source Hotel in Denver, where there are over 25 vendors throughout the lobby including a gallery, kitchen good store, florist, and brewery (the hotel’s signature beer). According to The Wall Street Journal, these are the new wave of hotel gift shops that offer more of an experience for the design conscious; where utilitarian objects such as toothpaste or a soda are beautifully branded and packaged – think Marvis toothpaste in place of Colgate and one-of-a-kind parkas over I❤ NY t-shirts.

Culture Uncompromised: Leave The City, Keep the Culture

We can’t escape it. Technology has pervaded every aspect of our lives. As we collectively become more reliant on our phones and social media for connectivity and information, when planning personal vacations, we look towards the country for a city escape and true respite.

Over the past year, we have seen a crop of new hotels – some boutique privately owned and others from bigger brands claiming a stake further afield without compromising on the guest experience. Take Troutbeck, a historic estate two hours north of New York City that is an entirely activated country house.  Every detail has been considered including its spectacularly lived-in interiors, the local and thoughtful approach to food, and it’s standout authored series – a monthly celebration and spotlight on local talent. From performances by afro-punk fiddler Sudan Archives to intimate film screenings with Laurie Simmons, this kind of curation is by no means an after-thought, but rather what makes these rural retreats cultural destinations in and of themselves. Anthony and Charlie Champalimaud, Owners of Troutbeck say, “Troutbeck has always been a convening place for conversation, recognizing that good hospitality, great food and a beautiful environment are conducive to inspiration and progress. This was true of Troutbeck even before its days as a hotel. We carry forward the tradition as a matter of personal interest in the knowledge that our guests and broader community crave meaningful, authentic and fulfilling experiences and interactions, above all else.”

Others on our radar include Soho Farmhouse, the new TOURISTS in the Berkshires a stone’s throw from MASS MoCA and The Pig, an elevated farm-to-table restaurant with rooms.

I’m looking forward to RiSE Festival as pictured in the start of this note. It’s always such an incredible site to see the sky filled with these beautiful illuminated lanterns that carry participants deepest wishes for the new year. Where will 2019 take you? Drop me a line – would love to hear from you.