BUFFALO, N.Y. (June 1, 2022) – The COVID-19 pandemic unleashed significant technological, business and social forces, accelerating profound change in how, when and where people work, vacation and enjoy leisure time, according to a report released by Delaware North.
“Like many other hospitality, travel and foodservice businesses, Delaware North has had to fight for survival during the pandemic and adapt to daily changes in circumstances,” Delaware North CEO Jerry Jacobs Jr. said. “As we emerge from the worst of it, we know it is critical to better understand the changes our customers now want and expect. Delaware North has already begun leadership workshops to discuss how the company can use the report’s findings to shape investments and business lines going forward.”
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 could significantly impact travelers’ destination selection.
“Given the impacts of climate change and changing leisure habits, we’re exploring opportunities such as lodging adjacent to less well-known national parks and possibly under-developed northern regions,” said Todd Merry, Delaware North’s chief marketing officer.
“We will work to evolve our sports hospitality business to meet the next generation’s desire for multisensory experiences, even while at the game, and we will be looking closely at emerging technology and robotics, allowing Delaware North to automate food delivery, take payments and even handle some parts of food preparation – all freeing our associates to focus on meaningful guest interaction,” Merry continued.
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.
“While fans have returned to stadiums, diners to restaurants and travelers to destinations, the future of these industries has been fundamentally changed,” said Josh McHugh, CEO of Attention Span Media, which produced the report for Delaware North. “The pandemic has acted as a catalyst, accelerating many of the changes and advancement in technologies we’ve predicted.”
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.
“These reports have helped identify current trends and provide predictive analysis of future developments and impact over the coming couple of decades, across a variety of our industries,” CEO Charlie Jacobs said. “We created the ‘Future Of’ series and FORTH in particular to gain actionable insight to inform our strategic planning and business operations.”