Three things are clear.
- The travel and tourism industry is weathering the biggest economic storm it has ever faced.
- The travel industry is nothing if not resilient.
- The hospitality sector is uniquely positioned to lead recovery.
However, in order to do so, it’s vital that hotels are planning for each stage of recovery, and that they embrace the technological solutions which have a vital role to play in enabling and accelerating the recovery of the travel industry by creating frictionless experiences for travellers and putting the trust back into travel.
Below are some of the shifting travel trends to expect in the near future and, importantly, how hotels can be prepared for them.
Signs of domestic and regional recovery
We can already see an early glimpse of demand recovery in APAC and other markets, particularly in terms of domestic travel. China is seeing a steady recovery in the domestic market and we’re seeing a similar picture for New Zealand and Vietnam, with other parts of APAC in talks about opening up state or regional borders. This is a picture being borne out in other parts of the world, including Europe, with travel from Germany to Spain opening up, for example.
Hotels have a key role to play in ensuring that domestic travellers feel safe to travel so that they, and others, are happy to spread their wings further afield once they are able to.
This pattern of recovery means hotels will also need to have a clear strategy in place when it comes to the geographic markets they are targeting and will need to have a robust, intuitive and flexible distribution strategy in place, which they can fine-tune in changing circumstances, to make near, middle and long-term strategic plans and decisions.
Putting the trust back into travel with health and safety measures
Trust will play a huge role in travel recovery globally. For travellers to feel confident, hotels and the rest of the travel ecosystem need to put in place strict health and safety measures. While travel recovers, travellers will feel safer and more confident to stay closer to home. Hotels have an opportunity to leverage this trend by applying creative health and safety measures to attract travellers who want to take a trip without travelling too far.
Cleanliness and hygiene will be major selling points. While guests have always trusted that hotels will be clean, now they will want proof. For example, they will want to know that a hotel is meeting new safety protocols set in place by government or industry bodies. For instance, Singapore has launched the “SG Clean” stamp and big-name hotels such as Accor have publicly launched ramped up cleaning protocols across their properties.
It’s not enough to simply have health and safety measures in place. You need to make sure that potential guests know about them. Hotels can make health and safety measures part of their marketing messaging.
Guests are also likely to prefer fewer person-to-person interactions. Hotels can think about remote or self check-in procedures, for example, room service packages rather than restaurant dining or an ability to change in-room cleaning frequency.
Far from the crowd destinations
There are plenty of ways that hotels can stand out from the crowd. One of these is literally being far from the crowd. Travellers are likely to be looking at more remote, less crowded destinations which they perceive as less risky.
Hotel chains with rural properties will be able to use this to their advantage. However, if your hotel is in a city or crowded area, you can still ensure that the add-on experiences you can offer mirror those guests would like in the “new normal,” such as in-room dining or private tours, for example.
Some countries are describing them as travel bubbles, others as corridors or bridges. But, whatever their given name, the idea is that a pair or group of countries come to a reciprocal agreement to allow its residents or corporate travellers to travel.
For hoteliers, this means keeping abreast of any such arrangements so that you can ensure your marketing and distribution efforts are directed at travellers who can travel now and longer term.
Given the way Covid-19 has impacted the industry and changed travel plans for so many, it’s understandable that travellers are worried about any future uncertainty.
Hoteliers can mitigate this with flexible cancellation and re-booking policies and will need to ensure that they have the right technological solutions in place to easily facilitate this.
Personalization has long been a buzzword in the hospitality industry, and rightly so. However, it has arguably never been more important. Many travellers will now require a new type of personalization to ensure that the right measures are in place for them so they feel comfortable to travel.
Travellers also won’t take travel for granted anytime soon, if they ever do again. They will want to make the most of their next trip, as soon as they can take it, and they won’t want to waste a minute doing anything which isn’t perfectly suited to them. Not only will a high degree of personalization improve the traveler experience, it will also ensure that RevPar can be increased at a time when occupancy levels are very likely to be lower than historically expected.
Loyalty is no longer about price or collecting points. Guests are now more likely to stay loyal to a brand they believe will keep them safe when they travel. They also want a brand that is fair to them and which offers them assurance, flexibility, personalization and choice. Safety, transparency and trust are key to retaining loyal guests.
Staying visible and making plans
While it may not be possible for travellers to visit certain locations right now, they will be back. That’s why it’s vital to remain visible to future guests through your marketing strategy. It’s also vital to remain focused on your wider business strategy. Now is the time to make moves to strategically realign your business so that you are able to better serve your customers through these times.
Now is a good time to explore technological innovations that will ensure that you are well placed to weather the storm and to ensure your whole travel ecosystem is in the strongest position possible once the storm clouds part and the sun shines brightly on the travel and tourism industry once more.