Health and economic crises have an established pattern of changing our behaviours, our values and even our cities, with our built environment evolving to reflect the underlying transformations occurring in our societies. The hospitality industry – having been hit so hard by the COVID pandemic – may be reasonably expected to go through that same adaptation.
The businesses that are most likely to succeed in the new normal are those that take this period of disruption as a time to assess and understand their new environment, re-evaluate their way of doing business and adapt their offering appropriately. For many, the best route forward may be to re-conceptualise what it means to them to be a hotel in this new era.
What is hotel concept design?
In the process of developing or repositioning a hotel business, it’s key to create a solid identity for the business that encapsulates what your hotel has to offer, from its architectural design and its target market to its experiential offerings, guest experience, and everything in between. Your hotel concept design collates and captures this identity – it takes all the separate elements of your business and creates a cohesive and unique ‘whole’.
Hotel concepts are most impactful when every aspect of the hotel is informed and shaped by this identity, creating a compelling story and experience that creates a bond between your business and the needs, values and desires of your guests.
Why make the change now?
Between the impact of the pandemic on travel behaviours and the unique travel desires of a new generation of guests, hotels exist within a rapidly changing environment. Re-conceptualising your hotel’s identity is no small task – so why should you take it on now, when the industry is still reeling, and uncertainty is everywhere? There are some strong reasons why – let’s take a look.
#1 – The market is quiet – for now
Hotel occupancy and demand are low, meaning now is the ideal time to focus on time-consuming projects that never get due attention in the course of “normal” business. Really stepping back from and assessing your hotel concept takes an investment of time and thought as much as capital. If you can find the mental space to push aside the short term stresses, this slower period may offer an opportunity to press the “reset” button and start to rebuild something stronger and fresher, laying the foundation for a quicker recovery.
While COVID restrictions continue to contain people’s ability to travel today, they have done nothing to dampen the desire to travel tomorrow. Indeed, having been largely restricted to our homes for much of the last 12 months, there’s now significant pent-up demand for travel. With the vaccine rollout progressing, we can expect to see restrictions start to lift over the coming months, ushering in a surge in demand for hotel services that meet the post-Covid consumer’s changed travel needs and expectations. Even this early in 2021, searches for international travel have jumped a massive 368% as people plan for the return of travel and seek to make up for lost opportunities in 2020. So take the time now before the window of opportunity passes.
#2 – Competition is already heating up
Change is inevitable in any industry, and the hotel industry is no exception. Trends that seemed peripheral before the pandemic have become critical in developing a competitive edge as hotels under financial pressure compete fiercely for market share. Now is the right time for thinking outside the box and developing creative solutions that reposition your brand, driving increased awareness and conversions.
From embracing experiential travel and eco-friendly design through to integrating wellness into the guest experience and developing unique and authentic cultural offerings, hotels around the globe are already finding ways to get ahead of the inevitable easing of restrictions and position themselves for the recovery. If you want to compete over the coming years, now is the best time to make up that lost ground and reinvent your offering.
#3 – Conceptual development doesn’t always require capital
Re-assessing your core concept and how it’s delivered doesn’t need to be approached in the same vein as a construction project. A concept can focus on some of your lighter brand elements, from your core brand vision and mission through to guest experience mapping. You can invest the time and thought to get more ROI from your hard assets, often with a relatively small investment.
Perhaps you’re looking to integrate a more authentic, local focus into your brand. This might ultimately be achieved by any number of different actions, such as:
- Re-designing your menus to incorporate more local ingredients and to tell the stories of the local stakeholders behind their development.
- Inviting your local team members to participate in brainstorming the best, quirkiest and more interesting elements of your destination, and how to build them into the guest experience.
- Developing an evening entertainment plan that showcases local singers, storytellers, historians or sommeliers.
- Working with local guides to cross-train your team on your area’s history and heritage – while ensuring the guides have a deep understanding of your brand story and guest expectations.
- Reviewing your procurement processes to incentivise the support of local businesses and to incorporate regular audits.
These actions need not be expensive, but they often require time for research and development. They need to be actionable and form a cohesive and sustainable plan that’s carried through from your marketing to your guest experience. These are the types of plans that often get pushed down the priority list when beds are full and your team is stretched. It’s possible that you have the downtime right now to invest the time and care into these projects to do justice to your core business vision.
#4 – Now is the time to make larger improvements
Hotel infrastructure improvements can be costly, time-intensive and require considerable strategic planning. If you have the capital available, then you also currently have the downtime necessary to take on these larger projects. Whether you’re giving your common areas a facelift and rebrand or focusing on infrastructural upgrades that keep you current with everyday consumer expectations, these quieter times are an opportunity to prepare without the worries of guest disturbance.
Hotel technology improvements are a great example of this, as they often require extensive planning, intensive employee training as well as on-site construction. With hotels adopting custom software solutions that improve functionality, guest experience and daily operations, now is a great time to investigate and implement contactless payment systems, chatbots, virtual tours, service automation, mobile check-in technology, cybersecurity and other smart hotel solutions.
In times of extreme pressure and uncertainty, businesses need to adapt strategically and meaningfully to not only survive the current situation but position themselves for what comes after. Now is the time to start acting rather than reacting, and create the hotel concept that can set you up for the strongest post-COVID recovery.