The current COVID-19 pandemic changed our lives and the course of global history. No one can be sure how this new world will look like after the crisis recedes.
We can only make assumptions, but judging by what is going on now, there is a prospect that everything will soon change for the better.
Today, we can see hotels evolving while trying to survive in these harsh circumstances. There is no denying the fact that the situation is disastrous. Each of us has already experienced the consequences of the pandemic firsthand. The losses are huge in every domain: whether we are talking about physical, emotional, or financial suffering.
But it is important to learn from every difficult situation, as well as see its bright side. Now we can notice that the hospitality sector finally discovers new horizons for its development, and hoteliers are looking for creative approaches to conducting their businesses.
In this article, we are going to reveal changes and trends, which will contribute to the progress in our industry.
A technological revolution in the hotel industry
Worldwide lockdowns and “no-contact” safety measures triggered a forced digitalization in every sphere of activity. Now people can work, get their education, and even “attend a gym” online. The hospitality industry is not standing on the sidelines either. Even though this industry has always been reluctant to deal with technology.
Face-to-face interactions were the basis of communication between guests and staff. The stay typically started from warm greetings at the reception desk. And during their visit, customers have always been directly supported by management and personnel. However, the “new normal” in the industry implies as little interpersonal communication as possible.
Today, we subconsciously link safety with large spaces, where we can maintain physical distance and avoid direct interactions. Even the pictures of crowded places, which once were associated with the new exhilarating experience, now provoke unease. To live up to the guest’s expectations, hoteliers are starting to look for new technologies and shifting to digital platforms, which was a rare case before now.
Many hotels scan the body temperature of their guests on the premises, before letting them in. To do so, they are investing in thermal scanners and non-invasive thermometers. Some companies present inventions specifically designed for maintaining physical distance in public spaces. For instance, a special device that reminds guests to take a few steps back if they are standing too close to the reception desk. And Marriot, in its turn, plans to improve its disinfecting routine by using electrostatic sprayers with “hospital-grade” disinfectants.
And IT-companies are busy with developing apps that could make guest´s stay fully digitalized. State-of-the-art Hotel Management Systems allow turning a smartphone into the “hotel in a pocket”. This is how brand new “digital hotel” operates:
- Guest’s journey begins by booking a chosen room online. It takes customers only one button to click in order to access everything that your website can offer. The booking system allows customers to select a room rate, bed size, preferable meal types, creating a personalized experience.
- Mobile сheck-In option helps guests to avoid unnecessary interactions with staff. All that the customer has to do is to fill in the online form with personal data and sign it digitally. After arrival, the guest has to show a special code from the screen of the smartphone and then get the key. That is the whole procedure!
- During their stay, guests can order meals and services without leaving their rooms and talking to anybody. The only things they need are Internet access, QR-codes, and their phones. All of the conversations about the details could be held via Mobile Live Chat.
- The Digital payment system supports all types of transactions, so guests can pay via a mobile app for their stay, and for their ordered meals and services (such as taxi, or even a swimming pool rent).
Those technologies themselves are not brand new. However, the experience, which guests can get by using them in the hotel setting is something that was not a common thing earlier. Now it becomes more and more popular, as contactless interactions are the only way to save us from the novel Coronavirus.
Surely, this crisis is connected with huge financial losses to the hospitality industry. But every cloud has a silver lining, and those circumstances provoked nothing less but a technological revolution in our sector.
The evolution of customer’s preferences
The hospitality industry is changing, and people are changing as well. They are getting used to remote work and digital reality because it is handy. Now they also have higher expectations concerning sanitary measures in public spaces. And after months of the lockdown, they may have found out that they have itchy feet and want to travel more.
These internal changes affecting people bring us new trends, the most important from which is the necessity of cleanliness visibility. Customers are concerned about their safety, and they want to know if the place where they are going to stay is properly disinfected. Not just “cleaned”, which means that there are no traces of dirt and dust on the surfaces. In the case of “disinfection”, all surfaces should be also treated with detergents, such as, for example, diluted bleach solutions.
Therefore, in the near future, cleanliness visibility will become an essential part of the hotel marketing strategy, and it is inevitable. To ensure that disinfecting measures are taken seriously, consider making special groups of cleaning personnel who will be systematically wiping down and cleaning surfaces in the public spaces. It is really important to make the process of disinfecting visible. If visitors don’t see it, then, from their point of view, it simply is not happening.
Another trend that is emerging from the current situation, is traveling by car to domestic destinations that are not far from home. The majority of travelers admitted that they feel safer while traveling by their own vehicle. That means that soon we will see a high demand for domestic traveling, rather than for international. In general, there would be short stays in local hotels where guests could spend time with their families, far from crowded places. So it will be wiser to concentrate on this specific target audience in the near future.
After the lockdown measures became global, a lot of families turned out to be in a situation where family members are separated from each other. This will lead to their desire to spend more time together, combined with the desire to travel. Obviously, that leads us to one more new tendency, which is the growth of multigenerational traveling. Family gatherings will grow popularity, so expect an increased demand for suitable accommodation.
Now people are craving fresh air and outdoor activities, so the next trend to take into account is spending vacations closer to the natural sites. Wellness services will be popular as well, as people are concerned with maintaining their health more than ever.
A glimpse of hope
The most important thing is – even if people are frightened and feel uneasy right now, at the same time, they are eager to travel. They miss this opportunity, spending their whole time at home. And after the COVID-19 crisis finally recedes, we will definitely see an all-time uprise in the hotel industry. In order to accelerate it, hotels must let customers see that it is safe to stay in their setting.
The pandemic brought not only losses to our industry but also helped to gain something new. For example, creative and technological approaches to conducting business, which helped our industry to reach a new level of development. Eventually, the pandemic will end and everything will return to normal. But the advantage we gained after the introduction of automatization will help us to benefit from it even after that.
The post-COVID-19 world will never be the same as before. And humanity will also never be the same. People now understand that the chance to take their “dream trip” may never come if they do nothing. We will learn to value solidarity and family more. And all that will lead to the new generation of travelers who are passionate about traveling more than ever.
Therefore, it is important to remember that there is always a way out and that the current situation can help your business to evolve.