Predictions for the future of hotel business include a look at the pandemic-era trends that are likely to have staying power.
Today’s hotel business models look entirely different from their predecessors.
COVID-19 is just one earthquake that has jolted the landscape this year. The hotel industry must evolve and reinvent itself to exploit the opportunities and cope with the challenges it faces. After all, this industry is no stranger to disruptions.
Here are some of the top trends expected to shape our industry in 2021.
1. Sanitation and cleanliness standards
Hotel employees and guests must participate in a complete upgrade of sanitization and cleanliness. Each brand has added a different touch, but there are now two levels of room cleaning—the second level being a supervisor who provides the extra sanitization of each room. These protocols are here to stay, and guests are willing to play their part by washing hands frequently, wearing a mask and social distancing.
2. Use of outdoor spaces
Meetings, dining and recreational activities have all shifted outdoors. Even as the weather turns, it seems guests prefer to spend time outdoors where the virus is less likely to be contracted. Further, the simple pleasures of hiking, biking, visiting state parks and traveling closer to home can satisfy the pent-up demand to get away.
3. Locally produced products
Products that are considered organic and/or farm-to-table are trendy amongst all demographics. This surge in popularity parallels the country’s growing focus on environmentalism. In addition to being more environmentally conscious, people everywhere are also looking for more locally authentic experiences, starting with what they eat. These efforts drive customer loyalty and create community partnerships like local wine/food events—socially distanced, naturally.
4. Meetings, restaurants and hotel technology
Contactless food and beverage options are paramount to restaurant success today. No menus, no checks that require contact, just a simple QR code and a knowledgeable server to review specials and answer questions are all that is needed. All meetings must also be designed to be properly distanced either with diagramming software or by carefully measuring out tables and chairs. Automated check-in via smartphone is preferred by guests for no contact with employees.
5. Value consumers are here to stay
We have seen the rebirth of the value traveler in this new normal. Value travelers want booking platforms that provide transparency about cancellation and refund policies, trip insurance options and lift and rebook options in the event the destination has new travel restrictions. They love safe activities added at little or no charge and shop both price and overall value. They are looking for quality as well as a low price.
Guests want to travel more sustainably, and we expect to see more guests with that mindset begin to hit a critical mass in 2021 and beyond. Awareness about the impact on the environment and local communities has increased as more people are traveling closer to home. A Booking.com survey of international travelers indicated that more than two-thirds (69%) expect the travel industry to offer more sustainable travel options.
7. Travel trends in general
According to MMGY’s travel intentions surveys, many travel categories have declined since last month with the spiking virus numbers. Traveling by personal car is still considered the safest method of transportation and the perception of safety around lodging has leveled off in the survey results. Americans are remaining steady in their trust for dining and entertainment. Interest in business travel remains steady as well but we have not seen strong signs of an increase in business travel yet.
8. A new flat organization
Keeping a finger on the pulse of utility, maintenance and property costs as well as labor costs by department has been critical for hoteliers this year and this will continue to be the case in 2021. Driven by unprecedented revenue per available room declines in 2020, hoteliers have condensed their corporate and operations teams and more employees will report directly to managers, not supervisors.
9. A new focus on cash
The COVID-19 pandemic has and will continue to have economic and financial ramifications that will be felt by the hospitality industry for years. With a full recovery lagging because of lasting difficulties with the virus and the recent elections, managing cash flow will be more important than ever in 2021. It can’t be assumed that financing options or stimulus money that were previously available will continue.
10. A new type of hospitality
Savvy hoteliers need to find creative ways to repurpose these now underused spaces. Hoteliers are looking to get extra revenue from guests who want month-to-month apartment-like units. Since hotels are set up with high-speed internet and a work-friendly desk, they have also made a fairly easy transition to coworking spaces and business offices. Many guests are remote workers who are looking for a tech-package that suits their remote-working needs.
Robert A. Rauch is CEO and founder of RAR Hospitality.
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