There are numerous tactics and strategies hoteliers have used to weather the travel crisis and get back on their feet. Some are very creative while others are surprisingly simple.
Changes to check-in and digitization of the keys
Reducing human contact has been an integral part of fighting the virus, which is why hotels like the CitySuites Aparthotel in Manchester have made some important changes. Gavin Bailey, the director of the CitySuites, explains: “One of the biggest changes we made was the introduction of a contactless express check-in, which made the process faster, easier and safer for our guests. It also allows us to adapt to any new procedures and requirements that which will bring Covid-19 conformity in the future “.
HayMax Hotels, which operates four boutique hotels in Aspen, Colorado and Sun Valley, Idaho, responded in a similar fashion. It has invested in technology so that guests can access their rooms via a digital key. This makes the check-in process safer and more efficient, as there is no personal contact at reception.
These are the kind of innovations that many hotel guests have wanted for years. But without the challenge of a global pandemic, the industry has been slow to respond.
Rental of Entire Spas
Some hotels have gone one step further in their efforts to reduce personal contact with guests. Due to the Covid-19 restrictions, many common areas such as hotel spa’s had to be closed. However, the Roxbury Hotel in Stratton Falls has come up with a clever solution to keeping some areas open and generating an income.
Use of areas such as the whirlpool, sauna, steam bath and relaxation room is limited to individual travelers and family groups traveling together. The facilities must be reserved in advance for certain times during the day. During these times, individuals and family groups can use the facilities exclusively. This turns a difficult situation into a unique opportunity for guests to enjoy these luxurious surroundings all to themselves.
Stays during the day
In Spain, where the number of foreign visitors has decreased by more than 80%, some hoteliers are keeping their business going by turning their rooms into potential work spaces and offering day-only stays.
So-called day hotels are nothing new, but the number of hotels offering day bookings at a lower price than overnight stays has increased significantly. This is especially the case in cities like Madrid, where the number of tourists and business travelers has fallen dramatically.
Hotel rooms as a workspace
Some hotels go a step further with the idea of opening their rooms to workers. An example of this is the Rosewood Hotel in London, which gives workers the opportunity to escape their daily routine by booking a work stay.
The hotel rooms have a workstation that has already been set up and a butler service that takes on work-related tasks such as scanning and printing and even organizes tutoring and babysitting for children. Also, early check-in and late check-out are guaranteed so workers can get the most of their time.
One hotel that takes on the challenge of innovation is the Mercantile Hotel in New Orleans. It has a state-of-the-art robot butler who brings the newspaper to the guests’ room in the morning, hands them welcome bites on arrival and even mixes drinks.
The robot butler has proven to be very popular with hotel guests and is an effective way of reducing personal contact with staff. It has also become a revenue generating tool as the robot charges a fee for the delivery of items such as: B. Coffee from the lobby café, which could not be delivered before.
Security, Flexibility and Information
Given the nature of the pandemic, it may not come as a surprise that travelers and hotel guests are making safety and hygiene a priority. Hotels are responding by putting in place strict cleaning protocols to fight the virus. The CitySuites Aparthotel in Manchester is a good example of this. It has implemented Covid-specific cleaning measures throughout the building and has received an AA Covid Trust Certificate to keep visitors safe.
Flexibility is another important feature for guests when booking hotels during the pandemic. With new and sudden restrictions resulting in last-minute cancellations of weekend trips, overnight stays and business meetings, customers want to know that hotels have policies in place that allow them to rebook, reschedule and receive a full refund.
Many online travel agencies now also display important information in their hotel lists that is relevant to the current situation. This includes explanations and notes on local coronavirus restrictions, concierge services, details on transfers to and from the airport, expanded information on cleaning procedures and updated information on the services included in the stay. All of these details are now critical to generating reservations.
Market rooms differently
I mentioned earlier how hotel rooms are being repurposed as workspaces, but that’s just one example of how hoteliers are marketing their business in a different way. Some hotels offer special rates for locals who want to isolate themselves comfortably from their families and friends. This is a useful service to the local community, and the discounted rate shows compassion but still helps generate an income.
With the ongoing travel restrictions, people get bored at home but still want to live their lives and experience something different. Some hotels help them by offering discounted rates on luxury rooms so that locals can experience their cities in a new way.
Investments in Renovation
Even if nobody wanted a pandemic standstill, it has offered hoteliers the unique opportunity to renovate and rethink their business models. As discussed before hoteliers are taking this opportunity to invest in touchless check-in technology, but others are going a step further by renovating their hotels for sustainability, improved customer comfort and security.
Hotel owners are placing more emphasis on health-related features such as interior and exterior architecture, antimicrobial surfaces, and powerful ventilation systems to calm guests down and increase their wellbeing and safety. Other popular retrofits include replacing carpeting in hotel rooms with solid flooring that looks and feels cleaner and e.g. replacing shower curtains with glass doors.
What can the hotel and hospitality industry learn from the global pandemic?
I mentioned before that without the challenge of a global pandemic, the industry has been slow to respond. The key learning is to continiously innovate and improve at a much higher pace than before.
Additionally many hotels have furloughed employees who are now working in other branches and are unlikely to return. This compounds the pre-existing staffing problem and highlights one of the industry’s major weaknesses. HR has to become even more important and strategic in hotel companies.
There will be less business and MICE business and more leisure business, including city leisure trips. Buisness only hotels have to find attractive offers for that based on their location and setting.
Finally – like any entrepeneur – nothing in business is guaranteed and the black swan cames around the corner more frequently in todays world.
Among the big social shifts to have occurred over the last 18 months, which will be the most significant drivers of change over the next 3-5 years and why?
In general people will much more work remotely and only spend few times at the offices to meet in person. This can mean that some will leave the cities and live/work on the countryside or live/work around the world at all the nice places to be which can be an opportunity for the hospitality industry.
People will take care on a good work-life balance and rather work 4 than 5 days. The disadvantages of hotel jobs working at night and weekends become bigger, the hotel industry has to find answers to get new people on board.
For a lot of people, it becomes more important to do a meaningful job matching their personal interest instead of earning money to pay the meaningful parts of the private life.
The aviation industry needs to drastically reduce its carbon footprint as soon as possible to counter both government restrictions and increased traveller reluctance. Very simply said: no flights, no nights!