It’s finally December and it’s safe to say that most of the world is eager to turn the page on 2020 and look forward to 2021 with positivity. We’ve seen most of the hospitality industry pivot quickly and adapt to the new normal over the past nine months. Hoteliers created a sense of comradery with other hospitality businesses and cross-promoted, teamed up on new offerings, and helped each other, their neighbors, and anyone who needed the support.
Now that we’ve reached the end of the year, we’ve seen some pretty solid business strategies that have helped to create a baseline for 2021. Here are the trends hoteliers should be aware of as they prepare for the new year:
Understanding your customers
As a hospitality professional, it’s in your blood to cater to people and ensure they’re happy and enjoying their time at your establishment. As we’ve navigated through 2020, we’ve found new ways to understand our customers and to think outside the box to ensure they’re comfortable visiting hotels and restaurants.
- Marketing matters: Having a good marketing plan is always the key to success. Most hoteliers had to pivot quickly and think creatively about ways they could market their hotels in a sensitive and positive way. The most significant strategy we’ve found was keeping a consistent and honest online presence. Marketing to locals and essential workers to become a home away from home was an easy start. Knowing what your message is and then doubling down on that to advertise to the right people, and quickly, is what helped a lot of hotels. Having a robust CRM (customer relationship management) tool makes marketing to the right people a much more streamlined task. Now that most have found their footing, they’ve restructured their marketing plan to advertise to this new demographic, switching up their spaces, and thinking more creatively to drive sales.
- Be honest and transparent: With hoteliers creating new and improved marketing plans, and sticking to a consistent plan, they’ve found that being transparent and very honest with their customers has helped them become more trustworthy. Talking about your cleaning and safety for your employees and your guests, and then advertising the things you’re doing through videos and social media shows your future customers that you’re doing everything in your power to keep them safe. Having a clear roadmap of what the customer’s experience will be like during their stay is the key to creating trust and increase in business.
- Offer flexibility: Being flexible in the past has typically been a challenge with customers looking to book on the same dates and your hotel hitting capacity. Hoteliers were forced to adhere to cancelation policies and had little to no room for flexibility. Now, most hotels are lucky if they reach 45% occupancy (roughly a 30-40% decline from previous years). With hoteliers needing to increase their occupancy rates, they have — in most cases — thrown away their cancelling policies and have created more flexibility, similar to airlines, in postponing or canceling bookings. Hotels are giving guests the chance to book, and if they don’t feel comfortable traveling, they can cancel for credits and reschedule at a later date. As we near 2020 and look ahead into 2021, hoteliers are confirming they’ll continue with this flexibility until there’s more certainty in travel.
A new type of hospitality
The days of planning large weddings and conferences are currently on pause. For hospitality professionals, those events became second nature. In any given day, month or week you’d be juggling between a dozen large bookings like it was nothing. Now, we’re looking for a way to book group business in a safe and creative way. We’ve talked a lot about pivoting and how those who did it quickly saw the most success. Now that hoteliers have mastered their new marketing plans and their transparency with future guests, they’re finding this new way of hospitality is here to stay, at least for the immediate future in 2021.
- Housing for essential employees: At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, everyone was confused and trying to figure out what the next step for their business would be. For most front line employees, it was a scary thought to be working around this new virus all day and then going home to their families, so they chose not to. Hotels quickly realized their contribution and offered all front line workers a home away from home. Since then, a lot of hotels have created offers based around this extended-stay concept that is sure to last through 2021 and beyond.
- Month to month apartments: With being a home away from home for essential workers, and with companies switching to work from home to keep their employees safe, hotels found that they had an opportunity to be that “home” for a lot of people. These guests tend to live in cities or small apartments, or really just want to have a change of scenery. Offering month-to-month apartments and extended stay offers for professionals and families was an ideal solution. As hoteliers have learned and created smarter and more attractive offers, their occupancy rates have begun to increase and are expected to continue to increase with these types of customers through 2021.
- Co-working spaces and remote offices: Adjusting to the new normal and the work from home lifestyle was a big challenge for many companies. Some companies thrived off of their co-working spaces and some need to be in-person to operate. What many hotels found was that yes, large conferences and meetings are a thing of the past (for right now), but in-person meetings don’t need to be completely off-limits. With large meeting spaces, hotels are the perfect place to host in-person meetings. These typically involve executives meeting in-person, and broadcasting the meeting to the rest of the company with the hotel’s high-speed internet and AV capabilities. Hoteliers have found that they’re beginning to see more and more of these bookings as they continue to prove their cleanliness and commitment to the safety of their guests and employees.
- Homeless housing: We’ve seen the rising concern of homeless individuals contracting COVID-19 and its spread. A lot of cities have addressed this concern, making shelters and healthcare for the homeless safer and more accessible. While a lot of cities are heading into colder climates and the winter season, hotels have been opening their doors to shelters, offering a warm and safe place for the homeless to stay, and providing them with meals and healthcare directly to their room. Hotels around the country and world have continued to work with their cities and nonprofits to lease out their rooms to the homeless and be a safer option for some until vaccines become available.
Smart rooms and technology
The role of technology in the hospitality industry has been an increasingly popular topic even before COVID-19. Many hotels have been turning to technology for a more sustainable way of operating to be part of the solution to protecting our planet. We found that in some cases, the COVID-19 pandemic helped many hotels speed up their process of transitioning to smarter ways of doing things, and these emerging technology trends are sure to continue into 2021.
- Smart controls: Smart controls were already an up-and-coming trend for many hotels, but with cleaning and disinfecting rooms and spaces, hoteliers found that switching to smart controls made their guests more comfortable. This technology increases contactless interactions and allows guests to customize their experience with motion- or voice-controlled lights and room temperature. Amazon even has an entirely new product just for the hospitality industry that can do most of everything a guest may need with a simple voice request.
- Keyless and contactless: Contactless everything is what many businesses turned to in 2020. QR codes for menus, keyless entry to your hotel rooms, and even contactless check-in and check-out reduces in-person interactions in high traffic areas. In addition to this being a new safety feature, it also allows for a more seamless and efficient experience. Some hoteliers are nervous that it takes away from the hospitality experience, but as we head into 2021, there are more creative and safe ways to ensure your customers have a happy experience, and that’s with additional features.
With everyone being cooped up in their homes for a majority of 2020, we continue to see the rise in staycations and enhanced and creative hotel stays for those who are traveling. Hotels have been creative in the way they’ve adapted to shutting down their lobby bars, fitness centers, and other high traffic areas. How can you continue to give that experience to your customers while still keeping them and your employees safe? We’re seeing some fun trends as we head into 2021!
- Bodega bars: One of the perks of staying in a hotel is visiting the lobby bar for a nice nightcap at the end of a long day. With lobby bars being closed, and social spaces limited everywhere, hotels have been finding ways to continue to offer these perks in a safer way. For example, Kimpton hotels encourage their guests to visit their bodega bar for mini-bar essentials and snacks to bring back to their room for a socially distanced cocktail hour.
- Personal fitness: Fitness rooms and classes have been canceled and closed in all hotels to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. With that being said, your personal fitness doesn’t need to be on hold as well. A lot of hotels have been offering fitness options for your room, with Peloton partnering with hotels around the world to provide in-room fitness through their program. In addition, some hotels are offering private training sessions for a one on one experience in your room.
- Remote learning: Parents are having a hard time juggling their full-time job and now being the teacher and managing their kids’ schoolwork. A benefit to a nice staycation at certain hotels is the option of field trips for your kids or tutors that can help manage your kids’ remote learning for you.
We’re about to close the books on 2020, we’ve learned a lot about ourselves personally and professionally and in many ways have become stronger individuals. Most hotel professionals have learned to pivot quickly and adapt to the new normal way of hosting group events and providing a safe environment for their employees and guests. It’s allowed a lot of people to be creative and throw some pasta against the wall to see what sticks and what works well, and it’s great to see that as a hospitality industry, we’re all working together to help our industry come out of this stronger than ever. Having the proper systems in place will surely help your team succeed and pick up where things left off once our world begins to go back to normal business.
More resources for hotels
We want to help hospitality businesses have a successful reopening so we’ve taken the lessons we’ve learned from customers and the industry, and created a new Events Industry Handbook. This handbook, The Guide to Reopening Your Hotel, includes hotel-focused tips and sections on safety, technology, contracts, social and corporate events and trends, group sale packages, catering, offers, marketing, and more.
We hope this advice allows your restaurant or venue to put everything you need in place for reopening, adapt to our new normal, and continue to grow your revenue during this unprecedented time. Download the guide here.