Which Pandemic Trends Expected to Reshape Hotel Experience in Long Term
The Global pandemic has allowed a revolution of novel trends to take place which shapes the hospitality industry whilst providing a platform for the amplification of existing trends too. The ever-changing predilection in consumer behaviour ensures the hotel industry will need to adapt in order to stay competitive, and the hotel groups has positively reacted showing resilience of the sector. With social distancing measures being put into practice from lockdown, this has paved way for new developments with digital technology and solutions becoming universally adopted. A clear focus on health and wellbeing will also be at the forefront of the change allowing mindfulness, good sleep and good health, all important aspects which guests prioritise during their stays.
Health and Safety protocols have been a paramount change with increased sanitization around the hotels being critical as guests now rate this as the one of the top priorities for the short term. With Global clientele staying in hotels, consumers are anxious about viral transmission from other guests and staff. BWH Hotel group along with many seasoned hotel groups have responded by installing plexiglass where interactions occur and high contact surfaces such as doors and common areas were disinfected regularly. However, a major enhancement has been the use of electrostatic sprayers and UV machines which disinfect every single guest room upon check-out as well as the associated bars and restaurants providing confidence to guests using all facilities. Also, with a higher focus on wellbeing, fitness facility usage has risen and hotels have responded by creating staggered bookings for swimming pools and gyms providing limited occupancy at one given time which offers guests a more exclusive experience as well as safety.
In the Food and Beverage sector, the vast majority of hotels have now shifted from the traditional breakfast buffet type to a more ‘grab and go’ service that now includes a variety of healthy and tailored options which can be prepared pre-hand. With this increased focus on health and wellbeing, fresh organic produce is in great demand. Menus are now a thing of the past with modern methods such as QR codes replacing these, and this has been well received by guests and staff alike. Rapid alterations to the menus at short notice is now feasible with Chef’s specials or exciting prototype dishes being communicated to the guests more efficiently. This is also more practical as it saves printing costs for the hotels as they no longer require a menu for every visitor. Table setting and layout also differs post Covid, with fresh pre-packed cutlery now being the norm and customers handling and serving their own beverages is an important concept moving forward. With Restaurants operating the traditional full dining pre-covid rooms and bar and some operators have taken the initiative to discard the concept of this and transform the space into full time ghost kitchens. In response the majority of restaurants have attempted to create new strategies for take-away services whilst maintaining a fully serviced restaurant including establishing separate spaces for these 2 services to co-exist and implementing one way route to minimise staff contact.
The impact of technology has been pivotal in the customer experience with all major operators now offering a digital check-in/check-out experience and the ability to manage and pay for all services online allowing guests to have a smooth and seamless experience. Though, prior to even checking in, guests are able have a virtual tour through augmented and virtual reality systems to tailor their hotel choice by viewing all facilities and rooms first. Through apps, modifications such as housekeeping schedules, voice-activated systems to control elevators, lights and temperatures in rooms are easily serviced too supplying a more personalised service alongside minimizing surface contact. Furthermore, in-room media whether its digital streaming services or connecting to conferences and hosting virtual meetings is a hot trend especially with the rise of video conferences, this is particularly useful for some business customers as these digital interactions will minimise contact. As customers still place a high value on service, the hotel industry will adapt, as less interpersonal interactions are in place. Brands have need to still differentiate themselves to maintain customer loyalty and strengthen the relationship which has been a proven method to maximise revenue and operators have reacted by utilising cloud-based services. Already guests are being treated with personalised messages upon arrival via e-mail however data analytics to target offers and promotions to customers will be easier as all avenues of the hotel experience will be controlled via integrated solutions. Hence, Hoteliers can manage these services more efficiently to control the guest experience and provide novel types of service which was not expected prior to the pandemic.
In summary, by understanding the consumers preference and responding positively by embracing the change will ensure the recovery of the hospitality sector will bring customers experience to new heights. Hotels will adapt to reimagine the concepts whilst showing operational agility. To maintain customers, trust the safety and sanitisation will also need to be prioritised but by exploiting the technology available will reshape the hotel industry post Covid with the goal of increasing efficiency and seamless experiences such as digital interactions and this ensures the sector will accommodate the flexibility guest’s demand.