2020 was a year like no other for the travel and hospitality industry. During the first half of the year, widespread national lockdowns and closed international borders sparked uncertainty in the travel and hospitality industry. Although 2021 has seen a majority of countries relaxing travel restrictions, experts in hospitality are still anxious about what the future holds.
As the hospitality industry is open business, but the road to recovery is slow. However, like other sectors, employing the right technology can ensure accelerated improvements during the second half of 2021.
2021 Hospitality Trends
An analysis of the market data of the previous years is usually a good way to track performance and predict future trends. But, as subsequent waves of the pandemic and new strains of the COVID-19 virus emerge, forecasting business for 2021 has become a difficult task. Having said that, like with other sectors, we can predict that the involvement and use of technology will be on the rise.
Employing innovative solutions to create a contactless eco-system and automate monotonous tasks will not only yield a better guest experience but will also improve safety.
Focus Shift to Revival
The wander bug has bitten most people and they’re excited to get back on the road and in the air. As work from home becomes the new norm, it is predicted that leisure travel will be the first to make a comeback. People will prefer to travel in smaller groups – most likely with those they have been quarantined with.
While we have seen a steady increase in local trips, we predict that by mid-2021 there will be a resurgence in long-distance travel.
As the world begins to “unlock” and travellers return, the hospitality businesses will continue to evolve as hoteliers modify their operations to suit the new normal. Touch-less entry, hotel rooms as working spaces, minimal staff and guest interaction, and modified community spaces are just a few trends that are likely going to stay for a long-time.
Resilient property owners and managers who find creative solutions to work around safety restrictions will continue to see bookings and be able to welcome guests through their doors.
Consumer Booking Habits Change
The way travellers are spending on their vacation has evolved. Unexpected lockdowns have led to cancellation which has severely affected the willingness to pay upfront. Last-minute travel plan cancellations have led to a demand for improved flexibility in booking policies.
Online Travel Agencies penalized a lot of consumers for cancelled reservations, which we believe will push more direct bookings.
Shorter booking windows will also carry over well into 2021. Consumers continue to make last-minute booking decisions – from months to days. Local attractions that offer outdoor experiences like national parks and other adventure activities that offer social distancing by nature (pun intended) will continue to flourish.
The Great Hotel Tech Boost
In what is being called the ‘Great Technology Reset’ for hospitality, we’re already seeing software platforms ideate to help connect the dots in the guest service communications and management chain. Many processes that were previously attended to manually or without specific attention to viral safety are being updated.
If you haven’t completed all of your Covid safety upgrades, one of the most important tech solutions you should be considering is an efficient cloud-based hotel management system. Some of the features that are being highlighted as part of a proficient hotel management system include checking in from a mobile phone, phone-enabled door keys, guest messaging systems, mobile payments, checkout cleaning buffers, granular housekeeping checklists, full two-way integrations of all onsite facilities, digital feedback systems with instant alerts and specific guest profile segmentation for personalized marketing.
In addition, to best enable remote work, hoteliers must consider whether a PMS should be hosted on-premise, in the cloud, or via a personal self-hosted cloud server. Each of these having its own features, advantages, costs, and cybersecurity considerations.
The main advantages of setting up a robust PMS starts with how it helps restore guest confidence, particularly for large group reservations, by ensuring a safe stay. Secondly, building a mobile-centric and largely touchless guest experience will enable hotels to promote privacy and social-distancing- two very important factors that are now top drivers for leisure bookings. And thirdly, most PMS features are bundled within a subscription fee which means that a tangible ROI can be quickly achieved both from increased reservation numbers as well as labour cost reductions.
But, that’s not all.
While addressing the need for safety via tech upgrades, you are also adding numerous new data points to the PMS (or CRM) that can then be utilized for onsite personalization to grow ADR or for promotional efforts to draw more customers.
Leaning into your PMS means developing a better picture of a guest’s individual desires so that you can increase revenue per available guest (RevPAG) and potentially extend each party’s length of stay (LOS).
What Property Owners and Managers Can Do to Prepare
Travel trends will always continue to evolve. Updating your property’s standard operating procedures will make sure you’re ready to welcome guests back in full force.
One area we suggest tackling as a priority is your housekeeping team’s procedures. Ensuring that all cleaning procedures are standardized is a key to success for all future travel.
The second area that you need to address is your front desk’s standard operating procedures. Check-in, check-out, and day-to-day guest interactions will continue to look different over the next year. Take a fresh look at your operating procedures and upgrade them to be on par with the best safety practices in the industry.
It Could All Change
If there’s one thing we are a hundred per cent certain of is that we don’t know what’s coming next. Along with all its lessons, 2020 has taught us to expect the unexpected. The hospitality industry will recover if we take it day by day, week by week, month by month, and move forward steadily. As the pandemic eases its hold on travel and the world, hospitality professionals will see the dawn of an entirely new era of travellers- excited and willing to travel- and new experiences for properties new and old.