One thing is for sure, hospitality will never be the same after COVID-19 froze the entire industry. As restrictions are loosening and the industry is slowly recovering, we need to establish what the “new normal” is: rebuilding trust in a post-pandemic world. What do we need to consider before we open our doors again? What new practices will most likely become a standard operating procedure in light of the shift in customer expectations as a result of COVID-19? Continue reading to find out what new hospitality trends have emerged to rebuild trust among travellers.
1 – Safety over everything
During these unprecedented times, clients want to feel safe and comfortable first, over anything else. They want to feel that their safety is your top priority, and that is a form of customer service in it of itself. Hotels are now releasing new policies to reflect this. For example, the Hilton’s “CleanStay” or the Venetian’s “Venetian Clean” . The policies reference key industry experts, like the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, and partnerships with Lysol to ensure the correct measures are being taken to ensure the care and safety of all staff and patrons. Having reputable resources and being transparent is the theme here with the aim to give your guests a piece of mind while traveling.
2 – Cleanliness
When it comes to hospitality trends, there’s one trend that will never, ever, go out of style: cleanliness. We know that even in a pre-pandemic world, cleanliness is probably top three on our checklist when it comes to evaluating a hotel room. Nowadays, it’s shot up to number one and it is most likely to stay there for a long time thereafter. Everyday life has changed since the pandemic and you can’t even enter a grocery store without getting temperature scanned or have your hands dripping in hand sanitizer (quite literally). The same goes for hospitality. All staff should be wearing protective gear and educated on how to interact with guests to ensure the least amount of contact possible. Sanitizer stations should be set up at every entry point and high traffic area. Mr.Clean won’t cut it anymore – it’s time to invest in antiviral cleaning agents, disinfectants and UV lights. Another hospitality trend has been sophisticated air filtration systems – this would set your hotel apart and guests will choose you over your competitor for a feature like this.
3 – Technology to reduce human contact
Now, more than ever, technology is at the forefront of hospitality trends. With social distancing as the new norm, hotels need a way to provide customer service with minimizing human touch points to ensure the safety of guests and staff. If this wasn’t something you were thinking about before, it’s become impossible to ignore.
Have you ever been so thankful for the “tap” on your payment cards during the rise of the pandemic? Us too. Same goes for hotels nowadays. Shifting to mobile/self check-ins and offering keyless room access is starting to become the expectation among travellers. Thermal cameras are now starting to be used instead of having someone scan your temperature upon walking in to avoid an obtrusive contact point.
The one thing hoteliers gained during the pandemic was the gift of time. So take that time to reassess your tech stack, re-strategize, and get ahead.
4 – Reconfiguring your space and service offerings
While practicing social distancing, floor markings and barriers have become the new normal. The same is present in hotels. Not only are lobbies and shared areas need to be reconfigured temporarily, but hotel design may evolve to accommodate more health-oriented guest behaviour as a whole. This includes your F&B strategy. As common areas are becoming increasingly unused for the safety of guests, and restaurants are unable to accommodate as many guests, you could even revamp an unused garden or den as dining areas. Any form of communal service offerings such as bars, buffets, or valets may be momentarily sacrificed as well. It may come as a minor disappointment to guests but they will understand that this is for their safety.
5 – Your brand will evolve
By doing all the right things to ensure safety and hygiene is your top priority for your guests, your brand will evolve to become synonymous with safety, cleanliness and a COVID-19 safe place to stay at. Going above and beyond with new safety measures and protocols will be crucial in rebuilding trust in travellers as that is a top priority now when deciding where to stay.
This stems into staff training. New staff training is pertinent to ensure that not only do your staff understand the new measures, but can speak to it and represent the organization in front of your guests.
Transparency in communication is also essential to ensure everyone is aware of the steps your hotel is taking to make it a safe haven at a time like this. An example of practicing transparency, is subjecting your hotel to an associations health and safety evaluation. Regardless of score, this builds trust among travellers. If it is a good score, then continue what you’re doing. If your score could be greater, then this is a learning opportunity for your property to improve your protocols and get re-evaluated. The goal here is to provide a safe and clean environment – and your guests will appreciate that.
6 – Embrace the new normal
The pandemic has definitely been a game changer to say the least. Brands are having to re-evaluate not only their safety protocols, but the entire business model, brand image, and entire value propositions. There isn’t ever the right “time” for a strategic renewal, but if there was, it would be now. Hospitality trends come and go, but current events have shifted consumer behaviour and expectations and for anyone thinking that things will “go back to normal”, well, you’re in for a rude awakening. It’s time to align with reality and get ready for the long haul.