The Covid-19 pandemic is unlike anything ever seen in modern times. Economies around the world buckled, and businesses faced unpredictable futures. Industries rebuilding are remaking themselves to survive a new post-pandemic reality. For the hospitality industry, success is dependent on exceptional customer service and human interaction. Consequently, businesses are trying to adapt to consumer fears, vaccine mandates, and health and safety ordinances. The shift in priorities has led to hospitality trends that will impact hospitality far beyond the coronavirus.
The hospital industry has long relied on technology to simplify its operations. Key card and keyless hotel locks have been staples in the hotel industry for over a decade. Mobile check-in has become a standard in most hotel operations internationally since its introduction in 2013. To further ease solo and business travelers anxieties and adhere to social distancing guidelines, hotels have leaned into contactless guest experiences by integrating more technology.
Smart hotel rooms are optimized to work in tandem with smartphones — and mobile apps allow guests to take advantage of amenities and services without interacting with staff. Apps enable visitors to make reservations, put down deposits, check-in to their rooms, use touch-free digital menu systems to order room service, and pay for services right from their phones. Digital wallet platforms like Google Pay and Apple Pay have increased contactless payment options, making the check out process quicker and more efficient.
In some regions, visitors can even scan QR codes to launch virtual TV remote controls. Hotel staff can access guest folios for service bills and automate maintenance orders easily through the same apps. In addition, concierges and front desk attendants can address guest questions and concerns via chat features. Housekeeping has also been aided by the technology boost with robotic cleaners and electrostatic sprayers to sanitize rooms after check-out.
Technological upgrades come with a cost-benefit for management as well. Apps help with client retention because marketing can track data and engage consumers through in-app messaging and push notifications. Technology in rooms such as motion detectors or thermal sensors for lighting and water are eco-friendly and lower energy expenditure.
The hotel and travel industries have had to tweak their marketing strategies. In 2020, global revenue from the travel and tourism industry dropped over 40%. The drop from $685.06 billion in 2019 to $396.37 billion was partially due to travel restrictions. However, consumer concerns also played a significant role. During the height of the pandemic in the summer of 2020, 65% of surveyed travelers reported that they would only fly if airports could assure them of cleanliness and adherence to health protocols.
The Marriott Bonvoy app and rewards program launched a Commitment to Clean digital content page by detailing their new practices to ensure health and safety. Hilton Hotels and Resorts have introduced a similar page with EventReady with CleanStay, highlighting a disinfection protocol sponsored by cleaning brand Lysol. As global travel resumes, it's now common practice for hotels, airports, resorts, and other travel destinations to showcase their hygiene practices through marketing.
In the food and beverage industry, restaurants dealt with closures and strict indoor eating guidelines. In 2010, unemployment in the foodservice industry was at its highest in 10 years. Customers are returning gradually, but the same questions of hygiene exist. As a result, restaurant managers are rolling out new safety and sanitation procedures and trying to communicate these protocols to customers as much as possible during their dining experiences.
Hospitality businesses have upgraded their overall approach to customer service. With guest safety as the highest priority, communication has become paramount to gaining consumer trust. Hotels and resorts have adopted pre-visit emails that outline instructions related to Covid-19. These communications relay any operative or systemic changes to returning customers. In addition, some companies have used pre-visit emails to detail the pandemic's impact on their business. Therefore, clients better understand the precautions they are taking.
It’s no secret that businesses across all industries have turned to the internet to facilitate as much normalcy as possible. Zoom meetings have replaced conference rooms, and service workers count on virtual tip jars to make ends meet. Several towns and cities launched virtual restaurant weeks to increase customer traffic via delivery and takeout in response to local businesses struggling to remain afloat.
Hospitality companies also explored online events to boost business. Bars and restaurants threw virtual cooking and cocktail-making classes. Gyms offered online exercise classes and yoga online. Spas held self-care video sessions guided by estheticians. Although some consumers are returning to in-person health and wellness programs, the success of virtual initiatives and the convenience from home suggest businesses will continue to offer hybrid options.
The events industry was worth $1,135.4 billion globally in 2019 and is expected to grow even with the pandemic, as projections suggest the sector could be valued at $1,552.9 billion by 2028. The most popular events booked at hotels, resorts, and arenas include conferences, corporate events and seminars, fundraisers, music festivals, sports events, and product launches. Corporations moved events to virtual venues in 2020 and early 2021. 93% of event marketers planning to invest in virtual events moving forward. It appears virtual will remain a prominent factor for business into the foreseeable future.
Other industry trends will emerge and impact hospitality down the line, but the pandemic has been an all-consuming force. Consumer behavior will predicate where the industry goes. Businesses that can cultivate and sustain a high trust level with customers will be the most successful. At any rate, health and safety will be the most critical trend influencing decision-makers as the hospitality industry recovers from the devastating impacts of Covid-19.
For more information on the evolution of the hospitality industry and explore its careers, check out Yellowbrick's Ultimate Hospitality and Touring Career Guide.