It’s no secret that the hospitality industry has been hit hard by COVID-19. The combination of international travel restrictions, rigorous hygiene measures, and never-before-seen cancellation policies are further complicating the situation. Yet again, hospitality is a defiant, resilient, and versatile industry that will always fight before it flies. So, as the crisis has continued, people and businesses have begun to rethink, adapt, and overcome, thereby, establishing what we now know as the "new normal". So, what’s this new normal, and how has it affected the hospitality industry as a whole?
Safety and Hygiene in the New Normal
“Please wash your hands upon entering. Please wear a mask. Please respect the one/two meters social distancing rule.” All of these requirements are now part of our daily lives in the new normal. For businesses, and even more so for hospitality businesses, safety and hygiene measures are fundamental. Why? Because guests are now making them a priority when choosing their destination and property. This is why the hospitality industry is so focused on developing new cleaning protocols to prove to its guests that they can enter their property and feel safe. The hotel giant, Hyatt, has gone one step further by looking to incorporate a hygiene and well-being leader to all of its properties worldwide so they can be COVID-19 ready for guests.
Room cleaning is currently being taken to a whole new level, as hotels now offer their guests a choice as to when the cleaning crew comes to the rooms. Another issue of the “new normal” lies in the organization of events. For example, Hilton took its cleaning protocols to the next level to safely welcome guests for meetings and events and launched “Hilton EventReady” in partnership with CleanStay. This protocol offers new options such as room seals, flexible pricing, hybrid solutions for both in-person and online meetings, personalized meal service, and other features. Many hotel brands and groups are going in the same direction, and as they develop partnerships with hygiene/safety companies, like Jumeirah & Ecolab or NH Hotels & SGS.
Accor has also launched new health and safety protocols in parallel with the global insurance leader AXA to offer free access to medical teleconsultations to their guests in all Accor hotels. This program is based on enhanced cleaning protocols, enhanced staff training, and new guest contact measures in all venues, among other measures.
Despite social distancing, the role of the staff is extremely important as they must ensure that the guests and customers feel safe. Therefore, over the past few months, there has been a huge rise in employee upskilling to ensure that they’re capable of handling any virus-related issues. Hospitality teams are working hard to change ventilation systems, reduce guests’ contact by automating as many points of contact, and thoroughly clean every corner of the hotel. Safety and hygiene are the main elements that hospitality businesses are boosting and communicating during the COVID-19 crisis because, as we said earlier, they’re the principal concern of guests when they’re choosing a destination.
Flexibility is Key
Sure, many hotel amenities that we took for granted, like free coffee in the lobby and turndown service, are gone in the new normal. But it doesn’t mean that the hospitality industry is asleep and won’t continue to go the extra mile to serve its guests and customers in the best way possible.
Nowadays, “going the extra mile” can mean a lot of things, but in the hospitality industry, it means being able to adapt to every individual need the customer may have. Thus, hospitality businesses are creating new policies that can adapt quickly to unforeseen changes, like delayed vacations or canceled business meetings.
After the safety and hygiene concerns, flexibility is key to convince guests and travelers that they can come to businesses on their terms. Hotels are introducing contactless check-in and check-out systems to prevent their guests from waiting outside or in the lobby, therefore reducing potential exposure. Hotels and restaurants are also further extending free cancellation offers and are providing guests with more possibilities to personalize their experience. For example, guests can freely modify the content of the room’s minibar up to 6 hours before arriving which reduces the need to shop outside. Some hotels also allow guests to order from nearby supermarkets and have their shopping delivered safely to their room so that they can prepare food without going out.
A large part of this new flexibility standard is made possible by the rise of digitalization, big data, and the use of dedicated apps. NH Hotels provides a mobile application that centralizes check-in, check-out, communication with the staff, as well as room services. In general, voice-activated assistants that control the lights or room temperature used to be convenient luxuries, now they’re commonplace. Reflecting along the same lines, when Deliveroo opened its fully automated concept restaurant in Singapore in 2019, it was regarded as a novelty. However, it could now serve as a source of inspiration for many new openings around the world, as businesses aim to reduce and secure guest-to-staff interactions.
Hospitality, Hospitality, Hospitality
What is hospitality? It’s the art of creating stories and lasting experiences for others, and we know that this value will not be undermined due to the current pandemic. Hospitality is strong and always finds a way to evolve and flourish. We’re now looking closer to home for hospitality experiences, as we’ve seen in the case of the staycation, which is making a huge comeback. A Spanish study conducted in June by Ipsos, a global leader in market research, and THR, a boutique consulting company, showed that 9 out of 10 travelers planned to stay in Spain for their holidays, with only 4% willing to go abroad. Although with less accuracy, this trend can be observed almost everywhere on the planet.
This means that business hasn’t come to a total halt, but it’s rather at a turning point. Hygiene, flexibility, and trust are now the new ways of attracting guests, and hotels are using demand-generated data to enhance these aspects. The average hospitality experience may have changed, but its core values are still there, and hoteliers and business owners all around the world are doing their best to adapt to the “new normal”. Here at Hosco, we’re confident that our industry will arise from this crisis and reinvent itself while staying true to its foundation of experience, storytelling, and service.