By Alexander Shashou, President & Co-Founder, ALICE
No one could have predicted that a global pandemic would be the black swan event that would send our industry to a screeching halt and set the world into a tailspin.
Throughout the spring, we watched as so many of our partners and friends in the hospitality industry temporarily closed their doors or dramatically altered their operations to protect their staff and guests from COVID-19.
After looking at industry data and talking to our customers, we strongly believe the hotel industry will come back. But coming back is not the end game. We live in a different landscape for the time being and it’s the hotels that can adapt and change that will have the most success.
The recipe for rebuilding our industry is easy to understand and yet infinitely difficult to implement: what should hotels double down on and what should they discard?
Here at ALICE, we’ve made a few predictions for what the future of hotel operations will look like after COVID-19 (we’ve even written an e-book for COVID-19 hotel operations!). We’ve also examined what it will take for hotels to adapt. The key to long term success in a tough market is not fighting to survive the storm, but it is learning how to play in the rain.
1) More With Less Isn’t a Paradox, It’s the Future
As it did in 2008, we believe demand will ramp up over time. Hotels will initially reopen in a partial manner with low occupation levels, keeping certain floors shut down and running at reduced staff counts in order to control costs. Every expenditure will have to be assessed against these new constraints and will need to be able to demonstrate value.
Early indications are that the expectation of reduced staff counts and an increased focus on efficiency, safety, and heightened cleanliness standards will require hotels to have better tools to solve their problems. Hotels will need to do more with less, which is where technology (especially contactless technology) provides the most leverage. Hotel staff will also need to wear multiple hats. Throughout the hotel, roles could become more fluid, as staff will be asked to cover more ground, adhere to new procedures and work with smaller teams.
2) High Tech, Not High Touch
The demand for contactless hospitality has skyrocketed, and it isn’t going away anytime soon. Throughout the recovery, hoteliers will be asking themselves how they can continue to deliver the expected hospitality experience, while managing the health and safety of both their staff and their guests.
From mobile check-in to keyless entry, the amount of physical assets that change hands will decrease. Minimizing face to face guest and staff interactions will also be a common trend. Technology will help hoteliers adapt to a future with contactless communication and contactless hospitality.
3) Luxury Will be Redefined
Luxury is now being redefined in terms of safety and cleanliness. What was once a request for champagne in the room may now be a request for the mini bar, and other physical assets, to be removed. What was once a request for a dinner reservation at the most exclusive restaurant is now a reservation at a restaurant with expansive outdoor seating areas.
The best way for hotels to speed up their recovery is to understand how guest expectations will change in a post COVID-19 environment. In order for consumers to feel confident that it is safe to begin staying in hotels again, the hotel will have to feel as close to a safe haven as their own home. This means they will be expecting heightened cleaning standards, clear and rigorous policies around social distancing and contact-free interactions.
4) Hotel Concierges May Be the Difference
Who better to provide a contactless guest experience than your hotel’s concierge? Guests still want experiences, and Concierges are busier than ever mapping out local areas, understanding what is open, and what precautions are being taken at every restaurant, bar, museum and tourist attraction.
We have seen Concierge be the first point of contact for your loyal guests who are looking for assurances from trusted sources about your new sanitization standards, and your city’s public health status. Concierges, trained guest communications experts, may be tasked with fielding questions about cleaning procedures, products used, disease control and prevention, and how the hotel is tracking it all.
As properties reopen, those with a Concierge will be well positioned to cater to guests’ new requests. As always, they will be the confident, comforting voice providing information and stability within a hotel. The core purpose of the Concierge has not, and will not, change. They are the ultimate providers of hospitality – but the definition of what great hospitality is in these times is shifting.
So, what do we double down on as we make plans for moving forward? What we always have: hospitality. And right now, that means providing a safe, clean space for guests and employees, and embracing the new SOPs that make this possible.