Top COVID-19-Induced Hospitality Trends | Part 1: Hotels
Read Time: 8 Min
At this point, COVID-19 is old news, but its effects have lingered and continue to linger even now, three years post-outbreak. Nearly every industry has and is experiencing an onslaught of new, unpredicted changes as a result of this equally unexpected pandemic — and hospitality is one of many taking an extra hit.
Hotels, restaurants, and event spaces have made major shifts in their marketing focus, messaging, and service offerings to meet consumers where they’re at both mentally and physically. After all, in this industry, human contact is everything. So what do you do to continue running your human-centered business when being too close to each other isn’t really an option?
Let’s take a look at what hoteliers are gravitating towards to stay active, visible, and above all, open.
Serve Up Staycation Specials
Although the idea of a staycation is nothing new, the pandemic has forever changed its definition. Thanks to flight apprehension brought on by COVID-19 and rising gas prices causing people to question whether or not they want to leave town, the hospitality industry has seen a surge in local and in-state travel and hotel stays. Although it started out as a way to avoid contact with others or travel too far from home, people began to actually enjoy the concept. A getaway without the hassle of travel or hectic long-term packing? Sign me up.
According to PR Newswire, panelists from the Traveler Trends and Drivers of Behavior post-COVID-19 webinar agreed that “for the near future travelers are going to be cautious and stay closer to home, preferably in less dense, more rural, outdoor orientated destinations.”
So how are hotels responding? Many are tapping into that stir-crazy energy and encouraging people to venture out into their own city or state and treat themselves to a long weekend at a hotel.
Refocus Your Marketing
Build up the indulgent amenities your hotel offers
Spa-style bathrooms, expensive sheets, outdoor patios, rooftop pools — play up anything that triggers memories of vacations past.
Focus on the need for a change of scenery
Most of us have been cooped up in our homes for months and just the idea of looking at a different piece of furniture sounds amazing. And it doesn’t look like ‘Work from Home’ is going anywhere anytime soon.
Be transparent with your health and safety practices
From how you’ve changed your cleaning policies to what you’re doing to aid in social distancing, guests will be more inclined to book a stay if they feel comfortable and safe.
Support local. This boom in local inbound travel is the perfect opportunity for you to highlight local offerings. Contribute to the local aspect of your guests’ stay. Partner with a bakery to provide pastries in the morning, create pamphlets of things to do that support the local economy — anything to make people feel like they are finding little ‘gems’ close to home.
Emphasize outdoor experiences. Make the most of your outdoor spaces too! Most fell in love with the outdoors over the last several years because, well, they were forced to be out there. (And let’s be real, it’s great outside). Expand your outdoor spaces, green lawns, and rooftops — highlight them on your social media and website. Let people know they can be comfortable and happy at your hotel outside too.
Roaaadddd tripppp! And yes, we mean stale snacks, frequent pit stops, cheesy car games, long hours staring at street signs kind of road trips. Expect that a large number of guests coming to stay at your hotel have been in the car for a longggg time.
When COVID hit in 2020, we saw a major dip in travel. Of course, no one wanted to leave their home and we were advised not to. Since then, travel has ramped up again, however, it’s taken flights, rail, and city transit much longer to catch up. From late 2020 to early 2023, the majority of Americans were still opting to drive their car over any other form of transportation. In fact, rail, plane and city transit are still not back at the numbers they were pre-pandemic. All that to say, you can expect that the majority of people walking through your doors have road tripped to their destination, so what does that mean for you?
Better Accommodate Car-Bound Adventure Seekers
If possible, make sure your property has ample parking.
Increase your reception hours to 24/7 or provide contactless check-in (more on that later…).
Create flexibility with check-in and check-out times to accommodate looser travel plans.
Advertise your business as a road-trip friendly destination on social, with media buys, and on popular travel websites.
Make sure you’re familiar with your property’s Google Analytics profile and top-viewed pages. This information can help guide digital and social ad content and targeting by showing you where people looking to stay at the hotel are coming from and what they’re most interested in. (Example, hotel accommodations vs. surrounding area activities.)
The number of daily passenger vehicle trips has hit a major milestone, reaching pre-pandemic levels for the first time in a year, according to data provided to The Associated Press by the transportation analytics firm Inrix, with Americans driving more often and farther than at any time since pandemic lockdowns were invoked.” — Associated Press
Host Online or Hybrid Hotel Events
When the pandemic first hit, we were in shock. Quickly, the world adapted and in our desperation for human connection, we evolved. And so the rise of online events began. You could experience everything from a game night with friends to a full on concert in the comfort of your own bed. Despite being sometimes thousands of miles away from each other, we felt, almost, closer than ever. We talk more about this in our insight, Three ways to Connect with Customers at Home. Now that restrictions have lifted and we are seeing each other in person more, it’s also worth considering hybrid events, or safely held in-person events, as ways to reconnect with people. At first thought, this all might seem a bit irrelevant to the hospitality industry but don’t scroll by so fast! Here are four ways to get your potential guest’s attention with online or hybrid events.
Keep Audiences Engaged
Host a virtual cooking or cocktail-making class with your executive chef or lead bartender.
Partner with local fitness professionals to hold online exercise classes in your gym or yoga sessions near your rooftop deck or anywhere that shows off your hotel’s space.
Create a series of virtual hotel and city tours.
Spa on site? Have your staff teach massage techniques and simple DIY spa services guests can do at home.
With any of these options, consider opening it up to those who might want to attend in person (with safety precautions in order of course). But don’t remove the option for people to attend virtually, the pandemic is still very much in effect, and making these events more accessible to those who aren’t comfortable being in public yet will add to the value of your hotel experience.
Fortify Contactless Guest Experiences
This may be old news to you. The pandemic has been around for over three years now, and it doesn’t seem like it’s going anywhere anytime soon. Yes, with increases in vaccine doses and having time on our side, the pandemic is much more docile than it was in March of 2020, but that’s no reason to back down on safety precautions. We do if for our neighbors and family, our grandparents and immunocompromised friends. The pandemic is still very real, and the efforts the hotel industry has put forth over the last three years is helping curb the spread and keeping people safe.
Now Standard Health and Safety Trends
Mobile check in, check out, and service.
AI-enabled apps such as Ivy by Go Moment are prime examples of how technology can help guests limit their interaction with others. Ivy not only offers mobile check in and check out but room service options and staff-to-guest communication.
From a continental breakfast to full-meal restaurants, hotels nearly always offer food of some kind. Instead of shutting down these services completely, switch grab-and-go meals that guests can order for pickup.
Reduced housekeeping during long term stays.
Many hotels are limiting their room cleaning services to 2x/week vs. every day for long-term guests. Although it may seem counterintuitive to decrease cleaning, it actually will help limit the contact your guests have with your staff — and help keep both parties safer.
Smart hotel rooms.
Just like smart homes, smart hotel rooms allow guests to control every aspect of their rooms right from their smartphone thus cutting down on surfaces prime for contamination.
Despite the fact that COVID-19 has wreaked havoc for the hospitality industry over the last several years and implementing these solutions won’t completely fix the losses caused, staying on top of trends as best as possible is key to staying relevant and accessible. Yes, we’ve heard several of these solutions before, but they are still as relevant as ever. If you’re looking for creative ways to put these trends (and more) to work for your hospitality brand, contact us today.
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