COVID-19 has changed the way we do most things, from shopping and travelling on public transport to the incessant need to wash our hands. Hospitality is no different. In a post-pandemic environment, hospitality industry trends are bound to evolve.
How will hotels operate, and what will be most important when it comes to attracting group and corporate business travel? What will stay the same, and what will change?
COVID-19 has led to a significant shift in attitudes. These attitudes will affect almost every area of hospitality, from technology to food and beverage.
Technology and health and safety practices will become even more critical as we figure out ways to stay open while keeping guests safe and healthy.
This blog will explore the hospitality trends venues and hotels need to be aware of and how to adapt.
Hospitality technology trends: robotics, UV lights and more
As hospitality restarts, technology will become a significant hospitality industry trend. Even before the pandemic, trends suggested that the adoption of technology was critical to increase group business and profit.
A younger generation has filtered into event planning, and millennials and generation Z certainly know their technology! Technology, such as virtual and augmented reality, make meetings and events more engaging.
Here’s what we know about event tech before COVID-19:
- 52% of event professionals said that they are investing more in event tech than the previous year.
- 89% of businesses using event technology save roughly 200 hours per year.
- 83% of event creators use an event app.
There’s a new use for technology and it involves making venues and hotels safer. Certain technologies will help you mitigate COVID-19 risks and give your guests peace of mind.
Technology can improve your operational capabilities in a post-pandemic world, from reducing the need for human contact to helping with the cleaning process.
Technology to limit human contact
A big hospitality industry trend is the technology that allows for many contactless activities.
Event planners and guests will want as little hand-to-hand contact as possible when events come back. Luckily for hotels, there’s a whole range of tech available. Hospitalitynet lists a few:
- Contactless check-in/check-out and keyless room entry
- Digital menu systems
- Virtual TV remote control
- Apps to accommodate social distancing at resort pools and beaches
Here are a few additional contactless ideas for safer operations at your hotel:
- Guest self-service payment systems
- Digital signage
- Apps to check-in, order food, change the channel, open doors, and curtains
- In-room ordering
- Passport/ID scanners
- TV-based remote check-out
- Contactless bracelets
- Cashless payments
- Facial recognition
Robots are also helping in the fight against Coronavirus and could be used in the future to minimise human interaction. Softbank Robotics, a robotics company located in Japan, is deploying robots to aid businesses all over the world.
Pepper, their 4ft-tall humanoid robot, is already used in retail, hospitals, and hotels. Helping guests check-in, posing for selfies, and helping guests find their way to your amenities are just a few things Pepper can do.
The robot can read emotion by analysing voice, facial expressions, and vocabulary, allowing it to understand visitors in a more engaging, realistic manner. In this age of COVID-19, Pepper could become all the more valued as a member of hotel or venue staff.
Technology to enhance cleaning
The cleaning of hotel rooms, meeting spaces, and public areas will also be a priority. It’s something venues and hotels won’t be able to skimp on.
Some hotels were already using technology to aid in the cleaning process. At Denmark’s Hotel Ottilia in Copenhagen, guests can stay in a room that disinfects itself each morning – all without the help of a housekeeper. The technology in question is CleanCoat. It breaks down harmful microbes such as bacteria, airborne mould spores, chemical compound mould spores and viruses. It also purifies and deodorises the air for up to a year.
Here are some other ways hotels are killing germs using tech:
- The Westin Houston Medical Centre in the US uses a decontaminating technology called LightStrike Germ-Zapping Robots by Xenex.
- Marriott is using electrostatic sprayers
- Hilton Garden Inn is also using robots to keep their hotel clean. Whiz by Softbank Robotics is a robot vacuum that works alongside housekeeping to alleviate the heavy task of keeping a hotel spotless. Read more about “cobotics” or “collaborative robotics” here.
Although cleanliness and social distancing are critical, hotels and venues need to strike the right balance between sanitary and welcoming. Guests don’t want to feel like they’re in a hospital. Find out how Sofitel Legend The Grand in Amsterdam is approaching this.
Hotels and venues should look into technology to alleviate the pressure on housekeeping and to enhance guest trust in your property and your cleanliness protocols. As hospitality industry trends evolve, it will be critical to be ahead of the game when it comes to cleaning tech.
Virtual events will meet physical
The power of an in-person event cannot be disputed. When the world went into lockdown, virtual meetings and events became a fantastic alternative – we did the best we could given the circumstances. But hospitality industry trends are likely to shift us into a new era of events.
Although virtual gave us a way to keep in touch and give our businesses the means to carry on, we began to miss that face to face rapport.
In-person events are invaluable
Andrew Griffiths, entrepreneur wrote an article on this topic. He lists ten reasons why in-person meetings are more important than we think.
Reasons include body language and facial expressions being easier to read when sat in the same room together and far fewer technological glitches.
So, although virtual is a great substitute, hospitality industry trends suggest that the world is raring to get back to in-person meetings and events.
If you are a hospitality professional, you will know that when in-person events start back up, guests will still be hesitant to attend due to health concerns, which may impact attendee numbers.
Bizzabo recently found:
- 85% of leaders and executives identify in-person events as critical to their company’s success.
- However, 93% of event marketers plan to invest in virtual events moving forward.
- 68% of event professionals are looking for hybrid event technology to support in-person and virtual events.
This figure shows that while we’re hungry for in-person events to return, we know that incorporating a virtual element is much more realistic and will make events safer.
Hybrid events will become the norm
Merging an in-person and virtual event results in a hybrid event. This is where attendees are both there physically and virtually.
Here’s what we know about hybrid events:
- 90% of meeting professionals exceed their goals through hybrid events.
- It’s not a live stream. A successful hybrid event allows virtual attendees to engage with speakers and network. There must be an interactive element.
- Companies such as Twitch and Riot Games, before the pandemic, had been hosting hybrid events as they found that they increased the event’s reach.
Hotels and venues need to help clients adapt to this new format by providing the technology and requirements necessary. High-speed Wi-Fi, a quality AV setup, and adequate power are critical.
Partnering with a hybrid or virtual expert may be necessary to provide event planners with what they need.
Hotels will still need to mitigate the risks associated with gatherings, such as adequate sanitisation and abiding by social distancing regulations. Nevertheless, with a portion of guests attending virtually, the in-person attendance should be manageable.
Sustainability after COVID-19
Another post-pandemic hospitality industry trend is sustainability. While it may have been lost in the noise of COVID-19, what with the need for plastic gloves and endless plastic bottles of hand sanitiser, planners haven’t forgotten about it and neither have guests.
Here’s what we know about sustainability:
- Its cost-efficient: eco-friendly practices often go hand-in-hand with cost savings
- It gives guests a better experience: energy-saving technologies can make guests feel as if they’re making a difference
- It improves your corporate brand image: the younger generation want to work for companies that contribute to the community
As the world settles down and new hospitality industry trends emerge for 2021, sustainability and green hotel operations will most likely become a must. But questions have arisen such as “will travellers care about sustainability?” or “will hospitality have the spare funds to make going green a priority?”. Some sustainable practices such as doing away with bleach and strong disinfectants are impractical right now, for example.
A recent article on Boutique Hotelier News noted that: “The consensus among many professionals is, however, that sustainability is no longer a choice that can really be made by businesses. The future of hospitality will be inherently sustainable.”
That’s right – it’s the consumer that will dictate whether the future will be green.
So what were hotels doing, before COVID-19, by means of “going green”?
- Complimentary bars of soap are one of the most commonly wasted resources in the hotel industry. Hilton does this by donating their used soap as part of their Clean the World Challenges in partnership with Clean the World.
- IHG announced in July 2019 that they were removing all miniature toiletries, instead opting for bulk containers.
- Marriott laid out an energy reduction plan. It included reducing water and energy usage by 20% and over 1,800 of their hotels that have earned a TripAdvisor GreenLeaders badge.
Building a sustainable post-pandemic future
Some believe that COVID-19 has given us an opportunity to “re-shape and reset” the world. Already we’ve seen the reduction in nitrogen dioxide emissions from January to February in China, the crystal clear waters of the Venice canals, and in India, the lowest average level of nitrogen dioxide pollution ever recorded in spring.
The pandemic isn’t an answer to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but as a BBC article states: it should make us consider how we can be better, and the hospitality industry plays a huge role in this.
Not only will turning to greener ways of operating create a better tomorrow but will futureproof your business for the years to come.
So what can you do now to prepare for the coming years? Hospitalitynet listed a few critical steps:
- Look into the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Developed by the UN.
- Train your employees, provide support and education. Any staff responsible for environmental management should be trained and qualified.
- Provide work-from-home options. The world has proven that it’s pretty good at working from home. Doing this will build trust and save money.
- Look into your supplier relationships. How did COVID-19 affect these? Place a focus on local sourcing.
- Create sustainable F&B menus. Try and source foods that are local and seasonal. Provide more vegan and vegetarian options and remove plastic water bottles from minibars.
- Consult your hotel asset managers (HAM), as they have significant influence over the execution of sustainable initiatives at your hotel. Invest in predictive maintenance systems, which lower maintenance, energy and disposal costs.
- Obtain an official certification for sustainability. Research those that would be suitable for your property.
A focus on sustainability may not be the main point of focus right now for hotels, but hospitality industry trends before COVID-19 and those now developing, suggest that it will return.
Hotels should look into ways to reduce their carbon footprint in realistic ways and plan for the future when hospitality returns to normal.
For more hospitality industry trends, have a read of our complete guide to restarting your hospitality business after a crisis: “The Hotel Manager’s Guide to Restarting Group and Corporate Travel Business”