Hotels represent the third strongest sector in this study – ranking in the top three across markets 14 times, just behind grocery and non-grocery retail.
The COVID-19 outbreak and ensuing safety measures have had a significant impact on hospitality throughout 2020 and into 2021. Hotels have been attempting to entice guests back into food and beverage outlets and assure holiday goers that it is safe to enjoy a hotel stay, which has accelerated existing hospitality industry trends and triggered lasting change.
Consumer needs for hotel stays are fragmenting, for example, the new generations have different requirements and needs compared to older generations. “Older generations think about hotels and car rentals. Younger generations think about Airbnb and Uber.”
Solo travelers will likely increase, unique experiences that give back to local communities in meaningful ways are in demand, as are niche properties, adventurous holidays, and relaxation retreats. Staycations could be with us for the foreseeable future.
COVID-19 has accelerated more widespread use of technology-assisted options, such as mobile check-in, contactless payments, voice control and biometrics.
Gaining the trust of guests, that their safety is uppermost in the management’s mind, has been a significant task. Changes in operating procedures and practices to maximize guest and employee safety have been central to their efforts over the past year.
These are reflected in the key trends across each of the Six Pillars which are as follows:
As hoteliers respond to changing consumer priorities by avoiding disposable plastics, eliminating unnecessary paper consumption, and reducing food waste, more far-reaching ethical and environmental considerations are shaping decisions made at the hospitality management level. Initiatives include simple eco-friendly switches such as replacing miniature toiletries with larger, locally sourced dispensers, choosing ethically produced bedsheets made from organic materials and reducing energy consumption with smart bulbs.
AI-powered chatbots have proven to be a customer service asset both during the booking process and in responding to the recurring questions on the protective measures pertaining to COVID-19.
Expectations set by other industries are escalating. Consumers who have become accustomed to unlocking their smartphones and laptops using facial and fingerprint recognition will soon come to expect the same convenience in accessing their hotel rooms.
Time and Effort
Technology advances based on the smartphone are accelerating, consumers can simply point it at real-world artefacts to summon up additional information using augmented reality. Once they have downloaded the respective app, guests can use this tool to access restaurant opening times, reviews or interactive tourist information maps or even create user-generated content.
Today’s guests have grown to expect to be recognized and treated as individuals. Establishments are going the extra mile to personally greet their guests; data management and analytics has enabled highly targeted audience-specific communications. This data provides insight into past buying habits, enabling hotels to tailor their offers and promotions and automatically provide similar services to previous stays.
Hotels realize the power of empathy; training programs enable staff to choose the appropriate verbal and nonverbal responses. When dealing with issues the empathetic staff member will listen to the guest carefully acknowledging the emotional impact caused. A good listener will show genuine interest by overlooking the bluster and asking perceptive questions, to determine not just what the problem is, but also the resulting distress or frustration. Practicing empathy should change the way staff respond to complaints.
The Customer Experience Leaders
Holiday Inn have a clear target customer experience, it has rooted its strategy in four brand attributes: inclusive, purposeful, social, and familiar. The experience is designed to resonate with “everyday heroes” — midscale business and leisure travelers who are self-sufficient, unpretentious, and sociable. Holiday Inn Mexico describes the experience that it wants to deliver as: “We give guests flexible options so they can be themselves. That way, they don’t have to leave the hotel to get what they want. They can find it at the Holiday Inn.”
For Mercure the challenge has been showing that midscale hotels can provide the unparalleled uniqueness of a local experience and become a portal to the destination. It does this by focusing on local and sustainable experiences and discoveries. Cleverly this approach, a focus on local experiences and offerings, transforms the challenge of non-standardization of hotel premises— into a strength. When coupled with ultra-friendly staff and unique food and beverage offerings the combination is a winning formula.
At Van der Valk hotels employee happiness gets equal billing with customer satisfaction, there is a firm belief that the quality of a customer’s stay is a function of how they are treated by employees. Consequently, careful selection, training and an opportunity for progression is a prerequisite for success.
Ibis have responded to the pandemic with market leading innovation. The London IBIS was the first hotel in Northern Europe offering a 100% digital experience. A big step forward for IBIS parent Accor, whose ambition is to offer a contactless guest journey throughout its network, with the use of the best of technology. It provides a fully digital experience with contactless solutions at every stage of a guest's stay. Online check-in, secure payment with Pay By Link, the use of "Accor Key" to access the rooms and other areas of the hotel, digital catering services with Click Pay Collect technology, contact of hotel teams with guests via WhatsApp throughout the stay.
While the travel industry was severely impacted by COVID-19, it was great to see the hotel sector as one of the top performing sectors this year. The increase in staycations and domestic business travel has meant the hotel sector has adapted to changing demand patterns, such as attracting customers back with the assurance of increased safety measures and by offering luxury alternatives and new experiences as customers look to make the most of post-COVID-19 travel again. Businesses will need to continue to innovate and deliver enhanced customer experience to meet customer’s needs to gain market share, better use of technology and data will be crucial drivers to achieving this.
Hotel industry Hall of Fame 2021
Van der Valk Hotels
Note: Hall of Fame based on brands’ CEE performance relative to their market, according to consumers in the market specified.