After the coronavirus pandemic’s impact brought the world to a sudden standstill, recovery has been slow and dismal for many industries. The future of the hospitality and tourism industry seemed grim. When the world was hit by the catastrophe, businesses shut shops quickly to combat its effects and turned to measures they wouldn’t have otherwise adopted – cutting costs, furloughing staff members, resorting to online mediums of garnering business opportunities etc., to name a few. These helped many to stay afloat.
With the pandemic now under control and no apparent dangers lurking in the dark, the travel industry is taking a brave stand by opening doors, literally, to travellers from all over the globe. But, the road ahead is not going to be easy and necessary steps may need to be taken to offer guests services that meet their expectations with regard to the post-covid world. Decisions made today will influence the future of the hospitality and tourism industry tomorrow. But, what are these expectations, and how has the consumer changed? The Face of Hospitality in the Post-Covid World what are they longing to see from hotels/accommodation providers? Let us delve deeper into these questions and get a clearer picture of the new era of hospitality, post covid.
Customer Behaviour and Expectations:
An unexpected turn of events that the pandemic was, forced people to change their ways almost overnight. With uncertainties defining the job markets in almost every sector, spending patterns changed. People seemed to have been pushed to reconsider their priorities. Things, which at one point were considered essential, took a backseat for many.
Studies show that consumer spending on discretionary items like travel, eating out, entertainment etc would stay low and focus would stay on the basics like groceries, internet and mobile services etc. This indicates that there is still time for the hospitality industry to reach its glory of the pre-pandemic times. Similarly, those businesses that depend on the travel and tourism sector are likely to suffer the lul.
Hotels depend heavily on the revenue they generate from business travelers. But, given the current scenario, that too will take time to recover. With the death of many organizations that funded such business travel, it is likely that about 5-10% of it would never return. This makes it imperative that the businesses keep a close watch on the trends that determine the future of the hospitality and tourism industry and plan accordingly.
A digital world is now a well-established reality. The pandemic made it more of an inevitable aspect when people had to turn to it to shop, socialize, entertain etc., making it an inseparable part of daily lives and amplifying the need and want for more of it. Considering the apprehensions around safety, especially in spaces used publicly, it is natural for people to continue to have an inclination toward technology such as touchless payments, app-based self-check-ins and check-outs, augmented and virtual reality etc. This should be a cue to hospitality organizations to build the software suits that would work for them in the new normal.
Though the fear of the pandemic may have subsided a bit, it surely isn’t forgotten. People still very much value their safety and security, which is why, it may be difficult to convince people to return to public spaces like hotels, without any apprehensions holding them back. In order to address this, accommodation providers must ensure a clean and safe environment and communicate about the same effectively to their target audience.
Once travel restrictions were put into place during the pandemic, fear of safety, lack of resources and other uncertainties had put it on the back burner for many. Travel is not on the minds of people as much as it used to be in the pre-covid world. They’re increasingly resorting to trips nearby which require comparatively lesser spending. Hospitality organizations would therefore have to make efforts to grab the interest and attention of such short-trip travellers.
Seizing Opportunities and Taking-Up Challenges:
The pandemic has brought opportunities, as it has brought challenges, for businesses functioning in the post-covid world. They not only have to adhere to the rules and regulations put in place by the governments, but have to also adapt themselves to meet the consumer’s changed behaviours and expectations. They would also need to take into account the operational and financial implications that have inevitably become a part of the new normal. Being able to manage these would support survival effectively.
a. Trust Holds a Pivotal Place
In order to rebuild themselves and enable consumers to overcome their fears, businesses would have to try hard to regain trust. Consumers require reassurances about the measures businesses are taking to ensure their safety. Which makes constant communication with consumers a must and following up commitments with the required actions.
Listening closely to what consumers want or expect out of them and then working on offerings that meet them would help build trust and make consumers feel taken care of.
b. Redefine Customer Experiences
While strict guidelines will have to be followed in the post-covid world too, with regard to safety and hygiene, the onus lies with the organisations to make sure that such demands don’t fall heavy on their businesses, yet, are able to keep the customer experience unaltered as far as possible.
c. Engage Customers
Physical distancing and cleaning protocols may help alleviate the fear in consumers. But, they need a little more than that to feel relieved. Organizations must take the initiative to connect with their customers consistently through emailers, social media posts or even Instagram reels to tell them how exactly their health and safety concerns are being addressed. When consumers are kept in the know of things with utmost transparency and honesty, they tend to trust organizations, their promises and their efforts.
It may also be a great idea to keep the interest of customers by offering incentives and special offers. Discount coupons, special privileges etc can all help in luring people in.
d. Switch to Online
Across the board, businesses, especially the hospitality sector needs to move their touchpoints online to protect the health and safety of their employees and consumers.
e. Innovate Business Techniques
It is true when they say that to survive, it is important to change yourself with the changing world. The pandemic has shown that traditional business methods cannot continue in the new normal. Hotels and other recreational facilities which were usually packed with crowds, have to now figure their way out in the current scenario where things have changed. They need to change course and innovate to cater to the current needs of customers.
Organizations must take the onus of understanding how consumer behaviour has changed and tweak their offerings accordingly while being patient about seeing a turn of events. Genuine, consistent effort only can help hospitality businesses to provide customers with experiences that satisfy their needs. In addition, hospitality businesses would need to amp up their software suites to meet the operational needs in the post-pandemic world.
Hotelogix Editorial Desk
Hotelogix‘s team of researchers and writers are constantly innovating to share the latest trends from the travel and hospitality space. Got suggestions? Write to us on [email protected]