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The Ethics of Travel Advisors Are Being Challenged, and It’s Not Right

A column in Friday’s USA Today has rankled the travel industry in general and sullied the name of travel advisors in particular.

And it’s not right.

The column is entitled, “Is it ethical to recommend travel while the world is in the grips of a second COVID-19 wave?” and was written by Christopher Elliott. In the piece, which you can read here in its entirety, Elliott not only questions the idea of selling travel now that a new surge of the virus is engulfing the country but also challenges the integrity of travel agents who do so as well as airlines and cruise lines and hotels for offering deep discounts to customers.

Elliott quotes a few experts, particularly those in ethics law.

“With both infections and hospitalizations increasing in many countries, including the U.S., it’s worth remembering the most fundamental ethical principle of all: do no harm,” says Bruce Weinstein, an author and ethics expert. “With that in mind, it is ethically unintelligent to travel now – especially for leisure.”

“I do not think it is ethical for companies to be recommending travel,” says Emily Waddell, who publishes a blog called The Honest Consumer. “The travel companies are just looking out for their own best interest in regards to sales. They’re not taking into consideration the seriousness of the pandemic and how more people traveling could increase the spread of the virus.”

Added Robert Foehl, professor of business law and ethics at Ohio University: “We have an ethical duty to prevent harm to others.”

Okay, as a pragmatist I can see some of their points.

Now let me make mine.

This logic is flawed.

If we were to follow this logic to the letter, then the author and the experts should also use their soapbox to talk about everything that is, allegedly, unethical – both during the pandemic and without this cloud hanging over our global heads.

Such as … where is the outrage for retailers who sell cigarettes, knowing the dangers of smoking and knowing the dangers of second-hand smoke to non-smokers? What about the tens of thousands of liquor stores across the nation selling alcohol, when we know the dangers of becoming addicted to booze? What about the rosy commercials for cleaning products that promise to turn everything sparkling, but fail to warn you that some of the chemicals used to make the product are harmful to your health? Where’s the outrage there?

Granted, I get it. The USA Today piece is directly connecting the ethics question to the pandemic. But again, you could make the same argument with any of the other examples I brought up. Drinking is up — why don’t we castigate liquor store owners who push specials during the crisis? Depression is up — why don’t we criticize schools, for instance, for not doing more to bring their kids into the schools to foster more socialization?

My point is simple – it’s called freedom of choice. Neither travel advisors nor tobacco manufacturers nor liquor salesmen nor the makers of window cleaners are going door-to-door and forcing you to buy their products. They might entice you with sales and specials, sure, but how does that make travel agents any more unethical than any other salesperson?

No, this is a personal decision to travel that rests solely with the client. Just like buying a pack of Marlboros or a fifth of Grey Goose.

There’s no question the entire travel industry is in a fight for its collective lives because of the coronavirus, but the circumstances are extraordinary. Ten percent of jobs in this country are somehow travel related. It’s not just the industry itself but the health of the U.S. economy at stake.

And to suggest, as the column does, that travel advisors could omit, downplay or outright lie about the guidelines and the situation regarding travel at this moment, is not only disingenuous but unethical in and of itself. Times are tough, yes, but travel agents have built an unparalleled reputation they are hardly going to risk for an eight to 12 percent commission. For that kind of reward vs. risk, they better be booking one hell of an around-the-world trip.

(Which, uh, aren’t allowed at the moment anyway.)

Look, the bottom line is this. We’ve already seen how bad the pandemic has been. It has shut down the cruise lines completely and, at one point earlier this year, had planes leaving the gate with just one or two passengers. But to stop selling travel – or, in effect, to shut down the entire industry as the column seems to be suggesting – is not the answer.

And to say that selling travel right now is unethical is a slap in the face to everyone from a hotel CEO to the person who cleans the airport bathroom – all of whom contribute to an industry that makes this country go.

Source: https://www.travelpulse.com/opinions/column/the-ethics-of-travel-advisors-are-being-challenged-and-its-not-right.html

More Than 20,000 Volunteer to Sail on RCCL Test Cruise

Whoa.

We all know cruising has a devoted, passionate fan base, but this is wild.

More than 20,000 people asked to be passengers on Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines’ test cruises before it resumes full service again, after the cruise line put out the call for volunteers.

Uh, that’s 20,000+ in the first 24 hours, according to a fun post by Matt Hochberg on the Royal Caribbean blog.

Royal Caribbean knew earlier this week that it had something along the lines of lightning in a bottle based on some of the response that was coming in for the initial call for help. The cruise line received more than 3,000 emails from people asking how they could volunteer. When RCCL responded by opening a Facebook group page and sign-up form, it saw that more than 22,000 people joined.

As Hochberg noted, part of the process for any cruise line to receive approval to restart cruises from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is to conduct a series of test sailings that have volunteer passengers onboard.

In a statement, Royal Caribbean said, “This group will serve the community of adventurers who are excited and ready to be the first back at sea. Get ready to dust off your suitcase and get back to adventure!”

RCCL has not announced any plans when the test sailings will start nor how it would pick volunteers to join the cruises. The only stipulation is that guests must be at least 18 years old.

“We are still reviewing the CDC framework and do not have details on our simulated sailings,” the company said.

“While we review the requirements proposed by the CDC and consider when we can host our simulated trial sailings, we are gathering information from those who have shown interest on our Facebook group and will be in touch with them when we have more details. Our priority is to ensure that we can exercise our comprehensive set of measures in a safe and healthy manner while making sure we provide a memorable vacation experience.”

Source: https://www.travelpulse.com/news/cruise/more-than-20000-volunteer-to-sail-on-rccl-test-cruise.html

Marriott hosted first-ever Hybrid Meetings Event: Connect with Confidence

On November 9, Marriott International hosted a hybrid virtual and in-person event, “Connect with Confidence,” as the first part of a global series. The event was attended by 30 in-person customers and 238 virtual attendees, and took place at The Ritz-Carlton, Tysons Corner in Virginia.  It showcased Marriott’s reimagined processes and meetings spaces, while reinforcing the brand’s commitment to help meeting planners execute conferences and events during this new normal.

Moderated by Doreen Burse, Vice President, Marriott Global Sales, U.S. and Canada, sessions further demonstrated the brand’s “Commitment to Clean” meeting and event protocols, and featured industry-leading tools, innovative insights and creative solutions from Marriott International leadership with speakers including:

  • Stephanie Linnartz, Group President, Consumer Operations, Technology & Emerging Businesses 
  • David Marriott, President, U.S. Full Service, Managed by Marriott 
  • Julius Robinson, Chief Sales & Marketing Officer, U.S. & Canada 
  • Erika Alexander, Chief Global Officer, Global Operations 
  • Tammy Routh, Senior Vice President, Global Sales
  • Dana Pellicano, Vice President, Food & Beverage

“Our Connect with Confidence event demonstrated that it is possible to host meetings in a responsible, sophisticated, cost-effective, and enjoyable way. We are thrilled to have had this opportunity to showcase Marriott’s creative solutions for hybrid meetings,” said Tammy Routh, Senior Vice President, Global Sales for Marriott International. “We continue to be committed to collaborating with our valued customers as we navigate this new frontier for meetings and events to ensure they have the necessary tools to confidently connect.”

During the event, guests were able to experience Marriott’s new approach to meetings and try new developments such as: 

  • Digital registration and pre-selection of “Sanctuary Seats” with a meeting room set up preview
  • Individually packaged amenities for each in-person attendee, including a face shield, mask, hand sanitizer, and color-coated bracelets to showcase each attendee’s level of comfort i.e. red for “please keep your distance;” yellow for “respect my space;” and green for “elbow bumps welcome”
  • Curated virtual-only content to enhance the hybrid experience, including infographics outlining pre-event, event day, and post-event protocols 
  • Real-time interactive discussion and polling questions, multiple camera views for virtual attendees, virtual games with rewards, and a Q&A sessions for both virtual and in-person attendees
  • Creative lunch solutions, including a food delivery credit for virtual attendees, and option for in-person attendees to dine solo, or with one, two or three others at their table 

Based on live polling, nearly 25% of attendees plan to host a hybrid event within the next 1-3 months. Overall sentiment emphasized the importance of flexibility, offering attendees choices based on comfort levels, and delivering cost-effective and technology-driven solutions.

Source: https://www.traveldailynews.com/post/marriott-hosted-first-ever-hybrid-meetings-event-connect-with-confidence

Meliá Hotels International Launches An Incentive Travel Programme For The COVID-19 Era: Individual And 100% Flexible

This Christmas, companies can include hotel stays among their Christmas gifts to customers or partners

The COVID-19 pandemic and travel restrictions have caused numerous changes in the travel industry, forcing the MICE segment to completely reinvent itself and look for new ways to reactivate business travel. According to forecasts made by GEBTA and BRAINTRUST, travel for professional reasons at the end of 2020 will still be 50% below the previous year.

One of the segments that has been most affected is that of incentive trips, a traditional motivational tool that companies use to reward their best customers, employees or partners. For Meliá Hotels International, incentive trips represented 10% of all MICE revenues in 2019, and it has also been an important segment for travel agencies over recent years.

Given the current situation, the leading hotel company in Spain has taken a step forward in making incentive travel viable in the COVID-19 era, distancing itself from the more traditional concept of organised group travel and creating a new format in which flexibility and personalisation of the journey by the end user are key. The new individual incentive programme is linked to the MeliáRewards loyalty programme and offers companies the chance to give a stay to their customers, employees or partners as a gift, with each recipient able to choose the time, destination, type of hotel and duration of their trip. This is possible through the purchase of MeliáRewards points to share out among the people the company chooses which can be used whenever they wish.

“Offering individual incentive trips is the best option at a time in which travelling in groups may be subject to certain restrictions. That’s why we are seeing a clear trend for companies to include hotel stays among their Christmas gifts to employees or partners, given that it’s a very flexible incentive for the times we are living in” confirms José Miguel Moreno, Global B2B Sales & Marketing Senior Director at Meliá Hotels International.

This is one of the many activities the hotel company is currently carrying out to stimulate the MICE segment, adapting to the current market conditions under the Stay Safe with Meliá programme created by the company to reinforce health and safety in its services and facilities, and certified by Bureau Veritas.

About Melia Hotels International

Founded in 1956 in Palma de Mallorca (Spain), Meliá Hotels International is one of the largest hotel companies worldwide, as well as the absolute leader within the Spanish market, with more than 380 hotels (current portfolio and pipeline) throughout more than 40 countries and four continents, operated under the brands: Gran Meliá Hotels & Resorts, Paradisus by Meliá, ME by Meliá, Meliá Hotels & Resorts, INNSIDE by Meliá, Sol by Meliá and TRYP by Wyndham. The strategic focus on international growth has allowed Meliá Hotels International to be the first Spanish hotel company with presence in key markets such as China, the Arabian Gulf or the US, as well as maintaining its leadership in traditional markets such as Europe, Latin America or the Caribbean. Its high degree of globalization, a diversified business model, the consistent growth plan supported by strategic alliances with major investors and its commitment to responsible tourism are the major strengths of Meliá Hotels International, being the Spanish Hotel leader in Corporate Reputation (Merco Ranking) and one of the most attractive to work worldwide. Meliá Hotels International is included in the IBEX 35 Spanish stock market index. Follow Meliá Hotels International on Twitter @MeliaHotelsInt and Facebook meliahotelsinternational.

Source: https://www.hospitalitynet.org/news/4101451.html

Losing the Chateau Marmont – The Life of a Hotel Doctor

The Chateau Marmont is a funky art-deco apartment converted to a hotel in the 1930s with nine nearby cottages acquired during the 1940s. John Belushi died in a cottage in 1982, but that was a few years before I became its doctor.

I made 157 visits. My last, in 2002, was not at the request of the hotel but of a national concierge care agency. Although it charged spectacular fees, this rarely caused a problem because the guest has agreed to pay by the time I arrived.

Unfortunately, the particular dispatcher answering its 800 number did not like to deliver bad news. As a result, he took down the caller’s information and cheerfully announced that a doctor would arrive but neglected to mention the fee.

The visit went well, but the guest’s jaw dropped when I handed her my invoice for $500. This was 2002 when the dollar was worth something. Hearing that I only earned a fraction of that did not relieve her distress. Not possessing cash or a credit card, she phoned the front desk to ask the hotel to put it on her bill. She also expressed displeasure at the size of “the hotel doctor’s” fee.

As the desk clerk counted out my money (probably more than his weekly pay), I explained that I was making this visit for an agency which was responsible for the fee. He nodded politely, but the Chateau Marmont has not called since.

Source: https://www.hospitalitynet.org/opinion/4101518.html

Hospitality’s necessary job pivot creates surprising hiring opportunities for travel-tech

It’s hardly a secret that the hospitality industry was one of the sectors hardest hit by the COVID-19 crisis.

With countless businesses on hold and millions of staff laid off, the challenges have been huge. But despite the situation seeming dire, there are opportunities waiting to be tapped.

Facts and figures: the impact of COVID-19 on the hospitality workforce

Statista reports that due to the COVID-19-related slowdown in global travel and the forced shutdowns in many countries, over 100 million jobs have been lost so far. With the second wave of COVID-19 in full swing in Europe and several other regions, this number is set to rise further.

McKinsey’s research has found that as a result of COVID-19 proportionately more women have left the workforce than men. One of the main reasons is that many women felt compelled to take on more work around the home, especially tasks related to caring for children once schools and childcare facilities were temporarily closed.

While McKinsey looks at the labour market across various industries, the hospitality sector is no exception. Countless talented employees have been let go, furloughed or have left the hospitality industry workforce for another sector.

The result is the loss of many highly experienced people with desirable and transferable skill sets, many of whom may not return. This is a huge risk for the hospitality industry since the mass migration of skilled employees to other domains could mean a long-term brain- and talent-drain for the industry. Unsurprisingly this will add to the challenges hospitality will face during its recovery period.

A unique opportunity for travel tech organisations

But it doesn’t all have to be doom and gloom. With so many hoteliers being let go, those looking to hire have a huge talent pool at their disposal. This creates two major opportunities for travel tech providers.

Chance to increase diversity in the workforce

By now, we’ve established that hoteliers from various backgrounds are looking for new job openings, possibly even outside of hotels.

Another recent change has been the shift to predominantly remote work and more flexible hours. This makes it easier to hire people who will work from home permanently or for a majority of the time. Now it will be less complicated for organisations to employ staff who live further away (maybe even in another country) or want to stay at home to care for family members. Especially the latter point can be an advantage for women since they still shoulder the majority of these responsibilities in many households.Finally, larger numbers of applicants for job openings will increase the likelihood of getting qualified candidates from underrepresented groups. This, in turn, is a fantastic opportunity for travel tech companies to up their diversity levels and become more inclusive workplaces.

Why is that such a big deal? Having a more diverse team has many benefits for businesses. It can boost productivity rates by up to 25%, increase employee retention, lead to more innovation and a better understanding of the customer which in turn can lift revenues by up to 19%. Of course, the positive brand image this can create among clients, partners, staff and potential applicants is also valuable.

Access to an enormous talent pool with highly desirable skills

Today, many hoteliers are re-evaluating their careers. After years in the thick of operations, they are keen on a new challenge or are finding it necessary to pivot. For them, travel tech is a great sector to transition into and many have done so extremely successfully.

Gillian Tans, the chairwoman of Booking.com is the perfect example. After a career in hotels, she joined the OTA in its early days, a risky move, some thought. Since then, she has guided the business through growth phases and spearheaded key shifts within the organisation.

Ms Tans shows that hoteliers make for great leaders in the travel tech space. They understand the industry because they’ve worked in it. They get the target customer and their problems or challenges, because they have been this customer and have experienced the same challenges and issues.

“About ten years ago I moved to STR, a hotel data analytics company after having worked in operations for a few years. I have always been good with numbers, which is why I naturally gravitated towards revenue management. Give me an Excel spreadsheet and I am happy. Moving to STR was an ideal move for me, because I got to work with numbers everyday. I was able to take my experience from operations and apply it everyday,” says Naureen Ahmed, Director of Marketing International at STR, about her transition.

Hoteliers also know how to treat a client and ensure they have the best possible experience – whether that’s during a hotel stay or with a tech product doesn’t make a difference to them.

Finally, hoteliers and people from the tourism industry are used to working with people from various backgrounds. They know how to overcome language barriers and they can encourage diverse teams to pool their many strengths for the best possible outcome.

Now that so many hospitality professionals are seeking new opportunities, travel tech companies have the rare chance to pick the best of these highly talented people and leverage their industry knowledge, customer focus and leadership to grow their own businesses.

Berengere Brohan, Founder of My O.C. sums up the above in her own experience: “Transitioning from hotel operations and strategy to tech and keeping on switching between the two has been so eye-opening! Not only do you get to have a 360-degree view of the environment, various markets, vendors, and more but it also keeps you on top of the game and what’s new in the industry. And that’s what’s most needed to get better at your job!”

Bringing together candidates and opportunities

Despite the many candidates out there looking for new placements, it can still be challenging for organisations to find the perfect fit. This is why WHTT (Women in Hospitality and Travel Technology) created a unique and first-of-its-kind initiative to help businesses find, hire and train their best candidate.

Source: https://www.hospitalitynet.org/news/4101320.html

The Latest Developments and Trends in Hospitality for 2020 & 2021

Fundamentally it has been a completely different year from any other – many referring to a “new normal” – bringing a plethora of contrasts to the industry when comparing hospitality to pre-COVID-times. This urges the need to review what trends have come and go, and put any concerns into perspective.

Of course, COVID-19 has scrambled things up causing ripples in the hospitality pond, just as we have seen with previous crises. Regardless of the negative effects that came into being, there are always new opportunities that arise as a result. In this article we will be covering everything from shifts in consumer behaviour and expectations to hotel concept trends, bringing you up to speed on the latest hotel developments and hospitality trends.

In this article:

  • Need for Higher Level Customer Service
    • Safety as the New Luxury & Cleanliness First
    • Personalization
    • Tech-savvy Hotels
    • Health & Wellness Stays
    • Luxury Nature Travel
    • Personal Connections & Experiences
    • Next Level Vacation Rentals
    • Unique Experiences
  • Consumer Trends
    • Local Travel
    • Changing Booking Trends
    • Transformation of Corporate & Group Travel
    • Growing Middle-class in Developing Countries
    • Millennials & Aging population
  • Concept Trends
    • Sustainability
    • Hybrid Hotels
    • Merging Nature into Hotels
    • Home Away from Home
    • Mixing History and Modern Architecture

Accelerated Need of Higher Customer Experience

From stuffy – uninspiring hotel concepts and operating procedures to ancient hotel systems, there was always a need of improvement rather than seeing consistent high quality of services and products being offered across the board.

Then COVID-19 came – and now that time is over…

People’s needs and wants have been fundamentally shifted, creating the need for the hotel industry to shape towards the traits of the “new normal”.

Which hotel trends should we be looking out for, and what are the best ways to navigate the myriad of developments in the market. Let’s break it down…

“Safety as the New Luxury”

“Going above and beyond” is the typical phrase used in hotels in order to provide excellent service. But how does this translate into practical terms when it comes to health and safety measures? How can we meet expectations and deliver unmatched customer experience during these challenging times during COVID19.

Xotels´ Tips: Implement well developed protocols making your guest feel safe and not preoccupied with thinking of their health. Steps that you can take directly include:

Be there every step of the way, outlining every step of the customer journey from when the booking is made until they arrive home safely again. For example:

  • Booking confirmation email (containing all the safety measures taken at the hotel). Include any relevant information from check-in information to cleaning protocols, and even activities that guests can safely do around your hotel.

Understand that any doubts on your safety standards could mean the difference between a cancellation or successful hotel stay, at any point after the booking has been confirmed.

Creating an elevated experience of security throughout the hotel. Go for a small scale approach in your pursuit to make guests feel secure. Build a personal connection to become part of the customer journey, introducing possibilities to make a positive impact on the customer journey without being too intrusive.

  • Be prepared to cater to new needs and wants of guests, whether it is organizing corona-proof events and activities, or more generally, making sure the guest experiences a perfectly safe and clean environment.

Make information clearly visible. Efforts shown by the hotel should be brought to light. The last thing you want is guests having to look for information when everything is right at hand. Do not let your efforts go to waste – make it available wherever you think guests might need it! Our tips include:

  • Prevent any doubts by providing as much information as possible before arrival
  • Utilize QR codes pointing to your protocols
  • Ask during the check-in if guest are interested in additional information per email (read more on guest email collection opportunities)

What fits your property type/service level. Make sure sufficient value is created in the eyes of the guest within your price range/hotel positioning. For instance, ask yourself – does a hotel qualify as “luxury” if one cannot ensure health and safety measures are equally matched to the same level of service and product expected from a property of higher caliber.

Attention to detail makes the above efforts even better. Your efforts will be fruitful when you go beyond only covering the basics, and go the extra mile for guests.

Cleanliness First

Clearly, people are prioritizing their health during this pandemic, and will likely continue to do so for quite some time. Recent articles such as from the New York Times claiming the most important word in the hospitality industry right now is “clean.”, and a survey by Oliver Wyman that found that improved health and cleaning is a primary factor impacting the decision to stay at a specific hotel.

The meaning and association with the word clean has been turned around. To make sure what was once taken for granted (a “clean” room), it is needed to step up your game in order to live up to the customer´s completely new different definition of cleanliness (a “virus-free” room).

Xotels´ Tip: Technology

  • Killer lamps a.k.a. disinfectant lights using UV-light to sanitize surfaces (portable light modules, robots etc.)

Communication – how to get the (right) information across

  • Chat services, whether automatic (chatbots) or not (instant messaging with staff such as Whatsapp) allow for more swift and accurate ways to communicate information to guest
  • Hotel app, all protocols and initiatives should be listed. Referring to the app´s readily available information primes guests to make use of the app before reaching for an alternative such as calling to the reception.

Marketing message, make sure to include the initiatives in your marketing message.

  • Clearly display them on your website in various ways:
    • Concise short-list of your steps to tackle any concerns guest might have
    • Similarly, a pop-up message can be used to bring the information to guests attention
    • Do not overlook other departments. Promoting F&B specific measures such as food safety or convenient delivery options you might have should take away any doubts
  • Let your guest experience talk for itself. Be sure to include it in your marketing efforts across your hotel website, email campaigns, social media, and on OTAs. Highlight positive reviews and customer success stories about your outstanding health and safety measures.

Nothing is worse than putting in the efforts and money without the guest having the knowledge of what was actually done. Following the above examples and making sure the message is clearly visible throughout the guest journey will maximize potential results.

Personalization

Creating unique experiences has always been a major part of hospitality. However, for guests to qualify their stay as exceptional takes more than just covering the basics. Focusing specifically on their needs and wants and tailoring the provided services accordingly is where the difference can be made.

On a more fundamental level, it is evermore important not to lose the human touch to your services during these times. For both reasons, we believe personalization should always be front of mind.

Xotels´ Tip: In-room features examples

  • Selection of pillows and blankets, lighting color/intensity, choice of food and beverages available, curation of guest activities)
  • Personal turndown gift/note

Personalization of communication. Ask upon check in questions like “what kind of activities they have planned” and “what they would really like to do before they head back home”. This information allows you to receive detailed feedback of their interest and provide detailed suggestions to make their stay truly special. This can be included on many places including:

  • Hotel app: activities and packages bookable through the app streamlines the experience and allows for automatically created content suggestions based on previous choices
  • Complementary tablet/smartphone during the stay: make an individually curated selection of activities which can be pre-downloaded onto the device and given to the guests
  • Personal chat and telephone operators, keeping track of what has been asked and ordered is essential here. This input should always inserted into the system if relevant for future personalization

Leverage your PMS and CRM systems, personalization can become complicated very quickly especially for larger properties. Managing data in this case could become impossible without the support of a good PMS and CRM system. The loss of valuable information could be devastating for any hotel.

  • Sustainability, bring sustainable choices to your guests. Give them options such as the frequency of towel and linen changes. Showing not only that you care about the environment but also at the same time adding an extra level of personalization and value to your service.
  • Get your staff on board, they are at the center of your success to elevate personalization in your hotel. Overcoming the issue of undedicated staff should not be overlooked, as it is the most-cited hurdle when it comes to harnessing the potential of personalization (74%, BCG).

Thinking of holding off on the personalization of your services during current times? First, consider how easy it is to lose customers. Most (80% of consumers, Qubit) are open to switching their choice if they find services better catering to their needs. The same applies to marketing, with 25% of consumers (Netimperative) would be more loyal to a travel brand that shows an understanding of their needs through marketing, avoiding what they feel are irrelevant offers such specific periods/seasons they would never travel in, or types of vacations they would never book.

In short, switch into a higher gear when it comes to personalization and start asking yourself what can be done to take your services to the next level, otherwise it might be too late!

Tech-savvy / Smart hotels

Zoku – Smartly designed, offering a contactless experience with express self service check-in/out through self service and automated billing via email

The world is becoming more involved in technology, and will have to follow suit to provide to the needs of the already tech-savvy guests. In current times, technology in the hotel industry aids both the customer experience and, importantly, the need of a safe and clean setting. A great example is stepping into a fully contactless hotel, which seems like a simple feature to offer, but goes a long way in making the guest feel secure and comfortable.

Xotels´ Tip: Try finding what tech suits your brand best if you want to go big. More specifically, in case of luxury properties, you want to make sure human touch points are kept allowing the elevated guest experience expected in such properties to take place. On the opposite end are hotels and hostels characterized by simplicity and streamlined operational processes. Here, tech is THE facilitator for exactly what is nowadays expected by this target group. Chiefly, things such as mobile check in/out, an integrated hotel app, all in a contactless environment, are the essentials to elevate your customer experience, which is likely to become the standard in the industry sooner rather than later.

Health, Exercise & Wellness Stays

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People find sports as a way to unwind and improve quality of life, with recommendations pointing to exercise at least 30 to 40 minutes a day. Also, many feel the need to relax and are willing to spend, with estimates going from a $639 billion market, to $919.4 billion by the end of 2020 (Global Wellness Institute).

Offering unique ways for people to stay active and healthy, such as yoga in the swimming pool in the image above, can really make you stand out from the crowd. Especially offering extended services such as exercise and nutrition plans can make you go the extra mile in personalization creating a personal bond and making the guest feel extra special.

Xotels´ Tip: Willing to invest in healthy activities or wellness facilities? Start building your strategy first, researching your competitors thoroughly to come up with ways to stand out. Keep in mind that this does not necessarily have to translate into large amounts of time and money to broaden your service offerings. Below are listed a few initiates fit for any hotel wanting to expand on their health and wellness services.+

  • Follow the latest hotel trends and spa tech. Consider if it fits your brand first, and if it truly adds value. Not every initiative is for every hotel.
  • Look into partnerships with well-established spa product providers to create additional value. Possible, even leveraging their marketing power to your benefit. Be picky though – make sure the brand fits the image you want to portray (e.g. luxury hotels should only partner with top-level brands known for their exceptional quality).
  • Be vocal on social media even if you implement simple initiatives. The activities make up for great content, so be sure to take advantage of it.
  • Externalise– fitness and other activities such as yoga, tai chi, and meditation can all be outsourced with minimal costs involved. The activities do not even have to take place within the walls of your property.

final tip to consider is how well any of the above offerings fit your brand, and where the line between cost and value-add ends. Although resources might be available, sometimes going for smaller implementations can pay off big time and your valuable time and resources can be better spent on other initiatives.

Reconnecting with Mother Nature in Luxury

Nihiwatu Hotel, everything can be said with their motto: Socially Distant, Wildly Connected

Beautifully located in nature emerges guests in the natural setting, allowing guests to be one with nature. Curating special experiences fully embracing local culture and unique features of the hotel’s surroundings forms the go-to approach. To qualify as “luxury”, services should focus on tailoring the experience to the guests individual needs and wants, and deliver an experience unlike something they have ever seen before.

Some inspiration from Nihi Sumba involves hikes into local villages, bird watching in the midst of the jungle, or a guided tour to hidden lakes combining a swim with a delightful personalized lunch.

Xotels´ Tip: Unfortunately, not any hotel can just copy paste these views onto their backdrop. However, activities can be offered in the same way to fully experience what the destination has to offer. Whether it is cultural experiences or natural attractions around your hotel, try showing the beauty of what is out there. It can widely broaden your offerings and attract guests that are in the market for something special.

Extra Tip: build a wide range of packages special to your area, and put the effort by tailoring the service to each guest for a personal twist. And do not forget to include what your destination has to offer on your hotel blog to entice people to book and capture traffic on popular keywords.

Experiences & Building Personal Connections

Casa Vaganto, BarcelonaTapas & Cava on the House! A Perfect Moment to Connect with Guests and Meet New People

Despite the implications COVID-19 has on social interactions and activities, people are still looking to experience new things. Those willing to go out there might still be craving the personal attention and special care that hospitality is known for. Taking back that personal connection and interaction in current times could be more important than ever before. Things like offering complimentary tapas and drinks just like provided at Casa Vaganto, Barcelona can be just that occasion where you can truly take advantage of a moment to connect with guests.

Xotels´ Tip:

  • Invest in small scale moments to create memorable guest experiences. The guest’s experience will overreach anything tangible that can be produced (Cornell).
  • Increase your chances to rectify negative experiences. Tackling any issues personally before check out will prevent negative sentiment in many cases, subsequently protecting your review score..
  • Do not set any boundaries to time. The setting should be unforced with ample time for any guest to make use of the service.

Bringing Vacation Rental to the Next Level: Design and Unique Local Experiences

Kabano Vacation Rentals, El Tarter, Andorra, caters to all needs and excels in delivering unique experiences

Design

If we are honest, the vacation rental business has proved to be a laggard in the hospitality industry when it comes to concept design, missing the consistency and product quality we find in hotels. But why? Especially considering the fact that the product makes up for a much larger part of the overall experience in comparison to hotels, where service is typically more central.

So why not stand out from the crowd in a largely aesthetically indifferent pool of rentals out there? A great example of concept development is Kabano Rentals, a brainchild of Vojo Ventures, shown in the above image. Distancing itself from the herd with its own character, custom design, premium finishings, and curated local experiences. Let’s go through some design inspiration taken from Kabano that can make you stand out:

  • Premium furnishing, designed and equipped to the highest standards
    • Unique furniture, handcrafted in Bali, Indonesia
    • Premium linen, giving that extra comfort and luxury feeling
    • Individually designed spaces, with a little design twist to each room
  • Functionality front of mind, considering functionality across every possible touchpoint throughout the property (e.g. specially allocated area in the private parking made to get changed in comfort after a day of skiing, outfitted with a washing basin, ski equipment and clothing storage/drying rack, and sitting area). In case of Kabano, which is right in front of the ski pistes, the services are catered towards the specific needs of customers booking in that area. Look for similar ways to implement features to make guests feel comfortable.
  • Seamless experiences, contactless check in/out and availability of information (concierge and tablet providing everything you need)

Local & Unique Experiences

The majority of travellers find local experiences important, with only 3%: finding it not important at all (85%). Shifting focus to highlighting local experiences at your property is therefore essential to attract guests to your property.

Xotels´ Tip: We suggest you dive deeper into the following actions:

  • Generate as many ideas as you can to promote to your audience
    • Local food: cooking classes, food packages (e.g. fonduing with local cheeses in the chalet), local drink tastings
  • Creating the VIP experience, taking all the effort out of travelling (everything is pre-arranged). Think of:
    • Suggest a full plan of activities ranging from ski rental and restaurants bookings, to transportation to all the locations.
    • Take the opportunity to curate it to the guest´s preferences – personalize it
    • Go the extra mile when it comes to special experiences. Do not fall into the same category as everyone else with generic offerings that will not impress anybody.
  • Promote your activities, posting it in on your social media and hotel blog page
  • Inform the guest as much beforehand, and get them excited about all the possibilities. It allows you to start earlier with planning and gives guests more time to decide on their choices.
    • Watch out: most guest book experiences on spot so be prepared (hospitality. Starting with introducing options as early as possible might help you to bring this number down.
  • Revenue opportunity: build on your online strategy. Only 20% of experiences are available bookable online!

Consumer Hospitality Trends

Local Travel

Increase of the query “near me” in Google Trends clearly showing the heightened traffic on local searches over the past years (October, Google Trends)

Despite a dip from March until June for obvious reasons, we have seen an increase in traffic for local searches being performed.

Shift in Destinations Popular destinations seem to have shifted as well. According to a recent Booking.com article, six of the top 10 had never been in the top 10 before (globally), such as the Baltic Sea and Rügen region in Germany.

Previously, lists of popular destinations shown on OTAs and hotel chain websites would typically consist of various trending cities spread across multiple countries. Today, however, showing local destinations, within driving distance, would make more sense.

Challenges for hotels that arise from this include lower visibility of your otherwise “popular” destination, resulting in less impressions and clicks.

Xotels´ Tip: In practical terms, this means that we should be on top of local search trends by focusing on regional opportunities. Think of:

  • What the “new” consumers might be searching for when discovering different destinations beyond major cities and large tourist destinations. Possibly, these guests are completely unfamiliar with the city/destination itself, and this is where you can stand out and gain direct traffic. Think of:
    • Blogging: target local activities and the unique characteristics of your surroundings
    • Social media: has always been a great tool to display your hotel to a wide audience. Similarly to blogging, make sure to inform your audience about the possibilities at both your hotel as well as the city/region as much as possible to draw them in. This also allows you to curate content from different sources to expand your content strategy.

In other words, if the traffic is there you must be strategizing to capture as much of it as you can! We cover this more in our article about revenue management in a crisis or economic downturn.

Changing Booking Trends

Since COVID-19 started to show its impact on the hospitality industry, we have seen significant changes in consumer behaviour. Uncertainty being the main driver of how guests are searching and deciding on their travel plans. With travel restrictions in place, people are looking for safer ways to travel leading them to book closer to home, avoiding the risk of moving through high traffic areas. Another implication of uncertainty is the delayed moment of booking, meaning a shorter booking window.

Xotels´ Tip: In the same way the situation keeps changing, we can anticipate that booking behaviour will follow along. Our recommendation is to keep an eye on your data and take actions accordingly. Be sure to follow any changes in your on the books data, utilizing metrics provided by OTAs and by talking with your direct competition for additional insights. We advise to take the following action:

  • Build marketing campaigns according to the characteristics of the target segment. Furthermore, metrics such as lead time and feeder market can give you insight into when campaigns could be launched to maximize effectiveness.
  • Promotions and packages, both will help you to tackle low demand and target price sensitive customers. Aim not only to offer cheap deals, but also create value at the same time when prices are bottoming out. Add value without increasing the overall price too much can simply be achieved by including add-ons at cost-price. Whether it is a free dinner, breakfast or a welcome package, anything can help to sell rooms as long as the price is right for the customer.

Transformation of Corporate & Group Travel

This one might pose the obvious, since people are shying away from leisure travel let alone taking a trip for work…

As some companies choose teleworking- and communication instead of putting their employees at risk by making them travel for business, it is a logical outcome that corporate travel is impacted negatively.

Xotels´ Tip: Put your sales hat on and focus to maximize business from local markets as well as driving ancillary revenue. Making up for the loss of revenue otherwise coming from your corporate segment will not be easy, but the multitude of opportunities must give you the chance to diversify your revenue streams. Our tips include using your current customer database for retargeting, building marketing campaigns hyper-focused on the benefits of travelling locally, and introducing new packages and services catering specifically to the needs of consumers in the “new normal”.

Growing Middle-class & Emerging Markets

A prime example of a country showing prospering middle class growth is, of course, China.
Taking into consideration the steep incline of China’s middle class over the past years (4% of China’s urban population, to over 30% in 2018), which is expected to hit 75% by 2022 (McKinsey & Company), means a large number of consumer buying power that can be funneled into your hotel business with the right strategy.

From another perspective, entire regions can be expected to show strong growth figures. Take for example the African population, which is expected to account for approximately 40% of the world’s population by the end of this century (UNPF, 2015; World Tourism Organization, 2010; York, 2014). We know, speaking about an entire continent typically asks for some extent of generalisation. However, we use this example on purpose, being that it’s worth paying close attention to your data to possibly pick up on any trend happening in your market, hopefully a little bit earlier than your competition!

Xotels´ Tip:

  • Own your data, and be on top of any trends that might seem to appear from specific regions or countries.
  • Gather data from your direct channels, OTAs and anywhere else you might be able to find additional data on where travellers are coming from (i.e. municipality and regional databases).

Aging Population & Millennials

Focusing on specific segments based on age group might help you gather insights on what services and products you might be able to offer to drive revenue.
Take for example the aging population trend. The population over 60 is expected to grow at the fastest pace ever, with a growth rate of 58% over the next four decades in the developed world, well surpassed by developing countries clocking in at numbers more triple the amount of what it used to be in 2009 by 2050 (Nella & Evangelos, 2016).

Xotels´ Tip: Looking at the above statistics must prompt the urge to start thinking about the best ways to cater to the needs of this segment. The same applies to Millenials and other age groups, whether the numbers show such significant growth or not, there are always opportunities to drive revenue!

Also, read our article on how to get Millennials to Book at your hotel, for a detailed approach to get this consumer demographic to your hotel.

Hotel Concept Trends

Sustainable Lifestyle & Accommodation

Urnatur, Sweden, Secluded in the Swedish Countryside and Built with the Utmost Respect for Nature

Sustainable accommodation seems to become more popular by the day, showing 73% of global travellers intend to stay at least once in an eco-friendly or “green” accommodation when looking to book their next trip. In addition, another 70% of travellers are more likely to book an accommodation knowing it was eco-friendly, whether they were looking for a sustainable stay or not (Booking.com, 2019). Also, giving back to the community and planet is shown to be of importance, as indicated by a survey conducted by Condé Nast Traveler, that showed 58% of travellers said they choose a hotel on whether it gives back to local people and the planet.

Xotels´ Tip:

  • The road towards becoming more sustainable does not always have to be complicated. Of course, no matter how beautifully implemented with every aspect of sustainability in mind the above example is, there are other ways for hotels to positively impact the environment. Creating a concept built on a sustainable foundation does pose significant benefits if well-planned and marketed in the right way. Before taking action, make sure to consider the following first:
  • Market research, this should tell you whether there are options to diversify yourself, or if there is the need to follow the market which is already moving into sustainable solutions
  • Cost vs value calculation, depending on your budget and willingness to implement solutions, you should start discarding ideas based on your resources when it comes to time and money.
  • Small vs Big, evaluate simple steps can be taken towards a more sustainable property. Start by partnering locally with food producers and organizations focusing on improving sustainability in your area. Together you might be able to effectively provide value to the community. Anything from serving fresh local produce to using sustainably made decoration in rooms and public areas can make a big difference. Make these items available for sale to support the local economy as well.
  • Involve your staff in creating sustainable solutions that are easy to implement and are supported by your team from the get go.

In summary, do not go overboard in your efforts without a proper feasibility study and commitment from your team! However, choosing not to follow the sustainable path could translate into missed opportunities and loss of revenue.

Hybrid Concepts

The Green Elephant Hostel, Maastricht, The perfect execution of a ¨Glostel¨

Combining the words “Glamourous” and “Hostel” defines what has been brought to life at The Green Elephant, Maastricht (TGE). The concept brings luxury facilities, such as a full spa, to more affordable hotel types such as hostels. TGE has managed to tastefully merge more upscale amenities with the economical benefits of shared sleeping facilities, elevating the whole hostel experience to a new level.

Xotels´ Tip:

  • Mixing two concepts widens the audience, still attracting guests whose limited budget prevents them from visiting “luxury” properties with upscale amenities, as well as guests with higher budgets where a bunk bed suffices as long as extensive facilities are on offer.
  • Do it the right way, which is neither too trendy nor overly swanky, establishing a comfortable atmosphere for every guest. Otherwise, it will just not make sense!

Merging Nature and Urban Life

BUNK Utrecht, Creating a Sense of Nature Throughout the Hotel

Apart from sustainable solutions, hotels can implement other ways to bring a sense of “nature” to the hotel. Using plants can give a fresh and vibrant vibe, offering the possibility to be creative with the use of plants by blending them harmoniously with the rest of the decor.
Providing a splash of green in the hotel can prove to be beneficial to the overall guest experience, as green spaces are shown to have health-promoting and stress relieving purposes in residential environments (Beyer et al., 2014). Similarly, introducing sounds of nature can provide corresponding results, promoting relaxation and wellbeing amongst guests (Cassandra et. al., 2017)

Xotels´ Tip: Great results can be achieved with only little investment and smart placement of greenery. Various solutions can be found depending on the climate and your budget. The key here, again, is to make it fit your concept in order to guarantee a successful implementation. Anything could work from self-sustaining ecosystems to virtually maintenance free choice of plants (e.g. cacti and succulents), as long as it fits your style and concept.

(Long)-Stay away from Home & Remote Working

Zoku Amsterdam, Offering Unique In-room Facilities Increasing the Comfort of Being away from Home for Work

Offering simple and effective design centered around a balance between work and life is what Zoku does exceptionally well. Creativity is what sets them apart. Take for example the seamlessly integrated section hiding the sleeping area from the living room, and for a little bit of extra fun – gymnastics rings (as shown in the room image above) installed for those craving a little workout during their stay.

Xotels´ Tip: Before conducting any research into implementations, make sure you understand the fundamentals of this segment. Specifically, what are their needs and wants, and maybe even more importantly, how can you most effectively cater to those desires.

  • No skipping, meaning taking no shortcuts when it comes to making your entire hotel ready to accommodate the needs of this segment. Anywhere from public areas (lobby, breakfast area, cafe), and meeting areas (function spaces, breakrooms) to the rooms should be covered when it comes to offering comfort and accessibility to create a comfortable working environment.
  • Keep it fun, bringing a touch of playfulness to the implementation, just like Zoku does with the gymnastic rings. Also, community managers can fulfil an important role in establishing a balanced environment that fits every guest well.

Mixing Historic and Modern Architecture

Hotel Mariënhage, Eindhoven, Combining breathtaking modern architecture with the beauty of an old monastery

Mixing heritage sites with new and exciting architecture, such as the example above, allows for ways to repurpose old buildings and create new and inspiring concepts. Planning and execution of these kinds of projects usually can rack up a fair bit in additional costs, but will make you stand out more from the crowd and give people an extra reason to visit your property.

Xotels´ Tip: Embracing the concept in a well thought through marketing strategy is vital to the success for this kind of venue. Associate other amenities such as your meeting rooms and restaurant in your marketing message to complete the package and overall experience

Will Hospitality Get Its Talent Back When The Pandemic Is Over?

If you have never been a writer like me, and all of a sudden you have to improvise yourself one, you start thinking about what style you should use, who you should target, and most importantly what your approach should be.

When I started working on the blog and writing, the main goal I set for myself was to always maintain a positive approach, and even when talking about difficult topics or about things that are not going so well, I wanted to always try and find a way to turn it around and bring up a positive message. In other words, the silver lining is my goal.

This is particularly hard when you try and write in 2020, when most of the discussions we are having are surrounded by a negative connotation and unfortunately multiple things are not going well.

Something I have been thinking about lately – that worries me on one side, and that makes me curious on the other – has to do with how our industry will recover in terms of workforce. The fact is that myself and many colleagues in hospitality are now faced with a heavy reality and we have reached the point when we have to ask ourselves the toughest questions of all: “Is it time to leave the industry and make a career switch?”.

Some of us have been considering this for some time now and are in front of new opportunities, so we need to make a choice. Most of us unfortunately don’t have a choice. We need to work and bring home some income, and if our industry offers no chances at the moment, then we have no choice but to look elsewhere.

We know this is happening and we have all come to accept it. However, what worries me now is this question: when the pandemic is over, and hospitality has recovered from all this, will people come back to it, or will they stay where they are?

Restaurants, hotels, airlines and all service companies are forced to lay people off daily, and are therefore giving up a lot of talent. But when they will be ready to rehire and bring them back, will that talent be ready as well to return, or will it be lost to other businesses?

Consider this: hospitality talents are some of the most compassionate, charismatic and flexible people you can find. We know service and experiences better than anyone else, so we will be able to please customers in whichever industry we will end up. We know and value people above all, so we will be warm and humane leaders wherever we end up. We work under a huge amount of pressure and a constant fast pace, and we have to be extremely flexible to succeed at our job, so we will be strong and we will easily adapt to any new challenge.

We will most likely be successful in other industries because of the skills we have learnt in hospitality.

On the other end the reality is that hospitality staff is unfortunately underpaid compared to other industries. So when the workforce will be exposed to a higher pay, a better schedule, and a more regular lifestyle, will it be willing to give that up and come back?

Even in a situation where companies have no choice and they are doing the only thing they can do, should they keep this aspect into consideration and find a way to guarantee their return? Should they worry about losing that talent forever? Should they be proactive and prepared on how to regain them?

I have asked the question to my friends and colleagues in the hotel business, because we are the talents that might or might not come back, and I am interested in knowing what their thoughts and plans are.

I asked two questions:

  • “How is the pandemic making you think about leaving hospitality and switching industry?”
  • “If you are considering a switch, would that be temporary or could it be permanent?”

I am quoting some of their answers here below – and respecting the privacy of those who prefer to stay anonymous.

Caroline – Room Division Manager – in the industry for 17 years

“I am not really thinking about leaving (yet) since hospitality is really the industry which I love the most and at the moment switching is not a must for me (again, not yet). If I was to make a change it would be only temporary, as I said I love this job and I believe things will pick up again when this is all over.

Former colleague – Sales Manager – in the industry for 12 years, says:

“The pandemic has created a very uncertain future for us and I don’t know when the situation will be back to normal. Of course this triggers me to look for opportunities outside of hospitality, but I’m also doubting if right now it’s a good time to switch as a lot of industries are affected. Of course I would consider a job opportunity in another industry if an employer provides a growth opportunity. If I was to make a switch I would definitely give it a full chance and adjust my career goals. Unless I am unhappy in the new role and business, I would stay. But if that was the case I would most likely move back to hotels. At this stage I am not thinking about a permanent switch as I am quite comfortable and protected in my role and company.”

Chris – Director of Sales & Marketing – in the industry for over 30 years – says:

“I have all the confidence that the industry will recover. I think it’s going to be slower and that it will take longer to get back to the great numbers of 2019, then it took after the 2008/2009 dip. I see continuous consolidation in the business, and a consistent trend of fewer people doing more work and wearing more hats.

I have no plans to leave the industry, in my current DOSM role at an independent boutique hotel, I think I will be working harder than ever to build and maintain relationships to differentiate our hotel and restaurant, fill seats and rooms and make sure our guests really feel the love. This won’t be easy until our city moves into phase 3, until a workable vaccine is in circulation, and people are more comfortable around strangers once again.”

Silvia – Spa Manager – in the industry for 13 years – says:

“Let’s start by saying that the pandemic has made me rethink and reconsider everything. So yes, the idea of leaving the industry has crossed my mind. However, I feel that even if I give it my best, I am not excited about jobs that are not in hospitality. I also feel like I am not being excited during the interview process for the same reason, as it’s obvious that my real passion is not there.”

Friend – former F&B Director – in the industry for 15 years, says:

“Pivoting during these times is crucial to one’s success. A lot of what we’ve learned by working in hotels can be applied to a multitude of different industries due to the empathetic nature of our job and to our ability to handle stressful situations. If a job requires dealing with people in any shape or form – hotel people are naturally able to excel in those roles.

Personally I do not see myself staying away from hospitality, however I have come to realize that when looking for a position I will need to broaden my search and think of how I can add value to an organization or a brand with my existing knowledge and experience, and this may be outside of my comfort zone.

I have spent the last 10-12 years going from a restaurant server to a hotel executive, I feel I will manage to do the same in another capacity. But will my work environment be upbeat, fun and filled with the joys that come from engaging with guests and hospitality colleagues?

The biggest fear is of an unknown model of work, but if I enjoy it – will I come back to hotels?

There is no answer to that question, however I know many people who left hotels to pursue a different path; many ended up liking their new careers and did not come back. Same for those who left other jobs and ended up finding happiness working in hotels.

Consistency can lead to a dull life. Unless we try and pivot we will never know, it may not be what we know best, but it will be a unique and different experience.

And if you fail, you can always think of 2020 as a year of interesting experiences and go back to your comfort zone. No one will judge you for your actions. Hospitality does not judge people for their background, choices and lifestyle. If you work hard and show your added value, you will be accepted back with open arms.”

Ilka – former Sales Manager – in the industry for 28 years, says:

“In the near term it feels like there is not much of a choice but to seek employment outside of hospitality. I’ve spent years building relationships and a reputation as a trusted partner and advisor for my customers and I don’t want all that work to be lost. I would certainly consider returning at the right time and for the right opportunity. It will be interesting to see how everything continues to morph in order to meet the current restrictions, while finding new and innovative means to meet and exceed clients expectations under the new normal.”

Ryan – former Sales Manager and F&B operations manager – in the industry for 15 years.

“Yes, the pandemic is making me consider leaving the industry, or if anything getting into a hospitality support industry. With new opportunities I can’t be sure that the switch would be permanent. In an ideal world I would return, but if a position allows me to learn new skills within an industry I enjoy then yes, the switch could be permanent. Hospitality has taught me many skills that can be utilized in many other industries so if a change is positive then it may be permanent, if not I would look into returning to hospitality in the future.”

What about me?

Well, at the moment I am waiting for my residency paperwork to be processed. In the meantime I’m obviously deeply thinking about what to do when I will be able to work again. I have to be completely honest and admit that, even though it might not be very smart thinking, the thought of leaving the hotel business has not crossed my mind, at least not yet. Is it foolish? Perhaps it is, but for better or for worse, I simply haven’t given up on it.

When I think about applying again – when I finally will be able to, I can’t think about anything but roles in hotels. I strongly feel and hope that the industry will recover sooner than later. If the circumstances don’t improve in the short term, I will have to look for something else because I need to work. And if that will be the case, it will for sure be temporary, and I will be anxiously waiting for the time to come back.

I really am a loyal and passionate hotelier, I love my job and my industry and I am a huge advocate for it, I miss it deeply and I just can’t wait to return.

There seem to be many thoughts going through people’s minds right now, but there are also some consistencies with that.

People who were already considering a switch before the pandemic (and therefore for unrelated reasons) will hopefully find a job elsewhere, and will most likely not return; for them the pandemic has just been the necessary push they needed to finally make the move.

People who were and are unsure seem to be considering anything at the moment simply because they have to work and they don’t have a choice, some will enjoy the benefits of their new job, and will make the switch permanent; some will eventually miss hospitality and will return anyway.

Many are not going very far: by looking at jobs not in our industry – but related to it – they can allow themselves to apply the skills and knowledge they already have without making a drastic change.

Finally, people who still feel strong about the industry, might or might not make a switch depending on their personal situation, but if they do, no doubt it will be temporary. Those are people like me who are looking forward to returning as soon as possible and who can’t devote themselves to anything but hospitality.

The bottom line is that the industry will lose some percentage of its workforce, big or small will depend on many circumstances, but for sure some talent will be lost.

Is this necessarily a negative factor? At first sight it sounds like it, but let’s look at it from a different perspective: we know there are people in hospitality who would be better suited for – and much happier in – a different industry, they just haven’t had the necessary push yet. We know there are people in hospitality who are just not charismatic and people oriented enough to succeed in it. We know there are people in hospitality who are not there for the passion, but just for the paycheck.

All those are the people who will most likely leave for good, so what will we be left with? With those who are passionate, loyal and well suited for the industry.

Maybe we will lose in numbers, but we will gain in talent.

Maybe when we are ready to start again, we will have a smaller pool to hire from, but we will have a higher level of loyalty, devotion, and enthusiasm.

So maybe there is a silver lining after all: that the pandemic is going to leave us with the workforce that really belongs to hospitality.

Source: https://www.hospitalitynet.org/opinion/4101245.html

Airbnb’s Commitment to Safer Travel: New Health and Safety Mandate

As people continue to find new ways to travel and host safely, in line with guidance and rules issued by local governments and health authorities, cleanliness remains a priority. Today, we announced hosts and guests must agree to follow Airbnb’s COVID-19 Safety Practices, which include wearing a mask, practicing social distancing, and, for hosts and their teams, abiding by our five-step enhanced cleaning process. This commitment will help provide extra assurances to try and safeguard all our stakeholders – hosts, guests, their communities and governments.

Earlier this year we introduced Airbnb’s Enhanced Cleaning Protocol, a set of guidelines for cleaning and sanitization developed with guidance from leading experts in hospitality and medical hygiene and former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, which earned the Safe Travel stamp from the World Tourism and Travel Council (WTTC).

Since the launch of the program in June, hosts have enrolled nearly 1.5 million listings and guests have given these listings an average 4.8* star rating for cleanliness. Early in the pandemic, Airbnb also issued health and safety guidelines about wearing a mask and practicing social distancing in accordance with guidance from the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control.

In an effort to reiterate our commitment to responsible travel and the well-being of our communities, we are now requiring all hosts and guests to commit to the following COVID-19 safety practices:

  • All guests and hosts must wear masks and practice social distancing when interacting with each other.
  • All homes hosts must commit to implement Airbnb’s five-step enhanced cleaning process by November 20.**

Hosts have until November 20, 2020, to commit, otherwise, their accounts may be subject to warnings, suspensions and, in some cases, removal from the Airbnb platform.

Resources to support hosts

To help hosts and their hosting and cleaning teams uphold these standards, we continue to update our Resource Center with information, resources and tools to help them offer a safer travel experience. We also developed the Airbnb Cleaning Hub that provides hosts with access to tools and resources to help them uphold the health and safety commitments, like articles, checklists and recommended supplies.

Consumers are voting with their feet

Now more than ever, guests are looking for the features that have made Airbnb unique – private homes beyond densely populated tourist and hotel districts with more space and more control over their environment. Roughly three out of four guests recently surveyed by Airbnb*** said they would be more comfortable staying with their families in a listing than in a hotel with other people.

The new requirements will not only help bolster the quality of listings on our platform, they will also help hosts meet changing consumer demands. According to internal Airbnb data, listings enrolled in the Enhanced Cleaning Protocol are some of the most popular listings and have three times more bookings on average than listings that were not enrolled in the protocol.**** Guests continue to turn to listings enrolled in the program to have a more socially distanced travel experience.

While hosts are doing their part to support healthier stays, we also continue to encourage our community to follow the latest local health guidelines. To learn more visit our Airbnb Resource Center.

Source: https://www.hospitalitynet.org/news/4101021.html

Las Vegas: One Destination’s Approach to Travel Recovery

The Las Vegas strip was the leading commercial casino market in the U.S. in 2019, generating nearly $7 billion in revenue. However, its appeal for domestic and international tourism goes beyond gambling. As a top destination for shopping, fine dining, entertainment, and nightlife, Las Vegas has drawn interest around how it’s rebounding from the impacts of COVID-19.



The Las Vegas travel industry is navigating the complexities and uncertainties of the constantly evolving COVID-19 landscape, managing the unpredictable flow of openings and shutdowns of the city’s most prominent establishments and identifying new pockets of demand to help keep them afloat wherever possible.

Spurring industry recovery takes collaboration, partnership, and a unified approach with all stakeholders across the ecosystem – from lodging providers to online travel agencies, to destination marketing organizations (DMOs) and attraction providers, among others. This has been especially true for Las Vegas, which has leaned into partnerships, technology, and data to help support recovery strategies.

Hotels have been among those that hit the hardest during the pandemic. According to research, for the week of March 8-14, 2020, U.S. hotel occupancy was down 24.4% to 53% year-over-year, with Las Vegas occupancy down by 39.8%. On March 17, Nevada’s governor ordered a month-long closure of casinos and other non-essential businesses such as bars, movie theaters and gyms and restaurants, severely impacting the city. World-famous hotels, casinos and entertainment venues closed their doors. Since then, the city has been on a rollercoaster of volatile demand.

Research from Las Vegas-area tourism officials shows that in June, while the number of visitors was down, some hotels and casinos were seeing small pockets of domestic travellers eager to travel following months of lockdown. Expedia Group data showed that searches at the end of July to mid-August (July 20 – August 16) were up by an average of 30% week-on-week, for trips between August and October 2020. Almost all searches for trips to the destination came from domestic travelers, reflecting the U.S. border restrictions for international travelers. Top domestic inbound markets included travelers from L.A., followed by Las Vegas, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Chicago, Houston and Anaheim, but all with a share of under 5%, indicating demand was widespread across vario us parts of the nation.

The type of traveler is also evolving. According to the Review Journal and Gambling News, many of the local and Strip casinos have seen a younger, high-spending demographic of travelers who tend to stay longer and, more importantly, spend more while they’re there. It’s thought this younger guest is probably a mix of local and drive-in customers who are viewing Las Vegas resorts as an affordable trip during the pandemic. Executives are advising local businesses to capitalize on this new guest now by offering promotions and incentives that target this specific group, with a longer-term plan of trying to build loyalty amongst them to ensure repeat customers after the pandemic ends. Casinos and hotels can lean into their partners’ digital capabilities and insights to help them understand their guests and where they’re coming from in order to tailor promotions to capture demand efficiently during the pandemic. For example, Expedia Group developed a new free online data insights tool for its lodging partners, and a new feature that allows partners to highlight the health and hygiene measures they are taking at their properties, such as hand sanitizer included in all rooms, enhanced cleaning, and social distancing measures, on their sites.

Daniel Wathen, Director of Market Management at Expedia Group for Las Vegas, says: “It’s been an incredibly turbulent few months for Las Vegas. Peaks and troughs of traveler demand has been non-linear and unpredictable. Hotel, resorts and casino owners and managers have done well to adapt to the volatility of the market and to serve domestic travelers where possible. Las Vegas is one of the world’s top destinations and at Expedia Group, we know the ride has been tough. We’re working hard to ensure our lodging partners are supported such as by providing local demand trends and insights, and we are in constant communication with other local players in the tourism industry to attract demand and facilitate travel however we can during these difficult months.”

So how else are hotels and resorts weathering the storm? Many are tapping into technology, allowing them to stay informed and flexible in a constantly changing environment, and are also getting creative in their recovery strategies and campaigns.

One example of this is seen with MGM Resorts International, who has sought creative ways to reposition itself over the course of the pandemic, such as via its Viva Las Office promotion, which encourages remote workers to trade in their home office for a hotel room office.

MGM Resorts also serves as an example of industry partnership, and how leaning into digital strategies can increase efficiency and deepen understanding of the market. Working with Expedia Group as part of the company’s partner recovery program, they were given various levels of assistance, including access to real-time, proprietary d ata to track demand trends, helping inform the resorts’ ongoing recovery strategies. Through this data, MGM Resorts can better understand when demand will return to the market and identify where demand will come from. The two brands have a long history of collaboration, including incorporating technology solutions to help drive business results.

“Our partnership with Expedia Group has been instrumental in helping us identify travel trends and adjust booking strategies during these challenging times,” said Lee Ann Benavidez, MGM Resorts International’s Vice President of Distribution Partnerships & Transient Sales Strategy.

Las Vegas lodging providers are constantly reevaluating their marketing strategies to align with the changing landscape. The STRAT Hotel uses TravelAds, a sponsored listing product from Expedia Group Media Solutions, in their recovery strategy, focusing on increasing brand awareness of their “Golden Commitment” to guest health and safety as well as driving additional occupancy. With the focus on high placement and conversion, the click-through rate has continued to be strong, while conversion increased.
“Since we have used TravelAds in the past, we knew it worked so we wanted to ensure it had a strong role in our recovery strategy. We also knew that customized ad copy would be important during this time to call out key things to our guests during this interesting time,” Corporate Director of Revenue Management Robert Bunker said. “We also saw our clicks stay consistent with what we were seeing pre-COVID-19 Q1 2020.”
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) is no stranger to the constantly changing landscape, identifying through data when and how to best encourage and welcome back visitors. Partnering with Expedia Group Media Solutions, the LVCVA launched a recovery campaign at the end of May letting travelers from nearby drive markets and top fly markets, such as P hoenix, Los Angeles, San Diego, Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, San Francisco, Denver and Seattle, know that the city is open to visitors, using imagery and copy that highlights social distancing and safe activities.

The LVCVA has evolved its campaign strategy based not only on campaign learnings, but also from available data across the Expedia Group portfolio of brands, providing insights into current traveler behavior. The ability to quickly turn the campaign on and off is critical, given the changing guidelines in Las Vegas as well as COVID-19 travel restrictions and quarantine mandates from other regions.

“This unprecedented year has dealt Las Vegas steep and unexpected challenges,” said Fletch Brunelle, vice president of marketing for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. “As a research-based organization, we spend a lot of time learning who our visitors are, where they are coming from and what they want out of their trip to Las Vegas. For the destination to be able to reopen successfully, it’s imperative that we apply these learnings to our media strategy and effectively reach those who are starting to plan their travel.”

The campaign has delivered a strong return on ad spend (ROAS) and steady improvements week-over-week, whereas many other markets saw a big dip in demand in July due to a second wave of cases. Las Vegas was one of the top booked domestic destinations across the Expedia Group platform in July, with market share seeing double digit growth in recovery against its competitive set.

Las Vegas hotels and attractions are also working on a co-op destination recovery campaign with Expedia Group Media Solutions for later this year.

It’s clear that in addition to local partnerships, a common theme throughout the road to recovery is technology and data. Data plays a key role in informing strategies, helping travel companies understand when and where they need to adapt , shift their approach, or pause external efforts. Las Vegas travel partners are leveraging proprietary Expedia Group data to understand where the demand is coming from so they can better track trends, traveler behavior and intent, so they can best connect with travelers and capture demand, when the time is right, to rebound from this global crisis.

It will continue to be a rocky road ahead for the starlit city, but a combination of understanding new traveler trends through intelligent data, working creatively and collaboratively with multiple local industry players towards a common goal, and using digital strategies to attract the right guests, means there’s a glimmer of casino-floor light at the end of the tunnel for Las Vegas.

Source: https://www.hospitalitynet.org/opinion/4101051.html