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

What Is the Future of Travel Under a Biden Presidency?

The travel industry is at a crossroads.

The devastation of the coronavirus pandemic has put airlines, cruise line companies, hotels, car rental businesses, restaurants, tourist attractions and suppliers and vendors to the industry on the brink of financial disaster.

If we aren’t there already.

So now that Democrat Joseph Biden has been projected to win the 2020 Election – pending final state certifications and expected litigation from President Donald Trump – the question must be asked.

What is the future of the travel industry under a Biden presidency?

To know the severity of the situation one must consider the numbers.

In a great article, Forbes noted that according to the World Travel & Tourism Council, the global travel and tourism industry will lose 174 million jobs this year if current travel and quarantine restrictions continue. In the U.S., a report produced for the US Travel Association found that the Leisure & Hospitality sector accounted for 11 per cent of pre-pandemic employment in the United States and that 39 per cent of all jobs lost in the US economy is attributable to declines in travel.

“The American travel industry congratulates President-elect Joe Biden on his victory,” U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow said in a statement. “We applaud President-elect Biden’s objective of helping the industries most heavily impacted by the pandemic. The travel industry accounts for more than a third of overall U.S. unemployment, and policies to promote relief, recovery, and stimulus for travel businesses are integral to a U.S. economic turnaround.”

Ironically, as polar opposite as the candidates were – and as polarizing as this election was – there are similarities between President Trump and President-Elect Biden when it comes to the travel industry.

Both men want an extension of the CARES Act stimulus package in order to provide airlines with another payroll protection program bailout after thousands have workers have already been laid off.

Trump banned flights to and from China when it first became apparent the coronavirus was making an impact in the U.S., and later put restrictions on travel to and from Europe. Biden supports flight bans and restrictions if the science says so, i.e. an order from the Centers for Disease Control.

Where Biden differs from Trump is the cause of all the angst in the industry – COVID-19. Biden has said he would have been, and now will be, more proactive than the reactionary effort of Trump. To that end, at least two major television networks reported that Biden will announce on Monday a 12-member task force to deal with the pandemic.

“We share the emphasis on combatting the spread of COVID-19 expressed by the president-elect while building economic growth,” Dow said. “The right combination of technologies and behaviours already exists to allow the restart of travel without compromising health and safety, and making rapid and reliable testing more widely available will be a key element of an even broader economic reopening.”

The industry is also hoping that the Hospitality and Commerce Job Recovery Act of 2020 becomes law. According to Forbes, the act introduced by U.S. Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) and Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) is designed to provide relief and recovery measures for the convention, trade show, entertainment, travel and hospitality industries and their workers through a package of tax credits. The multi-billion-dollar meetings and conventions industry has been particularly devastated by bans on meetings and shows; Las Vegas, home to 150,000 visitor shows like CES, currently limits gatherings to 50.

Sara Nelson, the influential president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, said the key is getting the stimulus package.

“You’ve got to get relief in place as soon as possible, both for economic reasons but also for health reasons,” Nelson told Conde Nast Traveler. “So the relief bill—and I refuse to call it a stimulus bill, because we’re in the middle of an emergency—the relief bill deals with both the economic crisis and also the health crisis. I think if you look at any lame duck session, there’s not great hope there, but if we had people who actually ran for office because they believe in this country and they care about this country, then Congress would act, and at a certain point it doesn’t matter what the President of the United States does.”

One other difference is infrastructure, which presumably includes America’s aging airports.

“The infrastructure plan is going to be critical, and it also needs to have a care component,” Nelson said. “Vice President Biden has in his plan a recognition that infrastructure isn’t just physical, it’s also human interaction—it’s childcare, it’s individuals who can do contact tracing. There’s a big human element to infrastructure.”

Still, Nelson remains optimistic. When asked what she thought of the psychological impact the election is going to have on travelers, or if travelers will see themselves differently depending on which man was elected, Nelson said: “People are going to be ready to go, they’re going to want to see each other. The virtual meetings have connected people in a new way, but what we have seen in the travel industry is that the more people are connected by technology the more they want to travel—because people naturally want to be together. And if you think businesses are going to say, “Oh, we don’t have to have those expenses, we don’t have to pay for those plane tickets and the hotel rooms”—the first time somebody gets a deal because they went personally, that all snaps back again.”

Nelson did take a shot at Trump, however.

“I also think we’d be a lot further along right now if we had actual leadership that not only helped contain the virus but also communicated what we’re doing in various industries to keep people safe,” she said. “We have a pretty extraordinary story to tell in aviation about how controlled the environment is. It takes everybody doing their part and following all of the rules, but when that happens it’s one of the safest spaces in America right now.”

Source: https://www.travelpulse.com/news/features/what-is-the-future-of-travel-under-a-biden-presidency.html

HVS Asia Pacific Hospitality Newsletter – Week Ending 6 November 2020

Singapore has announced that travellers from mainland China and the state of Victoria in Australia will be able to enter Singapore without quarantine. Upon arrival, travellers will have to undergo a Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction (“PCR”) test and will not be required to be quarantined if the result is negative. Visitors from mainland China and Australia made up a quarter of total visitor arrivals to Singapore in 2019, with China as the top source market, accounting for one-fifth of total visitor arrivals and SGD4.1 billion in receipts. To facilitate the arrivals, the Singapore Hotel Association (“SHA”) created a one-stop reference on its website. The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (“CAAS”) mentioned that travellers from these areas can apply for an Air Travel Pass from 30 October onwards to enter Singapore on or after 6 November. Singapore citizens, permanent residents and long-term pass holders returning from these areas do not need to apply for this pass. To qualify for the pass, applicants must have remained in mainland China or Australia in the last 14 days prior to their entry. As of 29 October noon, 1,375 applications from these areas were approved, and 602 visitors were received. None were tested positive for Covid-19.

Japan Eases COVID-19 Travel Curbs for Nine Countries and Regions

Japan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Toshimistu Motegi, announced that Japan has lowered its infection risk advisory from Level Three to Two against nine countries including Australia, Brunei, China, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. However, Japanese citizens are advised to avoid non-essential trips towards these countries. On the contrary, Japan raised its travel advisory against Jordan and Myanmar, which advises citizens to avoid all forms of travel. There are currently 152 countries and regions issued with Level Three advisories. In addition, Japan and Vietnam have agreed to implement a business track, where reciprocal short-term business travel could be resumed. Travellers could negate the 14-day quarantine order, should they test negative for the coronavirus upon arrival. Vietnam would be the third country that Japan authorises reciprocal business travel, following South Korea and Singapore.

Singapore-based economy hotel operator, RedDoorz, has launched a new economy lifestyle hotel brand, SANS, as part of its strategy to build the largest new-age hospitality company in South-east Asia. SANS, inspired from the Indonesian word “santai” which means to “chill”, aims to provide a vibrant and cosy stay experience at an affordable cost, with properties to feature trendy furnishings and amenities. The brand will debut in Indonesia next month, with an expansion of five more new properties targeted by year end. RedDoorz will also embark on a major rebranding exercise in 2021 to reposition the company as a multi-brand accommodation platform. The company said that it plans to add new accommodation products to its platform across economy lifestyle, mid-scale and extended stay segments, on top of its existing budget hotel brand and co-living service, KoolKost. As part of the rebranding, the company will also roll out a new redesigned app and rebranding campaign in the first quarter of 2021. The new app will allow users to browse the company’s portfolio of accommodation brands, and will also be complemented by a new loyalty programme, which can be used to earn and redeem discounts, and access exclusive partner offers and benefits.

Aman Founder, Adrian Zechahas partnered with Japan-based hospitality group, Naru Developments, to launch a new Ryokan-inspired hospitality brand, Azumi. The first Azumi property is slated to open on one of the islands in the Setouchi Region, in southern Okayama Prefecture of Japan, coming spring 2021. Named after the Azumi people, one of the ancient seafaring tribes who crossed the ocean and settled in Japan, the brand is anticipated to showcase the right harmony between traditional design and modernised comfort. Each Azumi property will serve as a medium of expression for each locale and its climate by charting the diverse and dynamic roots of Japan’s cultural background.

About HVS

HVS is the world’s leading consulting and valuation services organization focused on the hotel, restaurant, shared ownership, gaming, and leisure industries. Established in 1980, the company performs more than 4,500 assignments per year for virtually every major industry participant. HVS principals are regarded as the leading professionals in their respective regions of the globe. Through a worldwide network of over 50 offices staffed by 300 experienced industry professionals, HVS provides an unparalleled range of complementary services for the hospitality industry. For further information regarding our expertise and specifics about our services, please visit www.hvs.com.

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

The Five Emerging Trip Types of 2021

The global pandemic turned travelers’ plans upside down in 2020. Looking ahead to 2021, the impact of the pandemic is changing not just our choice of destination but also the type of trips we’re most likely to take in the coming year. Our new research reveals the five emerging trip types for 2021 to motivate and inspire travelers to take a trip (or five) to best fit their newfound travel preferences.

1. Solace in Solo

The solo travel trend is likely to gather even greater momentum as people’s thirst to travel, which was stymied by the pandemic, will nudge them to take the plunge to travel on their own in 2021. Our data pre-pandemic saw only 17%* of travelers were planning a trip on their own, while 30%** now say they will be planning a solo trip in the future. With 42%** of travelers saying they want to travel more in the future to make up for travel time lost in 2020, this mentality is no doubt encouraging travelers to plan a solo trip of a lifetime, to get back out in the world!

The Five Emerging Trip Types of 2021
Solace in Solo — Photo: Booking.com

2. Relaxury

The unexpected halt to travel plans for most travelers has meant that just being able to travel at all is a luxury, in fact, 61%** of travelers have pledged to not take travel for granted in the future. So while research shows that travelers still have a high intention to travel again, only 13% ** are now actually planning a luxury getaway (such as a villa, 5-star hotel), with the majority (51%** planning a relaxing trip to get away from it all making relaxation the real luxury of 2021.

The Five Emerging Trip Types of 2021
Relaxury — Photo: Booking.com

3. Breakaway Bubbles

In 2020, most travelers have had extended time apart from friends and family. For many it appears that distance has made the heart grow fonder as 61%** of travelers plan to use future travel as an opportunity to reconnect with loved ones. In fact, while being apart, 36%** of travelers have revealed that talking to friends and family about traveling is one of their main inspirations to travel again.

The Five Emerging Trip Types of 2021
Breakaway Bubbles — Photo: Booking.com

4. Weekend Wonders

With many travelers feeling apprehensive that future travel plans could be disrupted again, there will be an increased demand for a quick trip as over half of travelers (53%)** want to take more shorter breaks in 2021 than they did in 2019 to minimize any disappointment. A further 28%** also revealed their preference of a weekend break for their first trip once restrictions are lifted, showing travelers’ desires to be able to escape reality, even for just a few days.

The Five Emerging Trip Types of 2021
Weekend Wonders — Photo: Booking.com

5. Food for Thought

Travelers’ desire to explore the world has not diminished but traveling abroad is still being avoided by a majority of travelers (53%**) as travel restrictions are lifted. That is why local travel is the new way of exploring the world, with culinary delights being top of the list. And with taste buds at the ready, 36%** of travelers are keen to taste and indulge in local cuisine while traveling, with 38%** wanting to eat out more often with the money saved from not traveling abroad.

The Five Emerging Trip Types of 2021
Food for Thought — Photo: Booking.com

Source: https://www.hospitalitynet.org/news/4101499.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

New Insights Into How Guests Are Using Airbnb for Longer-Term Stays

Six months ago, we shared how Airbnb and the Airbnb community adapted to meet new consumer needs for longer-term stays as people are seeking to ‘live anywhere.’ From working parents needing space to support their kids with at-home schooling and medical providers needing places to stay near the front lines, to college students booking “collab houses” for remote learning and digital nomads, we’re seeing interesting trends with these types of stays.

Here are key findings from booking data and a global survey we conducted at the end of October 2020 with guests who booked longer-term stays* with Airbnb in the last three months.

Responding to the global pandemic

Based on our survey, COVID was a factor in 54 percent of longer-term stays booked on Airbnb in the last three months. Not surprisingly, longer-term guests are traveling for different reasons than they were pre-COVID. For example, more guests are relocating during COVID than they were pre-COVID (18% vs. 10% pre-COVID).

Guests told us longer-term stays enabled them to escape their daily routines, be closer to loved ones, nature, or outdoor activities, enjoy access to different amenities (like a pool!), have more space, or save money staying somewhere with a lower cost of living.

Staying connected to loved ones and communities

  • Nearly 40% of longer-term stays were booked for one person.
  • Nearly 40% of longer-term stays included two people. Survey respondents shared that the additional person in their booking was most often a significant other.
  • A little more than 20% of longer-term stays were booked for three or more people, with guests most frequently telling us their trips included a significant other and child[ren].

And, most travelers had connections to their destinations:

  • 46% of longer-term trips were taken to places guests visited three or more times in the past, have lived before, or currently live.
  • 54% of guests knew at least one acquaintance in their destination, and often they had friends (26%) or family (24%) there as well.
  • For trips taken within 0-50 miles of home, 78% of guests knew someone in their destination; for trips taken within 300+ miles of home, 63% of guests knew someone in their destination.

Remote work and remote learning

Using Airbnb to live, work, or learn in different locations came in as the top reason for recent longer-term stays:

  • 60% of longer-term guests were working or studying during their stays.
  • 65% of guests working or studying remotely during their stay reported that COVID was a factor in their decision to book a longer-term stay. Most often they reported feeling newfound freedom to temporarily relocate while not commuting to offices or schools.

Amenities and features: high-speed internet is a must-have for all

It’s no surprise that longer trips require different amenities than shorter trips. All longer-term stay travelers rated high-speed internet as their top priority, with proximity to frequent destinations (e.g., nearby family) coming in at number two. When we drilled down into trip types:

  • Leisure travelers looked at proximity to points of interest (e.g., national parks).
  • Remote workers prioritized listings with comfortable workspaces.
  • Large groups leaned toward family-friendly listings.
  • Retirees sought neighborhood walkability.

Guests also told us they chose Airbnb over other platforms because Airbnb made it easy to search for and find the places they were looking for.

Source: https://www.hospitalitynet.org/news/4101534.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

How to keep your direct guests and steer the traveler booking motivations away from the OTAs?

A recent study conducted by Expedia Group claimed travelers are 57 percent more likely to book a hotel via an OTA than before the pandemic, as a result of emerging traveler booking motivations such as:

  • To get the best nightly rate (69 percent)
  • To get the best room (40 percent)
  • To compare properties in one location (35 percent)

Other motivations include earning reward points (32 percent), one-stop shopping (28 percent) direct promotions (26 percent), and buying a bundled offer, such a flight and hotel, in one transaction (25 percent).

Needless to say, this is a very self-serving study with less than stellar methodology (audience polled of only n=500 US consumers).

Unfortunately, there is some truth to Expedia’s claims and the hospitality industry is partly to blame for at least some of the emerging traveler booking motivations cited above. Here are some of the advantages the OTAs undoubtedly have in the post-crisis period and the tactics hoteliers can deploy to neutralize these advantages, hold on to their direct guests, and ultimately outsmart the OTAs:

1. Calamities make the OTAs stronger

Traditionally, the OTAs have emerged stronger after all of the previous crisis and calamities: 9/11, SARS, MERS, the recession, ZIKA, H1N1. The main reason is that travel suppliers – especially hoteliers – panic too easy, shut down their marketing efforts due to budget cuts, and run for help to the OTAs. In post-calamity periods, hoteliers are more willing to work with the OTAs, to discount and provide the OTA with sales promotions (24- or 48-hour sale, etc.) without promoting these same sales via the direct channel due to lack of marketing budget. All of this allows the OTAs to convince the traveling public that they can find the lowest rates on the OTA sites/apps – rates they cannot find elsewhere.

  • What can hoteliers do? Hoteliers should continue to maintain rate parity and invest in omni-channel marketing campaigns. All discounts or promotions you provide to the OTAs should also be promoted in the direct channel: Hotel website, content marketing, SEM, online media, social media, CRM and loyalty marketing. Travel consumers are shopping around (45 digital interactions before making a hotel booking – Google Research 2019) and omni-channel marketing gives the hotel an equal to the OTAs chance to engage the travelers throughout the Digital Customer Journey and its five phases (Dreaming, Planning, Booking, Experiencing and Sharing Phases), eventually acquire and retain them.

2. COVID-19 accelerated the shift from offline to online

eMarketer reports that US e-Commerce sales will reach $794.50 billion this year, up 32.4% year-over-year. E-Commerce sales in Europe have exploded as well. The pandemic drastically accelerated the shift from offline to online commerce, a shift that will also impact how travel is being researched, planned and booked in the future. Because of the shelter-at-home mandates around the world, the vast majority of the population – even late adopters – were forced to use online services to communicate, work and study remotely, search for news or information, purchase goods and services, order food, chat with friends and family, watch streaming services and entertain themselves.

This “online planning and purchasing education” has created millions of converts and believers in online services, which will inevitably affect how they research, plan and book travel in the future. This new wave of online converts will benefit online travel players like the OTAs immensely at the expense of brick-and-mortar travel agencies and traditional tour operators and wholesalers.

  • How about hoteliers? This “forced” conversion from offline to online can also greatly benefit smart hoteliers who continue to invest in digital marketing, cloud technology and applications and “reach out” to these newbie online travelers vs shutting down their marketing and technology budgets. Recently I wrote an article outlining a hotelier’s action plan for maintaining online presence that does not require significant investments Can Hoteliers Afford to Ignore Google in the Post-Crisis Era?

3. The OTAs now have a formidable reward membership base

Unlike the previous calamities, this time the OTAs have a significant new advantage: very robust Reward Programs comparable in popularity to the loyalty programs of the major hotel chains. Booking’s Genius Program has more than 100 million active members; Expedia Group and its three reward programs (Expedia, Hotels.com and Orbitz) have approximately the same membership count. The OTAs have been investing heavily in their reward programs over the past 3-4 years with the hope to increase repeat business, which is 10-15 times cheaper than acquiring new customers and decrease dependency on the expensive performance marketing (read Google and metasearch players like Trivago and TripAdvisor). Before the current pandemic, the OTAs have been spending in excess of $11 billion a year on performance marketing.

Many of the current OTA initiatives – for example Expedia Partner Recovery Program – require hoteliers to provide special discounted rates to the OTA’s reward members if they want to benefit from the OTA’s recovery program initiatives. All of this creates a vicious cycle where hoteliers are forced or enticed to provide lower rates and discounts to OTA reward members, which in turn increases the membership and further convinces the traveling public that the OTAs have the lowest rates and are the place to book their next trip.

  • What can hoteliers do? Focusing on your past guests and repeat business should become a top priority vs chasing new customers. Past guests and loyalty members are already familiar with the property, its location and product, the only thing now is to convince them that the property is safe to stay at. Past guests and repeat business will rule the next 24 months!

Hotel chains with loyalty programs should not participate in OTA reward member discounts and should provide any discounts and promotions to their own loyalty members instead. Due to weak travel demand, loyalty member initiatives, such as loyalty marketing, CRM initiatives, upsells and cross sells, should be top of mind for any branded hotelier as opposed to chasing new customers.

Independent hoteliers should focus on bringing back their past guests and creating a guest recognition program to reward any repeat guest. A simple program based on giving free nights based on X number of roomnights stayed can go a long way today. Hotels.com has 50 million members in its simple, but very effective reward program, which gives one free night with every 10 nights stayed at any hotel. Independents should also strongly consider implementing a cloud CRM technology and create a CRM program to increase repeat business, engage last and current guests and turn them into future guests.

The big question is what else can hoteliers do in this environment of weak travel demand and severe budget cuts? I believe selling on value vs selling on price alone can compensate to a great extent the budget limitations and online dominance by the OTAs. Hoteliers must remember and relearn how to sell on value vs price alone! The OTAs are the masters of selling on price, hoteliers have no chance outwitting or outspending them in their marketing efforts. But selling on value? This is where hoteliers can truly outwit the OTAs and provide real value to their customers. Do you have cooking classes, weekend specials, coronavirus de-stressing packages, spa packages, family packages, activity packages, special occasion packages, wine tastings, F&B packages and promotions, work-from-hotel packages, etc. that you can use to target your local, short-haul and drive-in feeder markets?

Especially now, it is not difficult to be creative and figure out what your customers want and need – they, like all of us, have been locked at home for most of the past 7 months. We have all been there and you can easily come up with enticing packages and special offers based on what your guests would love to do and experience at your property and its surroundings in the current environment.

Remember, the OTAs have one huge disadvantage: in spite of all of their technology and marketing might, they do not know your hotel product and your destination like you do.

Source: https://www.hospitalitynet.org/opinion/4101163.html