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

YOU MAY ALSO LIKEHotel COVID-19 Recovery: It’s Time to Outsource your Revenue ManagementHotel Revenue Management in Times of Covid-19Ready for recovery? Your direct booking action planview allREVĪVŌ Wellness Resort Bali, offering Sports and Wellness Experiences to Truly Unwind

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

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

Redefine Your Revenue Management Strategy

‘We started the year in 2020 and ended it in 2030’

Advertorial by Kevin Duncan, Senior Director, Strategic Commercial Initiatives at The Rainmaker Group, a Cendyn company

This quote from Inspired Capital co-founder Alexa von Tobel perfectly encapsulates the realities of the hospitality industry today. Trends have accelerated and we seem to have jumped ahead a decade, with transformative change happening seemingly overnight.

So, what is next for revenue management? We have an exciting opportunity to hit the reset button and rethink systems while demand is constrained. As we look ahead to the post-pandemic landscape, now is the time to build a revenue management discipline that maximizes revenue during both good times and bad.

Data delivers forever

As data-driven marketers and revenue managers, we have long been converts to the power of data. That’s not to undervalue professional instinct; it’s just that data, when collected accurately and interpreted correctly, does not lie. Data is necessary to determine performance and provide both comparative and key metrics that help decision-making.

This year, the complexities of COVID have leveled the playing field. We are all starting with a blank slate – and not just as historical data is concerned. We are navigating a whole new world, which requires a clear data-driven approach that mines every piece of data held by your organization for relevant insights. Travelers processes and ways of doing business have changed. What travelers deem important for travel today, may not be what it was pre-COVID, therefore the data that marketers and revenue management once considered valuable, may not be as useful as it once was.

One thing is for certain: those that analyze their data the most effectively – and act the most decisively – will be ahead of the rest.

Data-driven creativity is the secret sauce

Data is not necessarily the savior, and in some instances, data has even taken a backseat to creativity. Understanding the right data and utilizing it along with balancing creativity in marketing, will provide hoteliers the edge to perform at their greatest potential.

There is a need to relentlessly experiment and try new things. Conducting A/B testing and becoming a master at it is a must-have skill for revenue managers. Offers that may have performed well in the past, may not provide the same performance today. Therefore, put it all on the table – offers, promotions, segmentation, ancillaries, upsells, packages, room types, amenities – conduct experiments and evaluate the results. Today, it is really all about the survival of the most creative!

Micro-trends: future of forecasting

While it may be true that forecasting is forever changed – after all, you can’t always rely on long-term historical data to predict future performance – it is still incredibly useful. You just have to be faster! Rapid forecasting adjusts in real-time to microtrends, such as new pockets of demand.

Within your forecasting, it is important to keep a keen eye on projections at both the property and market levels. As we have experienced the global impact of COVID and how it influences travel patterns, you will want to have broader insight of global demand patterns in perspective as well.

As the situation is constantly evolving, you will need a system or the ability to re-forecast and adjust to shifting demand and bright spots quickly. Constant calibration of your revenue management system is necessary to quickly identify change and capitalize on new segments of demand.

Micro-trends: new rules of segmentation

Simple segmentation no longer works because demand has shifted so much. You must go micro: narrow in on the microtrends and microsegments that are the bright spots of demand.

Matching ancillaries, upsells and bundles to each segment opens the door of possibilities. When such level of granularity exists, you will be able to more easily identify microsegments and channels that can drive revenue. There is also the opportunity to leverage AI/machine learning to further segment your audiences automatically and intelligently.

Convergence reigns

The other major trend accelerated by COVID is the convergence of sales, distribution, marketing, and revenue management functions. This was already happening before the pandemic but the dramatic drop in business has eliminated positions and put more emphasis on doing more with less.

Time is a commodity for all. If strategy teams are spending extensive time gathering and merging data, they are missing the opportunity to analyze and be strategic. Automated revenue management tools can handle the data crunching so that you can better allocate your time and work on the soft skills that strengthen your teams: collaboration, communication, creativity.

Data-driven revenue management requires both the right data inputs and the right tools to analyze and act on that data. The revenue manager of 2021 will need to be an adaptable systems manager and a clever analytical thinker willing to take calculated risks. By fully harnessing the power of creativity and convergence, hotels will be able to compete in a year of unknowns. Revenue managers will need to move fast, stay flexible, be nimble, and lean into both automation and creativity.

Building Total Hotel Guest Revenue for a Profitable Future Through Seamless Self-Serve Capabilities

There have been and still are many necessary changes to hotel operations to specifically address the need for viral safety in the wake of COVID-19. But a better outlook would be to think long-term and understand that much of the shift over the past two quarters would have come about anyway, with the pandemic only markedly catalyzing the urgency for an evolution to the hospitality industry.

Ostensibly, the most profound way hoteliers and property owners can build a profitable hotel in the next normal – and for the next next normal once we are in the clear from crisis – is to abandon a siloed room revenues model, as most identified by metrics like RevPAR and, to a lesser extent, GOPPAR (gross operating profit per available room). With a multitude of factors hindering full occupancies and consistent ADR growth over the next couple years, we instead must look to how we can capture the most revenue per available guest (RevPAG) or total revenue per available guest (TRevPAR) through the proficient convergence of guestrooms, F&B, spa, parking, golf, activities, gift shop and any other chargeable amenity. (To reduce confusion, let’s stick with the RevPAG acronym from here out.)

In today’s hospitality landscape, though, the only realistic way to achieve this goal of generating more ancillary capture is through the deployment of integrated technologies so that the purchase of these amenities is made as easy and as frictionless as possible, all without burdening a hotel’s already overworked teams.

As background research for this central industry development, we sat down with Frank Pitsikalis, Founder and CEO of ResortSuite, a PMS provider based out of our hometown of Toronto, where he added, “What we’ve keenly observed through discussions with our clients is that the post-pandemic traveler wants a high touch hotel experience but without any physical touchpoints. They value privacy above all else, where every service must be available in seamless self-serve manner, both prearrival within the booking engine and via the website or a branded app once guests are onsite.”

Indeed, hotels have already addressed the new demand for this ‘seamless self-serve’ with guest messaging apps, self-check-in or check-out, mobile room keys and a myriad of other software integrations. While these features are essential for safe operations, most aren’t prompting or encouraging guests to spend more. Hence, once the more immediate concerns for Covid are resolved, hoteliers must find ways to optimize revenues from the currently limited pool of customers.

When reviewing what hotels can do in this regard with Pitsikalis, first to mind is having the ability to guide guests through a series of amenities that will enhance their experience right from the room reservation window. From the ResortSuite properties that we demoed together, the most common ways to boost RevPAG were for dining and spa appointment as well as in-room arrival amenities.

One specific resort example highlighted which uses the PMS, the Watergate Bay Hotel near Cornwall in the United Kingdom, has experienced a sizeable increase in online dining and activity reservations since marrying these options to the website’s booking engine. Significantly, with physical distancing measures in place, such prearrival prompting has worked to ensure that hotel guests always have a spot at one of the hotel’s two restaurants without a reservationist or restaurant supervisor having to reach out individually in the week prior. This is due to the reduced capacity allowances whereby walk-ins from locals may swoop in to claim all available seats at the popular eateries, leaving hotel guests without reservations to fend for themselves – and reflecting poorly on the incumbent property.

Whereas before there was some rigidity to properly integrating these points of sale directly with the PMS, the Covid crisis has brought to light a pressing need for holistic integrations like this. Making it easy for guests to book additional services in a contactless manner will not only heighten total revenues and give you deeper data from which to refine your future marketing approach, but it will also help rein in staff costs because manual transfer between disconnected systems is no longer necessary and more prearrival service arrangements will let you better forecast upcoming labor requirements.

As an essential caveat at this juncture, such tech upgrades designed to enhance RevPAG should in no way detract from a hotel’s continued commitment to proper sanitization and cleanliness. Rather, our hypothesis is that these safety promises have rapidly become guest expectations and will not act as core drivers for room bookings. Guest privacy and the ability to deliver a host of services via touchless software portals will in fact work to boost occupancy and overall customer satisfaction.

That is, there is a critical and often understated relationship between post-departure guest survey results and service utilization. The general trendline herein is that the more a visitor uses a hotel’s amenities, the more they will enjoy their stay. With this in mind, getting guests to eat at your restaurant, complete a spa treatment or sign up for a half-day activity will halo positively back onto the core product – the hotel’s rooms – in the form of improved online reviews, word of mouth and return visits.

Given all these clear advantages, prioritizing a RevPAG viewpoint is rapidly becoming a critical step for the future of hotel operations. This is especially apparent for the near-term where leisure guests are a dominant force and groups are slow to recover, but it also holds true for the entire decade ahead in that guests are increasingly digital-fluent and want all services to be straightforwardly accessible in a self-serve format.

My hope is that by explaining how important it is to now connect everything online, you’ll use the months ahead to map out what technologies you need to make it easier for guests to purchase your services. Only then can you maximize total revenue and develop a healthier approach to operating in any travel marketplace.

Source: https://hoteltechnologynews.com/2020/10/building-total-hotel-guest-revenue-for-a-profitable-future-through-seamless-self-serve-capabilities/

How Does the Cruise Industry Begin to Attract New Customers?

When cruising does restart, die-hard fans will be first in line to board. But – for an industry that has long depended on new customers to fuel its growth – will those who have never cruised before be willing to embark?

Or will months of headlines about quarantines, positive onboard tests, and sensationalism about “floating petri dishes” scare off newbies?

Michelle Fee, CEO and founder of Cruise Planners, an American Express Travel Representative, said first-timers won’t be the primary focus when cruising initially resumes.

“With the early signs of pent-up demand, and the fact that most ships will be sailing at a reduced capacity, first-time cruisers are not going to be the focal point – the obvious choice will be past passengers,” Fee said. “They know how safe it is to travel on a ship and will have the confidence to board, fully knowing that the cruise lines have taken extraordinary precautions. I will say, our 2021-2022 cruise business has a solid foundation, so it doesn’t look like we’re going to have a hard time filling ships again, once this pandemic is behind us.”

First-timers will start booking again once life returns to normal, she predicted.

“Once things settle down, and finally get back to more normal, a first-time cruiser will be just as attracted, if not more, than they were before,” Fee wrote in an email. “With all the new protocols and changes, ships will be even more attractive than even before the pandemic. From seamless embarkations, new crowd-less muster drills, sanitation at its highest and more – the rumours, myths and negative perceptions will all be proven wrong and go away.”

“Travel advisors will need to focus on inspirational marketing along with presenting the health and safety protocols that the cruise industry is rolling out,” said Drew Daly, senior vice president and general manager of Dream Vacations, CruiseOne and Cruises Inc. “Advisors should become experts in the measures being taken as all consumers want to be informed as to what protocols are being implemented in all aspects of the vacation experience – including flights, pre- and post-cruise hotels, tours and onboard.”

Fee and Daly also said relaxed cancellation policies will reassure new-to-cruise clients.

“Yes, this has definitely helped our advisors close sales, so as long as there is the fear of contracting the virus, vacation companies should extend their flexible cancellation policies,” Fee said.

Daly agrees: “I do think more flexible cancellation policies will allow consumers the peace of mind they need when planning their cruise vacations in the short and long term.”

Both said a campaign, perhaps led by the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), is necessary to spread the word about safety measures.

“The industry absolutely has some damage control to do and needs to get the good word out about the stringent protocols the cruise lines will be following to keep cruising as safe as possible. We have been publicly speaking out and advocating for the CDC to back off of the cruise industry as it is negatively impacting consumer confidence in cruising and travelling in general,” Fee said. “Cruise Planners’ loyal customer base is already driving future travel sales. To reach new-to-cruise, we need the public perception to be safe to help our beloved industry to fully recover and rebuild. At Cruise Planners, we have not stopped our proactive marketing efforts, but have pivoted to a more supportive, educational and informative approach. One thing that has been wildly successful is our new Where2Next virtual series” for travel advisors’ clients.

Concluded Daly: “Yes, the safety and health protocols that will be implemented definitely need to be promoted heavily to consumers. Cruise lines, CLIA and travel agencies all need to collectively be talking about the measures and sharing what it looks like onboard. Consumers will want to see what life is like onboard and envision how their experience will unfold.”

Source: https://www.travelpulse.com/news/cruise/how-does-the-cruise-industry-begin-to-attract-new-customers.html

Carnival Sensation Rescues 24 People Off Florida Coast

Carnival Cruise Line’s ship the Sensation might be in a pause like the rest of the industry, but it was able to fire up the engines and make a dramatic rescue this morning.

The Sensation came to the aid of a small craft in distress in international waters 37 miles off the coast of Palm Beach, Fla., saving 24 people including two children.

The boat had begun taking on water. Upon seeing the craft in the water, Carnival Sensation maneuvered alongside the smaller boat and provided blankets, life jackets, food and water to the people on board, which included individuals from various nationalities.

Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen said, “Some ships like the Sensation have been docked in international waters In the Atlantic and Caribbean (seas) during the pause. Some others were repatriating crew members all over the world and then return to join the other ships.”

All 24 individuals saved from the sinking boat were evaluated by Carnival Sensation’s medical team and were quarantined away from crew members.

All appropriate authorities, including the United States Coast Guard (USCG), were notified, and the USCG dispatched a cutter to the scene to retrieve the 24 individuals from the Sensation. There were only limited crew members aboard the Carnival ship and no guests.

Source: https://www.travelpulse.com/news/cruise/carnival-sensation-rescues-24-people-off-florida-coast.html

Hawaii Officials Optimistic About First Days of Tourism Reopening

On the first day of Hawaii’s less restrictive COVID-19 testing program, the state’s airports were overwhelmed with more than 10,000 visitors in a single day.

And that’s a good thing.

Because you can always hire more staff, but you can’t pull in the tourist numbers like Hawaii is used to, and certainly hasn’t experienced over the last seven months since the coronavirus pandemic first hit.

That has made officials in the Islands optimistic for a return to normal.

“I think we’re gonna see a daily average of roughly at around 5,000. I think it will even itself out. I think in the early days you have this pent-up demand,” Hawaii Tourism Association President and CEO John De Fries told KHON.

In order to boost tourism, Hawaii decided to end its mandatory 14-day quarantine for all visitors and instead has partnered with several airlines to do virus screenings. Travellers who provide written confirmation from a state-approved COVID-19 testing partner of a negative result from a test administered within 72 hours of the final leg of departure are now allowed to bypass the quarantine, according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

The head of the hotel industry says that the hotels operating now have been dealing with quarantine rules since they began, so the hotels are prepared.

“So they were very used to the quarantine policy, how to go forward and execute that, as well as the cooperation that’s needed with law enforcement officials for anyone that wants to observe the quarantine rules,” said Mufi Hannemann, who is the president of the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association.

Hannemann said that the hotels are at about 20 percent occupancy right now.

All passengers must also take a post-arrival test once in Hawaii, and on the first day of reopening, only one traveller tested positive for COVID-19, Hawaii island Mayor Harry Kim said.

Testing got backed up at Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport.

“Every island was caught off guard by the number of people who came in — not only by the number (of passengers), but by the airlines switching the number of flights and their schedules. Flights were coming in belly-to-belly,” Kim said.

But it’s certainly an issue that can be fixed.

“In spite of the fact that we had thousands more (visitors) than we expected, we thought the (state’s) processing at the airport went well,” Gov. David Ige said. “We were prepared. We had physical distancing markers, and we had adequate space to work through to keep the passenger flow. And we (worked) through the issues that came up upon arrival. So overall, I thought it went well for the first day.”

Source: https://www.travelpulse.com/news/destinations/hawaii-officials-optimistic-about-first-days-of-tourism-reopening.html