With the hospitality industry returning to some semblance of a new normal, travel and dining out appears to be steadily increasing. But amongst the newfound activity, it is essential to consider the impact of COVID-19 on the hospitality industry.
The good news is, there appear to be reams of data to provide insights on these changes. The not-so-good news is, you’ll need to adapt to changing customer needs to exist in the very different world we now find ourselves living in.
Information Overload? Not anymore
Apparently, there is no such thing as information overload anymore. Customers now expect up-to-date and reliable information regarding COVID-19.
Brands are expected to have a coronavirus communication strategy to woo customers and win back unrequited consumer loyalty, which declined tremendously during the pandemic.
According to Statista’s Travel, Tourism, and Hospitality surveys , 84% of potential travelers will only book at hotels that have regular COVID-19 updates on their website.
To reassure customers that the protocols are being met, brands need to provide information on their websites and via direct email.
With 65% of customers apprehensive about traveling and uneasy about contracting the virus , all brand or venue cleanliness processes are now under constant scrutiny.
Today, most potential customers review new findings and strategies recommended by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in the US and the World Health Organisation (WHO). It is strongly suggested that any brand-specific COVID- 19 protocols be found on the recommendations from one or both of these agencies.
Not only will hotel rooms and restaurants require more frequent deep and surface cleanings, but brands must ensure their COVID-19 protocols are readily available and accessible to all consumers concisely.
The Future is Contactless, or so it seems
Contactless options and transparency on any line of service are now regular customer requests .
By now, brands should be aware of and actively examining all points of service and contact, where interaction with staff and customers are required. Self- service touchscreens, contactless food delivery options, and other alternatives are the new normal to limit contact with customers.
Before the pandemic, customers ranked the quality of their experience higher based on the number of encounters they would have with brand staff. It’s completely different now.
Having no interaction with staff isn’t a bad thing and doesn’t mean a poor rating.
With efficient and appropriate contactless and self-service technologies, exchanges can still be accomplished without person-facing experiences .
In addition to providing transparency into brand cleaning and sanitising practices and frequency of same, customers now require as much transparency as possible into the delivery of goods. This includes not only home delivery by restaurants but also room service and in-flight meal services on airlines. Customers now demand – and appreciate – proof that food deliveries or products have not been tampered with within the supply chain.
This means brands should have the right strategies and processes in place to ensure contact tracing can be performed and validated wherever possible.
Let’s Talk Cancellations
Especially now, the conventional determinants of hotel location and value for money continue to be key influencers concerning accommodation choices. This reassures that what was ‘normal’ before COVID-19 continues to be relevant during the recovery phase and hopefully beyond.
However, looking back on the erratic nature of travel recently, hotel cancellation policies are now much more significant than before COVID-19. Over 30% of STR’s global survey  stated that hotel cancellation policies primarily influenced booking decisions.
While everyone remains hopeful that travel will be less vulnerable to change as the recovery phase progresses, the more adaptable and amendable hotels are to these new customer requirements and booking behaviours related to COVID-19 and travel, the more likely they will be rewarded with continuing customer loyalty.
Information on COVID-19 protocols and processes, contactless delivery of services, and cancellation policies are but a few of the many restaurant and hotel operations that have been heavily impacted by COVID-19.
Today, most customers tend to seek out and expect hospitality services that minimise risk.
We can only hope that these expectations might wane as vaccination programs forge ahead and the world reopens. Regardless, now that customer health and safety are at the forefront, adapting customer expectations to dining and travel experiences is an important measure to not only address anxieties around COVID-19 but to diminish them.
1. Lock, S. COVID-19: Public Opinion on improving comfortability of hotel stays worldwide 2021, Statista, 15 March 2021.
2. How Consumers’ COVID-19 Concerns Impact Hospitality and Travel, IDC, https://blogs.idc.com/2020/05/06/how-covid-19-has-impacted-consumers-expectations-demands-for- hospitality-travel/, accessed 10 August 2021.
3. Sekuj, Verna and Buckle, Chase, COVID-19, One Year On (webinar), 20 April 2021, Global Web Index, accessed 11 August 2021.
4. The Digital Life Index, https://thedigitallifeindex.publicissapient.com/industry-insights/food-and-travel , accessed 12 August 2021.
5. HospitalityNetTM, Tourism After Lockdown: Guest Expectations Today and Tomorrow, 17 May 2021, https://www.hospitalitynet.org/news/4104431.html , accessed 10 August 2021.
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