I remember sitting this time last year planning for 2020 and thinking how it was supposed to be the best year yet.
Wow, you sure had different plans 2020.
It’s been a tough year for many businesses, particularly the travel and hospitality industry. It’s projected that 6.8 million jobs were lost in the industry this year due to the pandemic, according to a recent study done by Oxford Economics.
6.8 million jobs lost.
While it will take some time for the industry to pick itself up, dust off the debris and start rebuilding, it is safe to say that it will probably never be the same again.
As hard as this year has been, it’s also been the biggest year of learning where we were forced to look at some ugly truths and make some long-overdue shifts in how we operate as a whole.
We’ve narrowed down our top four lessons that 2020 has taught us and some hard truths we can longer ignore.
1 – Technology is not a ‘nice-to-have’
Hospitality has never really been known for its innovation or technological advances. In fact, it’s been very traditional and change-averse in the past.
Well, 2020 has forced the industry to throw that notion out of the window.
Technology is no longer a ‘nice-to-have’, it’s a necessity in order to survive long-term.
This is true in two ways.
First, the industry has to become smarter with data, how it’s collected and how it’s used. Data is the beating heart of today’s economy and separates the hugely successful companies from those struggling to make ends meat.
Data will help hotels to better understand the behaviours of their customers, allowing them to forecast more effectively and match supply with demand. It improves the success rate of their marketing and acquisition efforts, and allows the hotels to operate more efficiently.
The second way is through the integration of technology with the customer experience. Adopting technologies that will simplify processes, minimize time and effort, and enhance the overall satisfaction of customers is key.
This includes the simple stuff like QR codes, keyless room keys, in-room Bluetooth technology and self-check in and out.
However, it also needs to include more forward-thinking technologies such as virtual concierges, augmented reality and artificial intelligence (AI).
2020 has certainly accelerated the digitalization of the hospitality industry and there’s no going back now.
2 – Cherish your housekeeping departments
Customers want to feel safe. That need will remain beyond 2020.
How customers feel are largely influenced by what they can see and so a visible housekeeping team is a must.
Housekeeping has typically been an overlooked department, an “easy” area to try and squeeze as much as possible.
Again, 2020 has smirked in our faces and said, “no more”.
High standards of cleanliness are essential to minimize the spread of COVID-19 and while things such as deep cleans should always have been happening, they are now non-negotiable.
This level of cleanliness will continue to be a key deciding factor in how comfortable a customer feels in your venue and whether they will return or recommend you.
3 – Balance resources with workload
The days of overstaffing are gone. It’s just not feasible anymore.
2020 has taught us to remain agile and we can only do that when we are successfully resourced.
Efficient hotels have reworked their operating model to reflect their revised offer and new customer expectations
Many hotels have switched to a workload driven model and have outsourced a number of their non-essential departments.
While outsourcing can be hit or miss, it can also be hugely effective in helping you to remain agile and flexible if done right.
The key here again is data. Knowing when to downscale or upscale, where to focus and how to manage those employee vacations and duty rosters.
4 – Customer loyalty is king
Arguably the most important lesson of 2020 is just how important it is to have loyal customers.
It’s been sad to see many well-known restaurants, cafes and even hotels have to close their doors this year.
A really fine line has been drawn in the sand this year and it’s that line that has decided the fate of some much-loved businesses in the UAE.
While it wasn’t easy, those businesses that have a solid base of die-hard customers have survived. And in fact, they are even thriving now.
It’s those loyal customers that went out of their way to get food delivered from their favourite restaurant or to postpone their staycation instead of cancel it.
It’s those same customers that flooded to their favorite spot as soon as their doors opened and made sure to post it all over their social media, making sure everyone knew to go there.
In the past, customer experience has been somewhat of a subjective topic as to how high it should be on the priority list.
Well, in true 2020 fashion, it has made its importance loud and clear.
Are you listening?
While the challenges of this year are not yet over, I feel optimistic for what 2021 has to hold and excited to see how the hospitality industry rebuilds itself bigger and better than before.
About the Author
Chanel is the founder and managing director of Magnify. A passionate hotelier by nature, Chanel loves to travel and try new foods and restaurants. She finds any excuse to make a new list or spreadsheet (you should see her ‘notes’ app on her phone).
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