Countless businesses are impacted by COVID-19 around the world. If your business is in the hospitality industry, then chances are your damage is more severe than most. With the restrictions being slowly lifted, many hotel businesses still don’t find themselves fitting in with the “new normal.”
This begs the questions: what really is the new normal for the hotel industry? What are the challenges ahead? And which actions have leading hoteliers taken?
Evolving consumer behaviours
When COVID-19 erupted, no one was allowed to travel. Millions of people were infected while travelling – and though the situation has eased up, people’s habits have completely changed. Customers now are very anxious and sensitive when it comes to human-to-human interactions. They now need an extra level of reassurance rather than just a promotion program, a challenge that the hospitality is reckoning with.
If before the quality of travelling is based on how the human customer service is, then now it is the complete opposite. Researches have shown that 78% of interviewees say that one of their top priorities when travelling now is to look for hotels with contactless technology. This has changed the customer’s perspective of how customer service should be in the long run.
Actions taken by hoteliers
Many hotels have implemented relevant actions to improve the current situation. These actions are aimed at saving costs as well as easing the customers’ anxiety when travelling.
Take China as an example. Despite being the source of the outbreak, and businesses experienced the biggest halt of the century as the country went into mandatory lockdown, Chinese businesses now can continue their usual operations. How do they do it?
- Start food delivery services: Competing with local restaurants might be odd, but it is one way to help hotels maintain their incomes. Hotels can deliver food to both individual households and small businesses. This is a great idea if your hotel has a unique selling point, just like how dim sum from several 5-star hotels in Shanghai was in very high demand during the pandemic.
- Strictly obey government policies: Despite the situation is getting better, Chinese hoteliers are still strictly following health regulatory requirements to ensure the safety of every guest. Procedures such as monitoring visitor’s temperature, recording personal information and providing hand sanitizers before entering the venue are conducted rigorously. All of this information needs to be ready to be reported to the authorities at any time required.
- Convert the systems to “contactless”: Many big hotels in China have adopted the new “contactless” technology which allows them to automate their customer service via apps and machines to reduce human contact. For those with fewer resources, they also have started to minimise cash payments and set up social distancing spots to ensure as little contact made as possible.
Challenges in reopening hotels
Hotel reopening is not simple. Despite various government’s stimulation attempts, the hotel market is not perking up. There is this constant fear of the second wave, so every step needs to be precise.
There are many challenges hoteliers will be facing, for example, reopening cost. Never before were protective masks, hand sanitizers, social distancing spots, and special cleaning equipment counted as an expense, but now they play a huge part in the operation cost. Staff training for new procedures and hiring professional companies for post-checkout sterilization would be another expense hotelier needs to consider.
Another challenge hotels will be facing is the revaluation of the market. Understanding the market, the demand and supply while preparing for unexpected events is an issue that hoteliers need to deal with. They would need to work with sales teams or local agencies to gain insights into changing customers’ behaviours and expectations before coming up with resolutions to solve the problem.
The use of technology in “the new normal”
Although technology has always been thought of as the future of hospitality, we never knew the day would come so soon! “Contactless” or “touch-free” technologies are now one of the most requested technologies everywhere in the world.
For hotels, the simplest “contactless” technologies usage can be provided by apps through the customer’s smart devices. Namely, food ordering services through apps and payment collections via a digital wallet, bank transfer, or QR codes.
There are a few platforms such as Nevotek or Grace designed specifically for hotels to provide contactless communication. These apps can also be easily integrated with the hotel’s existing management systems.
For more specialised solutions, hoteliers can consider “FaceMe”, a monitoring engine that has added new features designed specifically to help businesses in reopening amid COVID-19 conditions. They provide mask-detection, thermal-camera and alert system. The job of the hotelier is to make sure which technologies are suitable for their own business and their budget, as the adoption should not put a strain on the hotel’s finance.
Although COVID-19 has been such an unexpected challenge to all businesses, it has also opened the doors to countless undiscovered opportunities. There is a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.
Hoteliers need to keep up-to-date with the changes in customer’s buying habits and the government policies to get the best out of the situation. It is time to innovate, think outside-of-the-box, transform yourself and your business today. We will see more falls to come, and the only one to stand is the one that is ready to innovate itself.
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