A New Focus on Leisure is Just One Aspect of the Changes Facing Hospitality
Originally posted on Travel Weekly.
What can a hotelier in Hong Kong tell an agent in Aberystwyth about how best to recover and rebuild? Rebuilding Hospitality, a new global report from Amadeus includes some specific talking points for hoteliers which resonate across the UK trade. First off, the data confirms that, globally, demand is back (albeit with some regional variations).
In April, business intelligence data from Amadeus showed hotels at 46% occupancy, not great by pre-Covid standards but a massive hike from April 2020 when occupancy was a measly 13%. The majority of hoteliers (63%) polled by Amadeus for the report felt leisure will be the travel segment to contribute most to their recovery.
Already many have pivoted sales and marketing strategies and budgets to target domestic leisure guests, a seismic shift in thinking for many properties which have depended on international business travel. Marriott, for example, has got serious about the long-stay leisure market. The hotel chain partnered with UK-based Hostmaker to offer alternative accommodation – villas, homes, even castles – available for long-stays. This started as a business travel play, but as Marriott reports, it soon found three in four guests were there for leisure. Longer stays beyond traditional properties is one example of how businesses can adapt their offer in response to what is happening in the market. The key will be watching and adjusting strategies as new segments start to travel again.
New ideas for business
While business travel’s recovery is expected to be slower, big hotel chains are coming up with new ideas for a new type of corporate traveller. ‘Work from Hyatt’ was one of the first to emerge and has quickly been rolled out at scale. Packages range from by-the-day to extended stays – with dedicated workspace, free WiFi and access to services and facilities. Accor has Wojo – 300 co-working spaces across 70 French cities – described in the report as “looking more like a chic version of WeWork than a hotel”. Some hoteliers came up with the idea of a ‘schoolcation’ – a stay for working parents with supervised, socially-distanced, outdoors schooling for the kids.
Many leisure travel businesses have done a similar product pivot, none less so than the cruise lines. Organising a summer of short duration seacations for the UK market was a response that keeps up the connection with existing cruisers while also bringing in new customers.
Hoteliers are doubling down on their data strategy. Katie Moro, vice president of hospitality data partnerships at Amadeus, says in the Rebuilding Hospitality report: “I’ve never seen hoteliers pay so much attention to data. “In 2019, when times were good, it was easy to just carry on. Now, every hotel is quite rightly making data a central pillar of its decision making.” All travel businesses need to think about data. There are digital tools available at all price points for travel sellers and suppliers of all sizes. They can connect direct data from internal resources with third-party sources to give a business owner the best information on which to make decisions.
Digital tools can also help with customer relationships. Whether you frame this as a “tailored one-to-one service” or “hyper-personalisation”, the end result is the same – a satisfied traveller who appreciates the effort you made to give them what they want. Hoteliers recognise the potential here – 24% said technology which enables truly personalised offers and experiences was the most anticipated development on the horizon.
Hands off hospitality
Interestingly, hoteliers see personalisation as a way to bridge the gap with another trend emerging from Covid-19 – the need for a contactless experience. Tech which supports this is “the most exciting thing to come” for 30% of hoteliers surveyed. Contactless is not necessarily about a smartphone as a room key. It means less contact generally with front of house and operational staff.
This leads into an area of interest for hoteliers which most travel businesses are facing – how to manage staffing levels after a year of closures and furloughs when demand is less than before but there are still customers to serve. Technology can help to streamline many operational tasks which traditionally would have involved person-to-person contact. One in four hoteliers identified reducing on-site interaction as a long-term objective, but for many the immediate response is to make sure operational efficiency does not impact the guest experience. For example, the end of daily housekeeping is in the cards for some hotels. Most travellers would prefer clean sheets every day but will accept this change if you have told them about it in advance. And if you promise to change the sheets every other day, the technology is there to make sure housekeeping is aware of which rooms to attend to and which not.
Travel agents, hotels, cruise lines, airlines and zip lines are all looking at the next few months and years and thinking about whether their business, marketing and people are ready for whatever shape the recovery takes. The Amadeus study confirms the industry is improving in terms of traveller demand, and the tools are there to help the industry get back on its feet and rebuild.