The hospitality industry will continue to face an unprecedented level of challenges amid the coronavirus pandemic in 2021 and success will rely on how companies and individual properties respond to the key trends that are poised to shape the year ahead. With some valuable insight from data and analytics company GlobalData, here are some of the notable hospitality trends to watch for in 2021.
PHOTO: Hilton CleanStay (photo courtesy Hilton)
Enhanced Hygiene Protocols
The hospitality industry was quick to implement elevated safety and hygiene procedures in the weeks and months after the COVID-19 pandemic was first declared in March 2020 but companies are likely to continue building on and improving their various healthy stay programs and partnerships in the new year as they look to not only assure guests but separate themselves from the competition.
Hotels and resorts introduced extended stay programs and packages en masse last year and that trend will continue in 2021 as guests pursue longer stays. “Travelers will be looking to take fewer trips—if not forced to due to ongoing travel restrictions—but those that do travel are expected to also stay for longer to grab what they can when they can,” says GlobalData Travel & Tourism Analyst Ralph Hollister. “Uncertainty is strife and it may lead to people going ‘all out’ on one big trip, rather than risking several smaller ones that could be canceled.”
With many travelers opting for longer stays their trip might not be limited to leisure and thus they’ll be looking for a room that can work from comfortably while enjoying more privacy compared to the on-site business center. Fast Wi-Fi and practical workstations could be the deciding factor for many travelers looking to blend work and play in 2021.
Minimizing touchpoints will continue to be a primary goal across the travel sector in the new year as hotels as well as airports, restaurants and other places have turned to mobile apps and QR codes to reduce the spread of potentially harmful germs. “In 2021, hotels will increase their adoption of technology that reduces the number of touchpoints. Abilities such as online check-ins and check-outs, mobile keys and room settings controlled by Internet of Things (IoT) technology will become much more commonplace,” added Hollister. “Using IoT to control room settings also allows hotels to gather more data on guests, creating a more personalized experience when they next return.”
Successful properties will be ones that are able to offer guests added flexibility by way of 100 percent refunds for last-minute cancellations and other risk-reducing policies. “Having a flexible cancelation policy on a hotel website will be vital in ensuring direct bookings, and these relaxed policies will continue in 2021. For example, Marriott International has just extended its 24-hour global cancelation policy through March 31, 2021. This extension into next year will be emulated by its rivals in order to remain competitive,” Hollister predicts.
In addition to flexibility, travelers will be seeking increased privacy in 2021. Short-term home rentals through Airbnb and Vrbo as well as family- and group-friendly villa stays from Villas of Distinction and others that offer guests more space and privacy than a traditional hotel room will continue to be in high demand. Properties in secluded domestic destinations where travelers can worry less about local restrictions and close encounters with strangers will also continue to be popular.
In 2021, travelers will feel safer spending time outdoors compared to enclosed spaces when it comes to being in public. Whether it’s meeting and event space, outdoor dining or inviting green spaces for socially distant coffee breaks or yoga sessions, more and more properties will be looking to incorporate the outdoors into the guest experience.
Hotels and resorts have been going green for some time now and that trend is unlikely to go away in 2021 as more travelers look to limit their impact on the environment and experience the local culture. Reducing waste and water usage as well as sourcing locally produced products in on-site bars and restaurants will remain a key for properties looking to differentiate themselves moving forward.
Contactless Food and Beverage
Reducing contact through touchless technology means offering food and beverage in ways that limit human interactions, whether it’s via grab-and-go options in the lobby, room service leaving meals at the guestroom door or the aforementioned QR codes and scannable menus that allow guests to browse and order from the safety of their smartphone.
Many will be facing limited travel budgets in 2021 so properties will need to appeal to value travelers who will be in search of low rates but also willing to spend a little bit more if it means an improved quality of stay, safer experience and increased flexibility or benefits.