6 key insights to accelerate your hotel’s reopening

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The hotel industry was one of the sectors hit hardest by the unwelcome appearance of COVID, which has led to an unprecedented global shift in guest expectations and requirements. The road to recovery may be a long one but with a better understanding of how to best meet guest needs, hoteliers can start to put plans into action for reopening and beyond.

We’ve gathered insights from OTAs and the hospitality industry to bring you six insights to help hoteliers better understand the evolving expectations of guests in the new normal.

1. Staycations are in

It’s no surprise to hear that staycations are the current popular choice of holiday while the majority of international leisure travel remains at a standstill. According to Dynata’s Global Consumer Trends report on reopening, 84% of people interviewed had changed their travel plans because of COVID, with more than a third planning to stay in-country.

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Source: Global Consumer Trends COVID-19 Edition: Understanding the Pandemic and The New Normal by Dynata

While staycations are, well, here to stay, now is the perfect time to amplify your marketing and communication. Tailored email and SMS campaigns are great ways to keep guests informed. It also helps keep your brand front of mind for guests that are considering a regional break. Be sure to tell them how you’ve adapted to the new normal so they can see exactly what safeguarding measures you’ve put in place.

2. Proof of safety is essential

This might be a fairly obvious statement post-COVID, but safety is dominating the minds of consumers, and they want to see it dominating your hotel too. This includes everything from social distancing and evidence of regular communal cleaning to mandatory mask-wearing in public and sanitation stations that put guests in control.

With that in mind, housekeeping tasks must be streamlined in order to keep on top of high-touch and communal area cleaning. Installing an interactive housekeeping app is a great way for your staff to view and complete tasks from their handheld device. This enables managers to see which rooms/areas have been cleaned in real-time and makes it easy for them to assign priority tasks to available housekeepers.

Social distancing in communal areas is another critical factor guests want to see; 47% of guests, in fact, according to Dynata’s Global Consumer Trends report. To ensure communal distancing, use your PMS system to label public areas as inventory items before attaching to your internet booking engine. That way, you can control how many people are in a particular communal area at any given time.

3. Tech-based tools are an expectation

Online check-in is not new to hoteliers as a result of the pandemic - it’s been around for much longer than COVID, but in the new normal, guests will expect contactless options. “Though guests once appreciated a warm personal welcome, self-check-in has become one of the most popular search filters in the past few months,” says Caroline Robbins, Connectivity Partnerships Manager for Airbnb. By inviting guests to check-in from their mobile, this still initiates a positive customer journey and shows guests that their safety is your priority.

Another contact-free solution that benefits both guests and hoteliers is a digital contact tracing form that guests can sign and send from their mobile when they complete pre-check-in. Ensure that you have a solution that complies with government guidelines and can be easily sent to the relevant agencies for track and trace purposes.

4. Guests want to bring their extended furry family

With most guests restricted to travelling in-country, many are eager to bring their pets along for the ride. “Since so many guests are driving to their destinations, many may want to bring their four-legged family members along with them,” says Caroline Robbins. “We know that it might be uncomfortable—or even impossible—for some hosts to offer a pet-friendly space, but if you can, now’s a great time to make the switch.”

Chances are, many of these guests will be visiting your hotel for the first time. Stay one step ahead and retain their loyalty with a bespoke scheme that rewards guests for staying with you. Giving new guests even more reasons to return will help boost your hotel performance.

5. Flexibility is on everyone’s mind

The global pandemic brought with it a lot of uncertainty when it came to travel plans, with many holidays either cancelled or rearranged for a future date. For countries experiencing second waves or tight lockdowns, people are wary about making plans in the too distant future. “Those who are thinking about travelling are understandably wanting more flexibility to rebook or cancel reservations,” says Caroline. “The share of Airbnb bookings with a flexible cancellation policy has been going up since March.”

Booking.com are also encouraging their customer's to consider flexible plans. "The unpredictable future triggers stress and changes the way travellers are booking. Customers will feel more confident in making a reservation if they’re offered flexible booking policies."

Another notable trend that Caroline has noticed is last-minute bookings, which is why a competitive pricing strategy is essential. If you have access to a rate manager, you can automatically set your rates to adjust in response to supply and demand. That way, you can make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck at every last-minute booking opportunity.

6. It’s all about location, location, location

Despite the pandemic, more than half of us are still planning vacations; they just look a little different. Back to the staycation trend, Dynato has seen plans altered, “with people wanting to stay in their home country and avoid tourist ‘hot spots’ and air travel.”

The location seems to be making a big difference too. With people tending to avoid the bustle of cities, the quieter sites are taking centre stage. “Your listing itself can become the destination—even if you’re in an area that’s not usually popular for travel,” says Caroline Robbins. If your PMS has an inbuilt channel manager, utilise to your advantage and reach more eyes.

According to HNN, hotels that rely heavily on international travel have been hugely affected, as well as those that primarily target business travellers and groups. Resort boutiques are showing the highest signs of recovery, with a “27.8% decrease in RevPAR year to date in July 2020, while properties in urban and suburban locations reported a 58.4% drop and a 54.1% drop, respectively.”

Data insights collected by STR show an early indication that in-person sporting gatherings will create hotel demand and boost performance. Australia and New Zealand are evidence of this - on 13th June, Adelaide hosted Showdown 48 which coincided with the opening weekend of Super Rugby Aotearoa. “Auckland hotels saw an occupancy level of 65.1%, which was the market’s highest daily occupancy level since 14 March,” highlighted the article which indicates just how much these events can impact hotel performance when spectators are allowed to attend.

Although the future remains cloudy, there are some definite industry trends that will help hoteliers get back on their feet. Some key takeaways are that your guests are more than likely going to be in-country so tailor your packages to suit their needs, safety is a crucial factor that should be addressed and communicated, flexible rates are highly appealing and contact-free technology should be implemented where possible. Your goal is to make guests feel safe and turn them from first-timers into repeat returners.

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