Post-lockdown recovery strategies for hotels

By Steve Jarratt, Technology Writer

With a potential end to national lockdowns on the horizon, it’s a good time for hotels to begin formulating a post-pandemic strategy. According to research from the Knight Frank Group [1], “occupancy growth will begin slowly in the first few months after the lockdown ends, with weekend spikes driven by the leisure segment, followed by stronger growth in Q4 as travel confidence returns.”

Hotels can use this downtime to get prepared, but it will be important to remember that the world will have changed significantly. It’s not just a case of being ready to reopen for business when travel restrictions are finally eased, but to consider new post-pandemic attitudes (e.g. fear, lack of trust in others) and expectations (e.g. improved cleanliness, social distancing).

How will hotels operate by the end of the year? The current downtime can be used to reassess various aspects of a hospitality business, from expenses and asset control to management systems, supply chains and infrastructure. By searching for cost efficiencies today, hotels can look towards a more sustainable business moving forward.

Using downtime to redesign and renovate

One side-effect of the global lockdown has been lower levels of pollution around the globe and this could herald moves to more eco-friendly business practices. With an additional emphasis on cleanliness and hygiene post Covid-19, smart infrastructure investments in saving water, reducing waste and conserving energy can often be rewarded by lower running costs, not to mention the positive impact on a brand’s reputation.

An empty building is an ideal time for undertaking key refurbishment and modernisation projects. But hotels can look at ways to make themselves more relevant and aligned to guest needs following the COVID-19 crisis. Along with smarter back-end systems, it might be an appropriate moment to look at the in-room technology on offer. This might mean a shift to contactless systems, mobile check-ins and room service apps, providing the necessary power outlets and charging stations so guests can access these services using their own devices.

The key ways hotels might change

There are many factors to take into account when reopening hotels and lodgings, especially considering that visitors will have a post-pandemic mindset. Hospitality World sees hotels moving to a more contactless experience, and one where rooms are not just aesthetically clean, but clinically clean. Thermal checkups, sanitisers and the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) by hotel staff could be the new norm [2].

Sanitisers and the use of PPE in hotels could become the new norm.

Elsewhere, hospitality university EHL (Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne) suggests that when it comes to food, the ‘culture of sharing’ has ended. Restaurants may need to rethink the way they serve food, removing shared dishes and cutlery, doing away with buffets and minibars, and having contactless room service [3]. With food hygiene uppermost in people’s thoughts, hotels will need to be more transparent about ingredients they use and any safeguards put in place.

Living up to guest expectations advises that you don’t let a hospitality business lie dormant, but actively continue to market it through these tough times [4]. The hiatus provides an opportunity to audit your current assets, with a view to refreshing content, repurposing material and optimising those items that provide the most traffic. It’s also a chance to create new assets – videos, interviews, webinars, FAQs, photoshoots, etc. – and to update websites and social media channels.

Hotels can then plan how they will ramp up marketing over the coming months. suggests a three-phase approach to this [5]:

  1. First of all, remind your customers that you’re still around via social media, email and editorial content. Don’t be afraid to explain how the hotel is dealing with the crisis and how it intends to protect its staff and guests, now and in the future.
  2. As demand begins to rise, focus on brand awareness and luring in customers with special offers, perks and packages. During this phase, a flexible cancellation policy is essential for providing customers with the confidence to book.
  3. Then, as business slowly returns to normal, continue the marketing push with more targeted efforts, potentially aimed at a younger demographic, as older people are less likely to travel, and staycationers looking for a change of scenery. Invite groups and guests that have cancelled to rebook, using deals and incentives [6].

With the right strategies, protocols and technologies in place, those hotels that have prepared for the post-pandemic world will be best placed to benefit from it.

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