Contributing Author: Robert Reitknecht

The current state of travel amidst ongoing COVID-19 disruption is looking better than it did one year ago. More than 1.3 billion vaccine doses have now been administered worldwide, with some countries being as much as 60% vaccinated already. While we may not see an international travel boom this year, we can expect a major spike in domestic travel. A March 2021 study from Virtuoso found that 82% of travelers are more ready to travel this year than last, with the majority (57%) citing a domestic flight or road trip.

Hotels are starting to see an increase in travel, especially destinations that are a short flight or drive away. Here are six ways properties can prepare.

  1. Offer outdoor amenities: Outdoor living has become a main draw during the pandemic (searches like patio doors near me must have skyrocketed whilst we were all stuck at home!), enabling people to have new experiences while staying at an arm’s length. Some of my favorite examples in hospitality include hot air balloon rides offered by Boulders Resort & Spa and a tennis court turned outdoor dining venue offered by Florida’s Ocean Reed Club. Fresh air and more space between people will be a major advantage for hotels to make guests feel safe and welcome.
  1. Innovate with new partnerships: There is a huge opportunity for new partnerships in hospitality given the changes brought about by COVID. Take a page from Ocean Reed Club and create a unique outdoor dining experience, partnering with various local food trucks to offer a taste of your area’s culture and food. Partner with a beverage brand and offer a cart of drinks (alcoholic or non-alcoholic) outside of guests’ rooms. Partner with local group tours to offer regularly scheduled events for traveling families and friends who want to stay in a close-knit group. There are countless strategic opportunities.
  1. Be hyper-vigilant with cleanliness: Needless to say, hotels must continue abiding by, and adapting to, cleaning protocols, sanitary standards, and hygiene procedures as economies reopen. This may include installing uvc light fixtures to help with suppressing virus spreading and keeping areas clean and healthy for guests and staff. Many guidelines exist, such as those released by WHO, the CDC, and the U.S. Travel Association, to ensure the safety of the public. Hotels may want to look into R-Zero Systems or the like devices in order to keep up with these safety guidelines and to qualify for certification that their properties are optimized for guest safety.

    Along with this comes the maintenance of hotel hygiene policies that were in place before this whole Covid fiasco happened, such as bed bug management and pest control. In New Jersey, they may use something similar to bed bug dog inspection in New Jersey to manage this problem. In LA we might use a company specialized to deal with bed bugs in California. In addition, communication of safety protocols is also critical. One study found that 55% of travelers would be willing to pay more for a hotel room if they knew the business was using a personally recognizable and trusted brand of cleaning products.

  1. Reimagine events and meeting spaces: A big draw for hotels this year will be business travelers picking up where they left off before the pandemic began. Research estimates business travel to return to 70% of pre-COVID levels by the end of 2021. Some hotels are reinventing themselves by transforming meeting rooms into socially distanced offices, equipped with video conferencing software and plexiglass guards. Others are reimagining standard rooms as more stylish workspaces. There are plenty of opportunities to innovate and adapt.
  1. Get a mobile application for your hotel: Research shows that 80% of hotel guests would download a hotel’s mobile app for processes like check-in and check-out, and that hotels that utilize mobile apps and functionality have higher guest satisfaction. Now more than ever with heightened demand for contactless experiences, hotels should consider offering a seamless mobile application for guests to use before, during, and after their stay. Customers can engage more easily, shop (and possibly spend) more, and enjoy a deeper relationship with the hotels they visit.
  1. Look into contactless payment options like QR codes: An even easier way to create seamless, contactless experiences is to offer QR codes that bring guests directly to the web page they want to view. In the U.S., research shows that most Americans believe in touchless payments and that businesses should adopt these kinds of solutions to help slow the spread of COVID. Over one-third went so far as to say that cash and coins should be phased out due to the pandemic. Hotels can use QR codes for check-ins, check-outs, amenities (viewing menus, making reservations), event recommendations, and more.

Hotels will absolutely change the way they deliver service this year.