(by Andres Rojas)
Coronavirus has dealt a massive blow to the hospitality industry. With travel restrictions and fear of contagion keeping occupancy rates at a record low, most hotels today are barely scraping by.
To make matters worse, the lack of a working vaccine in production means there’s still no guarantee that the next year will be any better. And yet, with 2020 coming to a close, hoteliers still have reasons to look towards 2021 with hope.
Although predicting the future isn’t an exact science, most experts forecast a slow recovery for the travel industry starting next year. So, while the coronavirus isn’t going anywhere yet, hoteliers must understand the new business opportunities that 2021 will bring and tweak their hotel marketing strategies accordingly.
The hospitality industry will slowly recover in 2021
In many ways, the industry’s recovery has already started. Indeed, leisure travelers are already driving growth as they flock to scenic destinations to escape the dull reality of life in a quarantined city.
Hotels located near beaches, mountains, and other natural attractions have already seen a surge of new visitors in the last months of 2020.
So, while things might never be the same, the travel industry is already showing encouraging signs of recovery.
The travel industry will fully recover by 2024
Most experts predict that we won’t reach full recovery until 2023 or 2024 at the latest. By that time, STR and Tourism Economics predict that consumer demand will reach 2019 levels in all market segments.
Since the industry’s decline isn’t caused by underlying weaknesses, hoteliers can expect to see a meaningful increase in the occupancy rates in the first half of 2021. Still, the speed of the recovery will depend on the availability of a vaccine and the strength of any virus recurrence.
Recovery rates will vary widely among hotels
While there is light at the end of the tunnel, occupancy rates will vary widely across sectors. According to research done by McKinsey, economy hotels will recover much faster than luxury or boutique hotels. Indeed, the report showed that while luxury hotels are more likely to be closed, economy hotels have higher occupancy rates (40% vs. 15%).
Hotels in 2021 will face the same challenges caused by travel restrictions and people’s unwillingness to travel. However, economy hotels’ lower operating costs make them an attractive destination for truck drivers, extended-stay guests, and other similar market segments.
Luxury hotels, on the other hand, employ more people and need 1.5 times more guests than economy hotels just to cover their costs. Furthermore, the road to recovery will be longer for upscale hotels that rely on conference and MICE travelers, as corporate traveling on a whole is down.
Overall, luxury hotels will have to adapt their hotel marketing to the new virtual office environment if they wish to remain competitive.
These traveling trends will change the hospitality industry in 2021
The Coronavirus pandemic has brought sweeping changes to the hotel industry. Whether they are legal requirements or consumer-driven changes, this “new normal” of hospitality will bring both challenges and opportunities for hotels in 2021.
Indeed, the post-COVID world is rife with opportunities for smart hoteliers whose hotel marketing strategy meets the newest traveling trends. And just to give you a taste of what’s to come, here are three developing trends in the travel industry that will change hotels in 2021.
Safety is now a luxury
Confined to their houses and bored out of their wits, most people would do anything to escape their routine. Yet, the fear of contagion often holds them back from checking into the nearest hotel.
Hoteliers can attract bookings by implementing strict hygiene measures and using their online presence to show they’re taking the COVID threat seriously.
Indeed, some of the guests’ most demanded safety measures include:
- Intensive room sanitization using UV rays and sanitizer.
- Free hand sanitizer.
- Quick COVID-19 tests for every guest who checks in.
- Daily temperature checks for every guest.
- More cleaning downtime between stays.
Social distancing takes over the hospitality industry
The need for a contactless customer experience means restaurants, gyms, spas, and other common areas might remain closed. However, with most guests eating in their rooms, the quarantine presents a golden opportunity for hoteliers that would like to use robots, chatbots, and AI to reduce customer-employee interactions.
Indeed, many luxury hotels now use apps or emails for digital check-ins and check-outs. Furthermore, customers’ fears of interacting with strangers mean that hotels can use robots to deliver pre-packaged meals, beverages, toiletries, and the like without looking like they’re cutting corners.
Local travelers will gain increasing importance
With international restrictions still standing, traveling will take an increasingly local character. After months of staying indoors, the good food and service of a local hotel can offer a much-needed break from the boring homely routine.
To attract local customers, online hotel marketing campaigns must use voice search to increase their hotel’s visibility while also highlighting every aspect that makes their hotel an attractive destination.
Our recommendation? Hope for the best, but be prepared for anything
While no one knows for sure what 2021 will bring, there are good reasons to remain hopeful. At last, people’s fear of contagion is being outweighed by their wish to travel. So the New Year will bring some much-needed business opportunities for the hospitality industry.
However, if 2020 has taught the travel industry anything is to never take growth for granted. So make sure you optimize your hotel marketing strategy for the post-COVID world, and follow Hashtag Lilac’s blog to find out everything about the latest trends making waves in the luxury hospitality industry.