In a world still marked by the ravages of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the hotel and hospitality industry is slowly recovering thanks to trends meant to enhance customer health and safety. In the long run, these trends are also beneficial for hotels, delivering better ROI, better working conditions for the staff, and higher staff satisfaction, customer satisfaction, brand awareness, improved operations, cost savings, and other benefits. The following article looks at four clear trends that grew this year as an after-effect of the coronavirus epidemic that started at the end of 2019.
1. Cleanliness First
Last year, already, the most important word in hospitality was “clean,” and the trend gets stronger in 2021-22, enforced by governmental rules and recommendations for hotels and other businesses in the industry. As a result, many hotels developed extensive plans and collaborations, putting cleanliness first. Here are a few examples:
Hilton CleanStay with Lysol Protection
Last year, Hilton partnered with RB, maker of Lysol and Dettol, to implement a new standard of cleanliness in Hilton hotels worldwide. The move also included collaborating with the Mayo Clinic to implement the correct cleaning processes, proper disinfection protocols, protective equipment, and enhanced training for Hilton staff. Other measures in Hilton properties worldwide include disinfectant wipes for guests, extra disinfection of the most frequently touched guests room areas – light switches, door handles, TV remotes, thermostats, and more. In addition, the chain added electrostatic sprayers with electrostatically charged disinfecting mist and ultraviolet light for sanitizing surfaces and objects.
We Care Clean by Best Western
The result of adhering to anti-COVID-19 guidance and recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Health Canada, the We Care Clean program by Best Western follows an initiative launched in 2012 by the chain, called I Care Clean. We Care Clean features enhanced and thorough cleaning protocols for guest rooms and all common hotel areas, removing unnecessary decorative objects, social distancing measures, training protocols for employees, etc...
Marriott Global Cleanliness Council
The Marriott Global Cleanliness Council is an initiative that aims to tackle the new realities imposed by the coronavirus pandemic. It has new cleanliness standards and technology to help counter the spread of the virus - for example, electrostatic sprayers with hospital-grade disinfectants. It also includes norms and behaviors to minimize risk and enhance safety for consumers and Marriott associates alike.
“The Marriott Global Cleanliness Council is focused on more than just disinfection across the hotel; we are providing a holistic approach designed to take care of our guests and associates,” said Ray Bennett, Chief Global Officer, Global Operations, Marriott International.
These are just some concrete examples of how hotels implement cleanliness protocols to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection for both guests and staff. However, these standards will also improve the stay experience for guests, who will have peace of mind that they are lodging in a clean environment free of other potential infection hazards. For example, even in the past, poorly disinfected hotel rooms contained strains of rhinovirus and influenza, respiratory diseases from hotel mold, bed bugs, skin infections, fungal infections, and many others. Now, with the cleanliness first trend in full effect, the likelihood that these dangers still linger in hotel rooms reduces significantly.
2. Touchless Technology
Touchless technology was a buzzword in the past, but the COVID-19 realities pushed hotels to reconsider their approach. As a result, many small hotels and hotel chains implement touchless technology to give guests peace of mind. Otherwise, people may become infected after touching certain surfaces, including money, keys, door handles, remotes, etc.
Hotels already prioritize cleaning high-touch surfaces, but implementing touchless technology can be a time and money saver in the long run. Several are already in use among these solutions, including mobile check-in/check-out, keyless room access, and contactless payments. Voice-activated in-room controls for lights, TV, and air-conditioning come next in popularity among the touchless technology protocols implemented by hotels. Touchless devices - like soap dispensers and dryers for bathrooms are popular too. Some hotels also implemented controls for lights, water dispensers for both sinks and WCs - activated with a hand swing.
“In 2021, hotels will increase their adoption of technology that reduces the number of touchpoints,” said travel and tourism analyst Ralph 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,” he added.
3. Extended Stays and Work-friendly Rooms
Travel restrictions imposed by COVID-19 and financial hurdles faced by travelers forced to work remotely lead to another trend in 2021-22: extended stays. Marriott offers temporary housing and executive suites; Choice Hotels launched a program offering spacious suites, affordable rates, and amenities to live for days, weeks, or longer; Work from Hyatt is another option; Hilton introduced the WorkSpaces by Hilton program, and the list goes on.
According to data, extended-stay hotels in the USA experienced the smallest RevPAR (revenue per available room) decline since the COVID-19 virus hit. Today, one in ten hotel rooms in the USA is an extended stay.
Travel experts generally agree that extended-stay hotels suffered the least in 2020, and the trend will continue in 2021, despite vaccines and health passports required for traveling in various countries.
Many hotels adapted rooms with expansive workstations for remote workers. They also offer exceptional amenities like high-speed WiFi, in-room entertainment, DIY coffee and tea corner with complimentary brewing blends, free local calls, and a suite of other personalized services to attract this population segment. Special “workcations” bundles have risen considerably in popularity since 2020, and their appeal will continue to grow.
Sustainability is another trend that will grow in 2021-22. Hotels respond to travelers who want to reduce their environmental impact and are more sensitive to social issues. For example, hotels also reduce waste by eliminating unnecessary items like decorative pillows and throws, notepads, pens, and other objects with little or no functional purpose from rooms to make them easier to clean.
Other steps include eliminating unnecessary paper use in bathrooms through opt-in receipts and replacing one-use toiletries with refillable shampoo and soap dispensers. Additionally, hotels may minimize water waste and usage by installing timers and sensors to sinks, showers, and WCs and informing the guests about the hotel’s water reduction efforts.
Hotels that go green often replace traditional light bulbs with energy-efficient smart light fixtures like LEDs. They commit to sourcing locally produced furnishings and food from local farmers with similar ethical and sustainable practices.
Eliminating food waste is another aspect of the sustainability trend shaping 2021-22 - highly influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, buffet-style all-you-can-eat dining in all-inclusive resorts slowly makes room for a la carte options or pre-packaged, portioned meals.
Last but not least, reducing plastic usage may present a greater challenge. For example, it would mean buying and serving only bottled drinks and eliminating plastic straws by replacing them with environmentally-friendly options like straws made of bamboo, wheat, or sugarcane.
These trends will continue to grow in popularity, reshaping how hotels prepare to welcome their guests even in a post-COVID-19 world.