2021 is set to be another volatile year for the hospitality industry, with vaccine distribution the light at the end of the tunnel. How can hoteliers plan for constantly shifting circumstances?
Winter has so far been a frustrating and exciting mix of news for hoteliers. On the one hand, several states have introduced harsher restrictions and another wave of stay-at-home orders. But on the other, the thing everyone has been waiting for is finally here: as 2021 begins, distribution of a COVID vaccine (and potentially, a second one!) is beginning to ramp up.
Yet distribution is the problem. The vaccine simply cannot be produced as quickly as many would like and, in the meantime, citizens are wavering when it comes to whether or not they’re willing to take it. The United States Department of Health and Human Services recently stated that “any American who wants a vaccine by the end of Q2 2021” should be able to get one, and experts predict we could see herd immunity as early as the summer.
That leaves hoteliers looking at a complicated 2021, trying to plan for how to host both vaccinated and unvaccinated guests, when they’ll lift restrictions, and more. But it’s not impossible to successfully plan for the year. Here’s how.
Strategies to Keep:
Having adaptable staff and operations will be absolutely essential in hospitality in 2021, for all the reasons outlined above. Being able to add in and remove restrictions as needed will serve hoteliers in any area well. It doesn’t end there either, as booking flexibility is just as important—if not more. Travelers have never been more cautious when it comes to planning trips, and with good reason. Strict cancellation policies and non-refundable bookings have been all but extinct this year and will remain that way for the foreseeable future.
It’s safe to say that the pandemic has been a traumatizing experience, and trauma always has lasting effects. In the case of the pandemic, an increased concern around safety and cleanliness isn’t going away any time soon. Having a smart, sustainable way to permanently level up cleaning processes and housekeeping isn’t just a good pandemic investment, but also a good long-term investment.
3. Contactless Experiences
The nearly year-long habit of avoiding physical contact with strangers is also here to stay. Exchanging cash, shaking hands, sharing an elevator—these are all things that will take some getting used to after the vaccine. But some may just never fully return, especially with strangers. That’s why offering contactless options, especially during cold and flu season, is part of the new normal rather than just a pandemic trend. Expect guests to routinely select contactless payment and delivery options in 2021 and beyond.
The Strategy to Avoid: Hygiene Theater
What’s hygiene theater? Coined in July by The Atlantic, the term is used for precautions and cleaning techniques that, in reality, provide little to no safety. It’s taking precautions to make people feel safer, rather than instituting precautions that actually are safer. Frankly, hygiene theater had an important place in 2020—especially in the chaotic early stages of the pandemic, when it was extremely unclear what was safest and how hotels could actually protect guests. At that point, it was critical to try anything and everything to ensure guests knew they could trust your property.
But now, we know more about how to actually protect guests. That’s why “hygiene theater” cleaning methods like robots that spray down each room—which often come with big price tags—are frankly not worth bringing into 2021 hospitality. Guests are becoming more educated on what safety truly looks like as the pandemic goes on, and are coming to recognize that the basics are more important than anything else: masks, reducing contact with others, and common sense cleaning standards.
Looking to protect staff and guests in the new year while staying ahead of the recovery curve? See how the INTELITY platform can help drive revenue, streamline operations, and provide contactless experiences.