Why cleanliness and contactless service are here to stay, steep discounts are a bad idea, and trust is the foundation upon which your post-pandemic business will be built.
Two weeks ago, we compiled a post of five predictions from hospitality leaders about how the COVID-19 pandemic will fundamentally shift the hospitality industry. As conversations about lockdowns easing and businesses reopening gain traction, hospitality companies now need more than predictions. They need practical advice on how to bring guests back and gain their trust. To that end, here are four practical steps from hospitality leaders that can power a successful reopening for your business:
1. Understand that the current emphasis on cleanliness is never going away.
How can we do things that overlay that next level of expectation of cleanliness? Some may be short-term, and some may be long-term. Social distancing may subside, but this emphasis on clean, clean, clean is here to stay.
While many of his colleagues in the hospitality industry may disagree about how long distancing measures will remain, no one would contradict that cleanliness has skyrocketed to the number one priority for all hospitality companies. For Hilton, that’s taken shape in the form of a new initiative called Hilton CleanStay, powered by partnerships with Lysol and The Mayo Clinic, in which they’ve identified 10 high-touch areas that need enhanced cleaning and safety measures in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hilton isn’t the only large hotel brand going all-in on cleanliness. Hyatt recently announced their Global Care and Cleanliness Commitment, in which they’ll be retraining staff across the world and introducing a GBAC STAR™ accreditation, a stringent performance-based cleaning, disinfection, and infectious disease prevention program for hotels. As industry giants make the shift, other hospitality companies should prepare to shift with them and recognize that a generic commitment to safety will no longer make the cut with consumers.
2. Shift your definition of good service. At the moment, it’s no longer high-touch, but no touch.
We now have almost no touch points in the entire hotel, which is completely against a hotel’s nature of being hands-on and kind. We used to be known for the human touch—but now we’re all about no touch at all.
By definition, VIP service has been associated with high-touch guest experiences. Valets, receptionists, concierges, bellhops—these are the people that make guests feel comfortable and special throughout their stay. While those interactions might not be gone forever, they will be changed forever.
In the case of the Four Seasons New York, that has meant a dramatic shift in operations. During the pandemic, face-to-face staff-guest interactions have been almost completely eliminated, and service is being taken largely online. Guests check in and out virtually, only one person is allowed on an elevator at any given time, and room service has been halted in favor of pre-made boxed meals available in the lobby.
While standards won’t remain this stringent forever, you should anticipate that contact will be limited for some time, and changed forever. It’s likely that hotels around the world will eventually settle into a hybrid between the way things were before and the locked-down mentality we’re currently living in.
Take time to shift your team’s mindset internally and redefine what good service will look like for your business post-pandemic. What touchpoints can you eliminate—and which ones need to stay (or at least, eventually return) for the sake of guest experiences? Where can virtual service become an effective stand-in for face-to-face interaction?
3. Don’t fall into the trap of offering steep discounts: it’s not worth it. But marketing is.
You institute a strict “No Discounting” policy. Discounting “smells” of desperation and does not generate additional demand! Instead, focus on your property’s short-haul and drive-in feeder markets and relearn how to sell on value and not on rate alone.
That’s not to say that discounts overall are a bad thing, however, if your strategy to bring guests back when restrictions are lifted is to slash prices, you’re on the wrong path. Unfortunately, the hospitality industry is dealing with a demand issue, which will only be solved by offering people safety and value.
That’s where your marketing team comes in. Many properties have understandably paused marketing efforts during the pandemic, but as you prepare to reopen, it’s time to bring marketing back. You’ll need to rely on their creativity to get guests in the door.
Rather than steep discounts, you may be able to offer credits for on-property amenities or options for local patrons to celebrate things like bachelorette parties or anniversaries. Paired with those offers should be safety messaging, which will be paramount for generating bookings. By crafting messaging that offers value and safety, marketing can lead the charge to bring back profits.
4. Recognize that trust is and will always be the backbone of hospitality.
We’ve seen plans around everything from enhanced safety standards, to flexible policies, to tailored messaging being “the key” to success in a post-COVID world, but to me, they all boil down to trust. Do guests trust you enough to book your brand, your property? Will they trust you to do the right thing for them while on-property? In that case, one of the best things hotels can do is hand over more control to the guest.
— Robert Stevenson, CEO of INTELITY
Simply put, if consumers don’t trust you, they won’t book you. Before, consumers had to trust the level of service you’d provide. Now, every time they book travel, they’ll be trusting their accommodations with their safety. The stakes are higher.
Everything covered in this post contributes to creating trust: cleanliness, contactless service, safety messaging. But hospitality companies should take measures a step further. Every guest has a different definition of what a safe stay looks like. Instead of creating a one-size-fits-all experience, give them as much control over their stay as possible.
Let them decide how much contact and service they want right from the start. Would they feel safer using mobile check-in than talking to a receptionist? Would they rather schedule a contactless room service delivery than go down to the restaurant? Let them decide. As you trust them to set their own boundaries, they’ll reward you with their trust—and that’s something you can build your post-pandemic business on.
When building your reopening strategy, consider these strategies. You can’t go wrong by focusing on making your guests feel clean, safe, special, and comfortable. Regardless of the specifics, those should be the core values driving your plans for the future.
To find out more about how INTELITY can help you build a reopening strategy with the contactless, mobile-first experiences guests will be looking for, request a demo of the INTELITY platform.