Examining five bold predictions from April 2020 in light of accelerating vaccine rollouts and the start of a transition back to normal one year later.
Last year, in the thick of global shutdowns, we gathered five bold predictions from hospitality industry leaders at companies like Marriott and Trivago and painted a picture of what the future of hospitality could look like after COVID. Today, all 50 states in the US have opened vaccine availability to all adults. The UK has promised that all adults will be offered the vaccine by July 1. As a result, the transition back to normal has already begun—and we now have a pretty clear idea of what the post-pandemic world will look like.
With that in mind, we’re doing a quick fact check to see what experts got right and what’s changed over the course of the most unpredictable year imaginable.
Predictions That Hit the Bullseye
- Safety as the next competitive advantage.
Obvious, but true nonetheless. This is the only thing we’ve been certain about since the start of the pandemic—while everyone has handled the pandemic differently, even the most adventurous travelers have made compromises, allowances, and sacrifices to prioritize safety this year. That will continue to color the decisions they make in the new normal as well.
- Flexibility and transparency will entice people back to travel.
An early move by airlines, hotels, and short-term rentals, flexible booking and cancellation policies—as well as renewed dedication to clear, frequent communication around guidelines and pandemic protocols—have been the life support of travel in the past year, giving cautious consumers the peace of mind they needed to book travel amidst all of the chaos.In fact, it worked so well that in late August, major airlines announced they were dropping change fees forever. Meanwhile, most major hotel groups have simply kept pushing back the end dates of these flexible policies and it seems unlikely that they’ll last forever. Nonetheless, it’s impossible to overestimate the good they’ve done already and how they’ll continue to contribute during the transition period.
- Investing in innovation is the only way to truly prepare for the future.
When it comes to long-term benefits, this is the clearest winner. Hotels that had already invested in technology like mobile apps, mobile check-in, and mobile key had a huge advantage during the pandemic—and saw both incredible mid-pandemic results as well as early recovery. Following their lead, there’s been a massive wave of hospitality tech adoption this past year and mobile technology in particular is now becoming a standard across the industry.That’s of course all being driven by guest demand, as 90% now report they prefer that the hotel they stay at has a mobile app offering the ability to completely manage a stay without having to interact with a person.
Projections That Missed the Mark
- Safety will be a top driver of technological innovation, especially in IoT.
IoT has been the next big thing in hospitality for some time. Adoption of everyday IoT devices like FitBits and Google Nests has dramatically increased over the last few years and with it, so have expectations that adoption in the commercial world would rise as well. To be fair, Amazon has had an offering for hospitality for several years. Google introduced one in August as well.And yet, IoT wasn’t the breakthrough technology of the COVID pandemic. Voice assistants saw a minor increase in popularity, but buzz around IoT sensors fizzled quickly—and there wasn’t any significant innovation in what the technology offers hotels either. That’s not to say IoT has nothing to offer hospitality: it clearly does. But mass adoption is still a long way off.
- Physical spaces will morph so guests can both stay together and be apart.
A year is a long time, but not quite long enough to entirely break down our way of life. As early as last fall, vaccines became real to consumers during their Phase III trials—meaning we never expected our pandemic conditions to last forever, or even multiple years. In fact, countries chronically underestimated the time it would take to return to normal rather than the other way around. As a result, few properties made permanent changes to their layout and spaces, opting instead to temporarily institute distancing guidelines and capacity limits in common spaces.The vision of radical change NeueHouse CEO Josh Wyatt had last March—of hotels changing the way they operate permanently by dedicating spaces to both isolation and congregation—remains just that: a vision rather than reality.
The conclusion we came to last year based on these expert predictions was this: the future of hospitality is in safety, flexibility, and innovation—especially since the pandemic didn’t bring about trends so much as seismic industry shifts that will last long past this year. All in all, those three elements are still key to success as hotels transition out of the pandemic period and transition back to normal operations.
Interested in learning more about how to streamline your transition into the new normal and give guests the mobile technology they’re looking for? Request a demo of the INTELITY platform.