We won’t get back to ‘normal’ anytime soon. COVID-19 will change the world forever. But it’s not all doom and gloom. For my friends-hosts here are some trends to watch out for. Not all are new, but will accelarate due to the current crisis.
(Hyper) Local & Inspirational
People will travel again, but will do so closer to home. We have to see which airlines will survive, but those who do won’t be offering the prices we got used to with the low-cost carriers. Simply because demand will be less or we still have to practice social distancing (hello, leg space!) So people will be traveling in their own car – though car rental agencies could benefit – and hotels need to be more car friendly.
People will discover experiences closer to home without the need to travel the globe to faraway places. Experiences are local too, and don’t necessarily mean excitement. It can be enjoying local food and drink. Do away with those international brands and start sourcing local food and drinks. Think homemade lemonades, craft beers and stronger tipple. Support your local supply chains!
Eco & Green
Eco & green will be further on the rise. People have seen clean canals in Venice, the tops of the Himalayas from 200km distance and blue skies without vapor trails from airplanes. There is a lot more than getting rid of single-use plastics… though it is a good start.
Authentic & Soulful
Those local experiences, inspiration and eco & green need to be authentic and soulful. Not an institutionalized version of it or a chain-wide top-level-down implementation. Clients look for authenticity and businesses which have a story to tell. There is a reason why TV programs following people who turn their lives around and start a b&b have huge viewing ratings. Telling a story can also be about a family-run, three generations locally-rooted hotel or a legendary grand hotel which witnessed several crises.
There will be less branding, and more indie-type properties due to the same need for authenticity. On the other hand there could be a nostalgic longing – this would be the time to re-invent classic brands like Howard Johnson (the Great American road trip, again cars) or even Sheraton. Large hotel companies like Marriott could further gobble up competitor brands which are not so resilient as theirs.
Safe & Hygiene
Hygiene always mattered big time. Research shows that around 70% of reviews revolve about hygiene. You will never have a highly rated hotel if this is not your first priority. COVID-19 only enhances this. Like safety, taking utmost care about hygiene will lure customers from Airbnb, where strict rules can simply not be implemented.
LOST YOUR CUSTOMERS AND LOOKING FOR NEW MARKETS?
Are you already local, inspirational, authentic, green, and safe? Maybe these options are a way of getting new guests:
- Staycations. People who can’t travel far will look to escape their homes nearby. Offer them a whole new perspective to view their city or region. Or pamper them so much they are not leaving their room.
- Cruise line clients. Nobody will be doing any cruises soon. We all saw what happened with COVID-19, not to mention this way of travel is very polluting and not adding to local economies. Maybe offer full-board or all-inclusive. Let’s stop using all-inclusive all together for maximum experience-included.
- Totally disconnect vs. co-living. Offer a total disconnect package: no internet, no TV – instead offer a library. Now that everybody has seen that working from home can be done most of the time offer the opposite: co-living. Make sure customers have fast internet and a good work desk. Offer long stays at discounted rates with access to communal kitchen (or offer home cooking) so people can work from anywhere.
- The backpackers. Sleeping with strangers it a confined space will be a no-no for many the coming time. They will be looking for individual quarters – a budget version of your total offerings (smallest room for example or one without a view) will exceed expectations.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN WITH YOUR SUPPLIERS OF GUESTS – The OTA’S?
The last few years have seen a consolidation in the online hotel booking market. Booking Holdings is not only Booking.com, but also Kayak and HotelsCombined, amongst a number of other brands. Expedia is also Hotels.com and Trivago. Few others will survive, except for niche players. And of course there is Airbnb.
Booking Holdings is cash-rich. The company stated that they will at least survive until the end of 2021. Like Expedia, Booking was not very hotelier friendly by still charging commissions on cancelled bookings due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Their website states that for cancellations or rebooking clients have to contact the accommodation involved. Suddenly their customer service has vanished.
Expedia is less cash-rich and well, doing far less well than Booking, including a possible sale of the company or parts of the company. It has problems fighting Google (who could potentially buy Expedia, furthering consolidation) and some underperforming brands, like Trivago.
Airbnb turned out more customer friendly returning booking fees to customers. That didn’t help hosts much, but at least gives a better image. Airbnb has been under siege by a number of local and regional governments who for various reasons (over tourism, health and safety regulations, impact on local housing, etc.) have been in legal fights. Would you book with a company that maybe is driving up housing prices in your own home town?
LOOKING FOR AN ALTERNATIVE, DISRUPTIVE WAY TO PROMOTE YOUR BUSINESS AND JOIN A CLUB OF LIKE-MINDED HOSTS?
To see what DNA Hotels can do for you, click here.