Alt-Normal: Some Prospects for Hotels Post-Pandemic
As the hospitality industry was temporarily yet profoundly challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic, hoteliers were strong-armed into modifying guest-facing operations. Technology has played the predominant role in encouraging safe, seamless, and socially distant guest interactions with hotels, and it’s safe to say that some of those operations will stick post-pandemic. However, it’s still too early to discern if alt-normal financial system updates, hotel platform configurations, and hotel-guest relationships have been permanently changed.
Strong Demand and Positivity There has been some good news in recent weeks. According to STR, U.S. occupancy, ADR, and RevPAR levels have reached their highest since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Occupancy levels are regaining as travelers become more confident about COVID safety protocols and guidelines. Spring break travel activity assisted in these gains. In addition, Duetto’s Pulse Report and Tripadvisor’s 2021 Summer Travel Index show increasing web traffic and activity, predicting a U.S. travel industry comeback.
As conferences and meetings transition from virtual to in-person, an uptick in business traveler bookings will follow; however, these numbers vary and remain somewhat uncertain across the board. Overall, there are positive signs of meetings and events attendance gaining traction during 2021.
Budget Balancing Check-in and check-out, guest communications, and housekeeping have seen accelerated trends affect operations, proving their worth from a cost and labor-savings perspective. Some of these operations include technology like keyless check-in and check-out, chatbots, and waived housekeeping services.
Food and beverage operations were largely altered, as properties that offered continental buffets, complimentary breakfasts, and social hours incurred high material and labor costs pre-pandemic. Grab-and-go makes sense for hotel restaurants or markets, especially as a portion of the industry is economically and people-strained during recovery.
Thus, owners will have less freedom to experiment with property configurations for the foreseeable future. Instead, CapEx and FF&E dollars will be directed toward the strategic implementation of repairing and refreshing materials and furnishings that are easy to maintain and clean. With all of these changes, uncertainty still surrounds whether hotels of the future will have a radically different look and feel.
As travel companies rebound, it may be tempting to yearn for and rush prosperous pre-COVID levels to return; staying patient, acknowledging change, and implementing alt-normal technology, procedures, and approaches will keep hoteliers on track to benefiting from the impending recovery.