Expert’s Voice: Top ten trends in hospitality 2021

by | 15 Feb 2021 | Expert's Voice, Experts

Robert Rauch, president and CEO of RAR Hospitality, explores which trends will have the biggest impact on hotel businesses this year.

Today’s hotel business models look entirely different from their predecessors. Covid19 is just one earthquake that has jolted the landscape. The hotel industry must evolve and reinvent itself to exploit the opportunities and cope with the challenges it faces. After all, this industry is no stranger to disruptions. The top trends shaping our industry next year will be:

1. Sanitation and cleanliness standards

Hotel employees and guests must participate in a complete upgrade of sanitisation and cleanliness. Each brand has added a different touch, but there are now two levels of room cleaning – the second level being a supervisor who provides the extra sanitisation of each room. These protocols are here to stay and guests are willing to play their part by washing hands frequently, wearing a mask and distancing.

2. Use of outdoor spaces

Meetings, dining and recreational activities have all shifted outdoors. Even as the weather turns, it seems guests prefer to spend time outdoors where the virus is less likely to be contracted. Further, the simple pleasures of hiking and biking, visiting state parks and travelling closer to home are able to satisfy the pent-up demand to get away.

3. Locally produced products

Products that are considered organic and/or farm-to-table are trendy amongst all demographics. This surge in popularity parallels the country’s growing focus on environmentalism. In addition to being more environmentally conscious, people everywhere are also looking for more locally authentic experiences, starting with what they eat. These efforts drive customer loyalty and create community partnerships like local wine/food events – socially distanced, naturally.

4. Meetings, restaurants and hotel technology

Contactless food and beverage is paramount to restaurant success today. No menus, no checks that require contact, just a simple QR code and a knowledgeable server to review specials and answer questions are all that is needed. All meetings must also be designed to be properly distanced either with diagramming software or by carefully measuring out tables and chairs. Automated check-in via smart phone is preferred by guests – no contact with employees.

5. Value consumers are here to stay

We have seen the rebirth of the value traveller in this new normal. Value travellers want booking platforms that provide transparency about cancellation and refund policies, trip insurance options and lift-and-rebook options in the event the destination has new travel restrictions. They love safe activities added at little or no charge and shop both price and overall value. They are looking for quality as well as a low price.

6. Sustainability

Guests want to travel more sustainably and we expect to see more guests with that mindset begin to hit a critical mass in 2021 and beyond. Awareness about the impact on the environment and local communities has increased as more people are traveling closer to home. A Booking.com survey of international travellers indicated that more than two-thirds (69%) expect the travel industry to offer more sustainable travel options.

7. Travel trends in general

According to MMGY’s travel intentions surveys, many travel categories have declined with the spiking virus numbers. Travelling by personal car is still considered the safest method of transportation and the perception of safety around lodging has levelled off in the survey results. Americans are remaining steady in their trust for dining and entertainment. Interest in business travel remains steady as well but we have not seen strong signs of an increase in business travel yet.

8. A new flat organisation

Keeping a finger on the pulse of utility, maintenance and property costs as well as labour costs by department has been critical for hoteliers this year and this will continue to be the case in 2021. Driven by unprecedented RevPAR [revenue per available room] declines in 2020, hoteliers have condensed their corporate and operations teams and more employees will report directly to managers, not supervisors.

9. A new focus on cash

The Covid19 pandemic has and will continue to have economic and financial ramifications that will be felt by the hospitality industry for years. With a full recovery lagging because of lasting difficulties with the virus and the recent elections, managing cash flow will be more important than ever in 2021. It can’t be assumed that financing options or stimulus money previously available will continue.

10. A new type of hospitality

Savvy hoteliers need to find creative ways to repurpose these now underused spaces. Hoteliers are looking to get extra revenue from guests who want month-to-month apartment-like units. Since hotels are set up with high-speed internet and a work-friendly desk, they have also made a fairly easy transition to co-working spaces and business offices. Many guests are remote workers who are looking for a tech package that suits their remote working needs – this includes wifi that extends to outdoor spaces!

This is an edited version of an article that appeared on Hotel Guru.

Robert Rauch
Robert Rauch

President and CEO of RAR Hospitality

Robert is the CEO and president of RAR Hospitality. With 40 years of experience in the industry, he is recognised for his work at Hotel Guru. He has also worked as general manager of full-service at hotels like Hilton and Embassy Suites.

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