From enhanced loyalty programmes to contactless F&B services, we round up the biggest changes to the hospitality industry in the last 12 months.
1. Contactless convenience
Covid-19 has spawned a rise in contactless communication with technology replacing one-to-one interaction across a range of guest touchpoints. From check-in via a mobile app or at a hotel lobby kiosk, to digital room-service order options, the upside is a tick for enhanced health and safety and next-generation convenience. Near field communication (NFC) technology is swiftly becoming the norm with its touch-free mobile payment capabilities and major hotel groups are also investing into NFC smart room access systems that allow guests to swipe their mobile device to gain entry. Smartphone apps are being utilised by governments to support their track and trace efforts, with QR code scanning prior to entering a restaurant, bar or tourism venue creating a digital journey record. Mobile device access was already gaining momentum pre-pandemic, but new keyless technologies are nudging their way into the hospitality sector with retina scanning capabilities the next step in replacing traditional key cards.
2. Loyalty gets personal
Hospitality brands across the globe are leveraging their loyalty programmes to engage members and incentivise a return to on-property and brand affiliate spend. In 2020, many well-known ‘mega brands’ retained customer loyalty by extending member tier status for an additional 12 to 24 months. They also implemented rescue measures such as reducing the percentage of points required for membership renewal and allowing a stay of execution on expired loyalty points. A benefits bonanza designed to drive post-lockdown business was another obvious strategic decision with enhanced discounted gift card programmes, family oriented in-room care packages for returning members, food and beverage credits, and affiliate discount offers. Personalisation has also been given a boost. Direct marketing tools now use guest data to create highly targeted messages, while web and social media chatbots draw on stored user, interaction and product data to deliver a personalised response or recommendation.
3. Prioritising health and hygiene
Health and hygiene protocols are here to stay. Guests now have an expectation, and are seeking an assurance of cleanliness, compliance and duty of care across every experiential hospitality touchpoint. Gone is the tradition of quiet discretion and, instead, guests want to see cleaning of high-traffic areas and public shared surfaces for themselves. Hotels have had to support new behind-the-scenes protocols with visual cues including signage and guest communication. With deep clean protocols in place, this has also necessitated longer turnaround times post-checkout, plus added guest comfort indicators such as room seals. AI innovation may well have a future role to play in the housekeeping department with robot sanitisers being trialled in various markets. Covid-19 has also placed new emphasis on minimalism, with hotels removing pens, guest directories, magazines and other traditional items from guestrooms to minimise the spread of germs.
4. Staycations here to stay
Border closures, lockdowns and ongoing global travel restrictions has driven demand for the staycation in the last 12-plus months. With summer plans in limbo, domestic travel is an accessible escapist option and staycations are filling the gap. Demand over peak periods such as Eid has pushed occupancy and average room rates to resurging heights, but flexibility and creativity are also playing a role as the historically quieter summer months loom. Discounted room rates, complimentary breakfasts, upgrades, late checkout, half-board options and hotel/resort credit are common benefits. Partnerships with local attractions to boost the wider tourism economy is another value-add, with packages including free theme park tickets, local mall discounts and golf tee time savings.
5. Bye bye buffet
The self-serve buffet was a major casualty of Covid-19 as hotels were forced to rethink safe food and beverage (F&B) practice. This also saw the removal of crisp fresh apples at check-in, bowls of nuts in bars and the iconic chocolate fountain brunch centrepiece. A modified buffet concept is back in residence, albeit with servers. F&B managers implemented other health and hygiene practices, from socially distanced seating to the clearing of hotel minibars replaced by an on-demand drinks and snacks service. Contactless ordering has also become the norm with QR code menus to minimise high-touch elements and touchless payment.
Source: Dubai World Trade Centre