Just as the world began to open up to more travel, those metaphorical gates closed again in the face of new variants, proving that the only thing predictable when it comes to the future of travel is that it’s unpredictable! What we also know, though, is this: people love to travel in any way they can. And through resilience and creativity, the hospitality industry has truly risen to the occasion.
As we head into the third year of this lingering pandemic, what are guests expecting from hotels? How has it evolved and what might they expect in the future? Here’s our take, from good service to unique experiences and everything in between.
Cool Lodgings and Unique Experiences
If new hotel openings are any indication, hotel guests are looking for that cool factor.
According to Vogue, the most anticipated new hotel openings of 2022 are all cool, whether they’re large chains or boutique properties.
In addition to being cool, we noticed another commonality: each hotel is furnished for modern luxury with comfortable and trendy surroundings designed for guests to stay awhile and enjoy the hotel. Much more than a place to rest your head for the night, these hotels are designed for guests to stay and play within their walls, from spas to jazz clubs to greenery-filled courtyards.
This trend just makes sense since most people travel for new experiences—whether further afield or in their own backyard. Do what you can to up the luxury ante, whether that’s larger renovations or updated soft furnishings. Then be sure to highlight your unique selling proposition (USP)—i.e. what makes you cool—across all your channels.
While Google’s hotel free booking links program was very much welcome in March 2021, the marketplace is getting crowded. Instead of jostling for attention, stand out from the crowd by zeroing in on what makes you different. You’ll attract a niche—and loyal—market.
Everyone’s patience has waned, despite a proliferation of ‘be kind’ notices popping up in public spaces. Fortunately, we’ve heard from many of our partners that hotel guests are generally understanding and simply excited to be somewhere new.
However, more than ever, hotels are challenged with retaining and attracting staff. And yet, as convivial as they are, guests demand the same level of service. How can you deliver? Enter, automation. Many hotels have already implemented automation and AI in order to streamline operations and reduce costs in the process.
Think chatbots as your virtual concierge on your website, automated guest communication throughout the guest cycle, and self-serve features for guests to help themselves, like online registration or contactless check-in and keyless entry.
But automation doesn’t mean a hands-off approach—albeit a handsfree approach! Guests still want interaction but this can be in the form of SMS messaging and emails if not face-to-face. And fortunately, because of the pandemic, guests of all generations are much more used to communicating via digital technology.
Make the best of your small-but-mighty team with a modern property management system (PMS) that streamlines front- and back-office duties to free up time for proactive guest service and other tasks (like sanitizing common spaces!).
Flexible Booking Policy
In 2022, guests expect flexible booking policies with the ability to cancel or change their reservations at short notice. With ever-changing restrictions and lockdown measures at the beginning of the pandemic, hotels had no choice but to be flexible. But while measures overall have loosened, guests still expect the same level of flexibility.
However, as you know, Dear Hotelier, cancellations and no-shows are a pain, especially at short notice. In order to close the deal on a booking, we do recommend a flexible booking policy for your guests but with a caveat: you have a booking retention strategy.
Offer alternatives to cancellations, such as gift certificates and future bookings, and incentivize those future bookings with value adds. If all that sounds like a lot of work, it really isn’t if you have a PMS with the functionality for these features. Plus, a booking system that allows you to manage availability and rates in real-time on all channels simultaneously can help you fill last-minute vacancies.
Numerous organizations have stressed the importance of sustainability for consumers, such as Booking.com’s 2021 Sustainability Report that states 73% of travelers are more likely to choose an accommodation that has a sustainability initiative over a hotel without. According to the same report, 61% of guests credit the pandemic for their sustainable travel desires.
This ‘trend’ is more of a growing expectation and implementing green initiatives isn’t just a way to attract more guests; sustainable practices can also save hotels time and money, from saving water to reducing waste. New technology can also be leveraged, streamlining your operations in the process, such as a PMS with paperless check-ins, keyless entries, and decreased energy consumption afforded by cloud-based software.
But it’s not just the environment guests are concerned about. The pandemic has also brought about social awareness and change. Are you paying fair wages? Do you support local businesses? Do you have a diverse workforce?
Be sure to share what you’re doing to support sustainable and fair business practices on your customer-facing communications because not only will it help attract guests, but build loyalty as well.
In this day and age, most accommodations have a web presence of some kind and offer online bookings. While the majority of online bookers do their research on a smartphone and book on a desktop, the tides are turning with more and more guests booking directly from mobile, which is not a surprise since 83% of the American population has a smartphone. What does this mean for hoteliers?
Since 70% of travelers are doing their research from their phones, it’s important to meet guests where they are. If it comes down to two properties and your hotel website doesn’t have a mobile-optimized booking system, there’s a good chance you’ll be passed up for the option that provides clear and easy mobile booking.
The mobile booking trend shows signs of growing exponentially (according to Guestcentric, mobile booking nearly doubled from 2020 to 2021, going from 27% to 40%) so don’t rest on your website laurels and get your booking engine up to mobile standards.
Hygiene and Handsfree Hospitality
Since the pandemic, we’ve all become more aware of hygiene. For the hospitality industry, guests expect a sanitized room. And one dust particle out of place puts that all into question. Keep your hotel rooms spic and span—even with a lean housekeeping team—with a mobile housekeeping app. Room-specific housekeeping checklists take the guesswork out of tasks and ensure nothing gets overlooked. In addition to guest rooms, ensure all shared spaces are kept clean and wiped down regularly. Hack the system by setting alarms in your PMS for set times to wipe down the front desk, for example, rather than wait for things to look dirty.
Nothing says hygiene like keeping things hands-free. Provide guests with the option to register and check in online before arrival. Adopting keyless entry technology gives guests the means to skip your front desk altogether! From a practical standpoint, no one likes to stand in line at popular check-in and check-out times anyway. Imagine the workflow reduction for hotels with a lean staff, as well.
Other contactless technologies that help with hygiene include mobile apps and QR codes for accessing hotel information or online menus, requesting room service, and mobile messaging. Or how about robot room service?
While guest expectations for 2022 may not be a surprise, they may be a challenge—especially with tight margins and lean staff. Preparation is key and the good news is that WebRezPro has your back by streamlining many of your operations. So get ready and welcome the influx of guests with socially distanced open arms!
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