Though the coronavirus pandemic has done a number on retailers over the past nine months, hotels have also borne the brunt of its wrath. The American Hotel & Lodging Association reports the industry as a whole has suffered a 50% decline in revenue this year, with 80% of hotel rooms sitting empty. Not only have 70% of hotel employees been laid off or furloughed in 2020, but close to 4 million hotel-supposed jobs have been lost since the outbreak began.
It's clear that hotels are in serious need of a lifeline, and until travel restrictions ease and vaccines become widely available, they may need to resort to stealth marketing to attract guests and generate bookings. In fact, some hotels are already trying to position themselves as offices, allowing workers to book special day rates so they can escape to a place of quiet. But hotels that can't pivot to temporary offices may want to try a different strategy: investing in guest safety, and talking it up.
Classic hotel amenities no longer cut it
Back in the day, the right amenities could really work to draw in hotel guests and drum up revenue. For example, offering massages, aromatherapy packages, and gourmet dining were means of setting certain hotels apart from the pack.
But during the pandemic, guests don't care about luxury amenities nearly as much as they care about their own safety. And that's a trend hotel operators need to capitalize on, especially at a time when the holiday travel season is gearing up to be one giant bust.
Specifically, hotels that wish to survive in the coming months should focus on features such as:
- Keyless entry, which eliminates major touch points for guests.
- Remote check-ins, which eliminate added face-to-face interaction between guests and employees.
- Technology that allows guests to convert their own phones to TV remotes, thereby eliminating the need to use a shared one (incidentally, TV remotes are said to be a major source of germs -- even when there's not a pandemic).
- Extra sanitizing stations throughout the property -- particularly in common areas like lobbies and elevators.
- Air filters that reduce viral particles.
- Extra cleanings in common areas.
If hotels invest in these safety features -- and incorporate them into their marketing -- they may find that guests grow more comfortable with the idea of booking a stay.
Of course, this isn't to say hotels shouldn't aim to offer some fun amenities. But their primary focus right now should be safety, so instead of offering guests a complimentary happy hour, they might instead consider putting a free bottle of wine in each guest room. And rather than talk up their famed breakfast buffet, they should instead shift to breakfast in bed -- delivered to guests' doors so they can dine in the comfort and safety of their own rooms.
The bottom line
The hospitality industry has long done a good job of making hotel guests feel welcomed. Now it needs to take that concept one step further if it wants to survive the pandemic. By focusing on safety features, hotels may slowly but surely manage to draw in more guests so that by the time the current crisis is over, they (and their investors) are not in quite as deep a hole.