Hotels have taken a serious beating in the course of the coronavirus pandemic. Not only has leisure travel declined, but business travel has come to a halt in the course of 2020. That extends to larger gatherings and conferences, which have been off the table since March. All of this has left hotels starved for revenue -- so much so that one out of every four U.S. hotels is currently at risk for foreclosure.
But things may soon be changing. Now that the FDA has approved not one but two coronavirus vaccines, there's hope that doses will become widely available during the second quarter of 2021 (in the first quarter, only high-priority individuals, like healthcare workers, can expect to be vaccinated). And once enough people get a vaccine, business trips may very much be back on the table.
Hotels should prepare for an influx of business travelers
Many individual families have been impacted by the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, and so hotel stays may be out of reach financially for many in the coming year. But large corporations with healthy budgets may seek to not only reinstate business trips during the latter part of 2021 but also make up for lost time. That gives hotels a major opportunity to draw in business travelers and cater to corporate clients.
How so? Simplifying the booking process is a start. Hotels should make it easy to book blocks of rooms at once and prepare to offer attractive incentives for companies looking to coordinate multi-room stays.
Expanding conference rooms and offering flexible booking terms for them is another way hotels can capitalize on what could be an incoming boom. Hourly rates and added technology will likely be needed to draw in corporate clients. Speaking of which, lackluster internet service could be a major deal-breaker in a post-coronavirus world, so hotels should look at upgrading their Wi-Fi before bookings start to explode. Having systems in place to respond quickly to outages is equally important.
Hotels should also seek to provide custom amenities and packages to corporate travelers who could easily grow road-weary if they suddenly find themselves bouncing from city to city every other week to make up for an unproductive 2020. Those could include simple but meaningful changes, like more menu choices (including healthier options and those that cater to a wider range of dietary restrictions), as well as higher-end choices for guests looking to turn their business trips into mini vacations.
Finally, hotels should aim to help corporate guests maintain their regular fitness routines beyond the typical gym. Investing in trainers, yoga classes, and outdoor walking trails could help struggling properties secure repeat bookings.
Though 2020 has indeed been a miserable year for hotels, a surge in business travel could be just the thing that saves many struggling properties from total ruin. And given the current vaccine timeline, that could happen during the second half of 2021. Preparing properly for that shift could help hotels save themselves, all the while securing a real long-term edge.