There is no denying that hospitality was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. The industry had no choice but to face certain realities to mitigate the impact on their businesses—from furloughing staff to pivoting to digital models. Its effects were certainly felt by those working both inside and outside the industry: according to the World Travel & Tourism Council, the hospitality sector accounts for 10% of global GDP and provides 1 in 10 jobs worldwide.
Thankfully, with vaccinations underway and the world slowly starting to open up again, it seems as it things are looking up. And according to Deloitte’s “The Future of Hospitality” report, it is vital that companies act now. They state: “The COVID-19 pandemic will eventually fade. The economy will recover, and the hospitality sector—from restaurants to hotels, casinos to sports—will regain its footing and look forward with confidence to a successful, thriving future. Now is the time for companies to act, adapt to the new normal, position themselves for nimbleness, and thrive in the years ahead.” Simply put, these companies should respond to the challenges and seize the opportunities.
At the same time, however, one shouldn’t simply expect things to go back to the way they were before. For the hospitality sector to properly recover, it is essential to understand their consumers’ changing behaviors.
What are customers looking for now?
As we start to enter the new normal, there are a number of things that we can expect, especially from the point of view of customers. Prior to COVID-19, the hospitality and tourism sector was already undergoing change, and the pandemic gives them an opportunity to pivot once again. More private and personal options, flexible cancellation policies, and the use of technology are things that now have to be considered moving forward.
Here are some of the things that customers are specifically looking for:
Building back trust
- Understanding and responding to the changing behaviors of consumers are essential to building back the hospitality industry. Ultimately, it all boils down to one important thing: trust. Guests are still worried about the coronavirus, and they have every right to be. Because of this, the hospitality sector will have to engage with them, communicating to them the steps they are taking to keep both customers and employees safe. In addition to this, they also have to feel like their emotional needs are being taken into consideration, and this can include things like flexible and penalty-free cancellation policies.
Hygiene, hygiene, hygiene
- As the industry starts to reopen, organizations must not only provide a clean space for customers, but alleviate their health-related worries as well. This includes rigorous cleaning, sanitation protocols, and controlling crowds. While businesses have to adhere to certain guidelines, it is important to note that ideally, this should be done in a way that takes away as little as possible from the customer experience.
The use of no-touch technologies
- In line with making an effort to protect the health and safety of customers, organizations have the opportunity to take advantage of the digitalization of the industry. Hotels have already started using smartphone applications for check-ins, ordering take-out from their restaurants, and other types of reser
- vations. Additionally, health apps can also screen customers prior to entry and monitor their health status by asking for their temperature and symptoms—something we already see in other establishments such as malls. There is no doubt that investing in no-contact technologies would be a huge benefit for an establishment in the long run.
What will an education in hospitality teach you?
- The good news? While the industry faces these challenges and are able to pivot their business models and strategies, there are more opportunities for students and graduates to learn. Now more than ever, highly-skilled and adaptable leaders are needed for long-term, positive effects.
- Colleges and universities play an instrumental role in educating and preparing students for this kind of reality. According to experts, the learning of new skills and values are necessary not just to survive, but to thrive in the industry. These new skills include the following: customer experience management, business simulation, emotional intelligence, and soft skills. There is also a slight shift in values, which now include security, regionality, resonance, and authenticity.
- The COVID-19 pandemic will not last forever, and the economy will eventually learn to recover. It already is. But is is essential to have innovative and entrepreneurial graduates when it comes to navigating the way for the hospitality industry in a post-pandemic economy. Learning to have this mindset will teach individuals to see situations like these not just as risks, but as opportunities. And in the midst of changing times, that seems like a true education.