By Brent Blake, President, Acendas Travel
With good reason, much of the discussion about the return of travel has focused on airplanes and airports.
But now that a significant amount of people are criss-crossing the country and venturing outside the United States, we are hearing about issues that have risen beyond that of being a minor inconvenience, especially when it comes to hotels.
Testing the Waters
I began venturing out in June in 2020 to test the travel environment and increased the frequency of my trips later that fall. That was followed by a half dozen trips in 2021. I have been impressed by how quickly and effectively various sectors of the industry have reacted and implemented health and safety protocols. As I have shared with others who ask about travel, I tell them it has never been safer to travel. I believe we will quickly get used to the changes done to protect our health — and be thankful for them.
When it comes to services, the lack of workers has had a considerable impact, especially at hotels and resorts. Certainly there is the hope that properties will be able to attract staff, but predicting the future is risky. Plus, there is always the potential that some services will not return.
So, what does the hotel experience look like? Here are my observations based on my travels:
- Check-ins can now be touchless via mobile app, a kiosk system or scanning devices. There is much less human interaction and technology adds efficiency. Travelers need to understand this in advance of departures and make certain they have the appropriate technology downloaded on smartphones.
- Congregating spaces are limited with distancing in place — at least until the vaccination rates increase. And even then, the days of the packed hotel lobby are likely a thing of the past.
- Housekeeping services are reduced, ranging from slight to significant. According to surveys, after price, the second most important factor in choosing a hotel is cleanliness. We have received feedback from travel managers and travelers that some hotels are doing room cleaning only on demand. I have experienced it as well
- Food options are limited with reduced hours for the restaurants, elimination of breakfast buffets, limited room service, etc. Food delivery services such as Grub Hub and Door Dash have significantly increased as hotel activities.
- Work out rooms or spas are featuring reduced hours, distancing requirements and the elimination of some services.
- There is some uncertainty as to how long this situation might last, but the silver lining is the economy is poised for consistent, strong growth. However, the presence of the new Covid-19 variances could be a set back to progress.
The bottom line is travel managers must communicate this information to travelers, especially the specific situations regarding the properties where their associates are staying.That is where travel management companies such as Acendas Travel need to make the information readily available. Correspondingly, travelers must pack some patience for their trips because the differences might result in some inconvenience.
A New Utility for Hotels?
Interestingly, hotels have been creative in adjusting in order to make up for a loss in revenues. Among the tactics they are employing::
- Utilizing rooms as shared work spaces and temporary offices
- Marketing hyperlocal travel and staycations to area populations
- Offering passes or memberships to non-guests for pools, gyms, parking lots
- Kitchens now catering to outside groups
- Selling rooms in a timeshare fashion
- This will result in operational and architectural changes for hotels
Humans by nature are not easily accepting of change, but that is what they will face as they begin to travel. Could it be a short-term situation? Perhaps? But it’s been said that necessity is the mother of invention. Some of these new processes and features might remain in place for quite some time.