Win guests by knowing post-COVID-19 travel behaviors
 
Win guests by knowing post-COVID-19 travel behaviors
16 APRIL 2020 7:32 AM

The current pandemic environment is going to change what people want from travel and hoteliers should start preparing for that now.

We are all keenly awaiting a sense of normalcy to return to the travel world after the coronavirus and the lockdown have subsided. But to be honest, there is no going back. The behavioral changes that have resulted from this pandemic are now habits that will change what guests want from their travel experiences.

Namely, let’s talk about the last effects of social distancing and self-isolation. People all over are becoming accustomed to working from home, cooking for themselves more than they used to, eating out far less and shopping online in lieu of going to the mall. Concurrently is the lingering fear factor from COVID-19; whereby, people will be afraid of crowded or highly trafficked spaces in addition to needing some form of hand sanitization nearby at all times.

Taken together, these changes will strain existing hotel operations and marketing messaging as what was deemed most important to guests before the outbreak may no longer be the case. And therein lies an opportunity to regain your loyal customers’ trust, as well as winning new guests, by demonstrating that your brand is in stride with all this sudden appetite shift. Below are some operational changes that you might want to consider so your organization can get ahead of the curve.

Housekeeping becomes beyond paramount
Cleanliness and disinfecting surfaces will be crucial for guests to feel comfortable about occupying a room that had strangers in it the night before. Not only must your hotel augment its housekeeping standard operating procedure and increase staffing in this department, but you must also consistently inform travelers through marketing channels and onsite displays about the newfound seriousness with which you are treating all this.

Build seclusion staycations packages
Guests will be less keen to interact with each other, make new friends or lounge around common areas. Although I was a big proponent of the living room concept, consider this on hiatus until further notice. Travelers are going to be fearful of airports which in turn will favor those properties within driving distance and those that are marketing staycation packages to locals. And upon arrival, they won’t want to meet everyone else who happens to be onsite, instead yearning to get to their recently sterilized rooms as expediently as possible.

Make guests walk again
Before the pandemic you may have opted to lure in new customers with conferences or prestigious neighborhood events. In the near future, travelers will want to stick with their social-distancing habits and get away from it all. This means helping facilitate visits to local parks or hiking trails as well as guided walks to discover the area around the hotel. Importantly, all these activities are on the cheap side, which will also be a contributing factor as money will be tight for most in the coming months.

Wellness gets a big boost
In a society that is now more panicked than ever before, those individuals who feel they are suffering from “post-coronavirus stress disorder” will be much more receptive to escaping to the bodily and spiritual rejuvenation offered by spa treatments, meditation programs or yoga retreats. Even when conducted at an urban property, the demand will be there as many guests won’t want to set foot in airports to go to far-off lands nor will they necessarily have the cash to splurge on a multi-day vacation at a luxury resort.

Digital and media detox
While life has indeed quieted down during the quarantine, the perpetual use of technology and addictive following of the news cycle has not. We all need a break from looking at our phones and the exasperating headlines that the media spews out every day, only sometimes we need a little nudge to do so. Developing wellness programs to help guests in this regard will let you tap into this emerging market.

Work from a hotel
In sharp contrast to any ideas about electronic detoxification is the great number of people who will now be able to permanently work from home. But working in the same space that you sleep can make many a bit stir-crazy. As such, more of these “digital nomads” will hope to conduct a bit of personal hybrid travel whereby they escape to a nearby hotel with laptop and video conferencing software in tow. Adjusting your operations to meet this demand will mean stellar Wi-Fi connectivity and lots of inspirational, quiet spaces for these travelers to relax while also being productive.

Cooking classes to enrich the home life
Once someone becomes comfortable cooking for themselves, it’s hard to go back to a purely takeout lifestyle. It’s a rewarding and self-actualizing activity. But that doesn’t mean people won’t want facetime with professional chefs to learn firsthand how to prepare gourmet meals. Interactive experiences that breach our newfound social distancing barriers will happen, but they will favor those hobbies that improve how well a guest lives when they return home.

One of the world’s most published writers in hospitality, Larry Mogelonsky is the principal of Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited, a Toronto-based consulting practice. His experience encompasses hotel properties around the world, both branded and independent, and ranging from luxury and boutique to select-service. Larry is also on several boards for companies focused on hotel technology. His work includes five books “Are You an Ostrich or a Llama?” (2012), “Llamas Rule” (2013), “Hotel Llama” (2015), “The Llama is Inn” (2017) and “The Hotel Mogel” (2018). You can reach Larry at larry@hotelmogel.com to discuss hotel business challenges or to book speaking engagements.
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