Right after the September 11 attacks, the general thought was: Who will ever travel by plane again? Just the year before, in 2000, some 1.48 billion people had traveled on such transport. Last year, almost two decades later, the total number of passengers transported in regular services increased to 4,540 million. Tripling the number of the beginning of the XXI century.
Having a vision beyond a conjuncture helps plan, build value, and grow despite the storm clouds present. While all the global travel markets continue to struggle with the implications of COVID-19, one thing is becoming clearer: the crisis will have a profound impact in the short term but not a lasting one in the long term. It remains to be seen how the industry evolves and if, at last, their brand, distribution and management strategies not only see the present as a problem but also as an opportunity to improve, evolve and eventually transform for the better an industry that has been decades without profound changes. The change is not imminent, the change has already begun.
The important thing is not that they come, but that they come back
It is difficult to predict exactly what type of travel and hospitality services customers will choose immediately after the crisis. However, it is almost safe to say that typical vacations like ‘sun, sand and sea’, skiing, sightseeing and shopping are practically safe. Some analysts claim that domestic travel will return faster than international travel, for almost obvious reasons. While this is most likely true for low to medium tier services, luxury hospitality companies are likely to start receiving visits as soon as the borders are reopened, because they are already taking reservations. What seems certain is that many are already preparing for when this happens.
To recover from the current crisis and the inevitable economic, financial and managerial difficulties, companies will need to think creatively about their operations. Cooperation and collaboration between different players, both public and private, brands and different industry sectors can undoubtedly strengthen the position of destinations. The positive is to see that some countries, and indeed their citizens, are already thinking about the future and promoting themselves as destinations that are ready to receive tourists as soon as possible, with Italy and Cyprus being excellent examples of such initiatives.
Sanitation for a “clean generation”
In the immediate future, health, hygiene and safety will have a profound influence on the traveler’s psyche and, consequently, it is what travelers will demand as basic when booking a hotel. But not the only thing. These attributes will be a “commodity”, at the level of air conditioning or wifi. Customers want more.
Many hotel companies are launching new cleaning standards inspired by those set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Marriott includes the use of electrostatic spray technology to spread disinfectants that widely kill germs in rooms. Working with the Mayo Clinic and the manufacturers of Lysol, Hilton plans to release a new room seal in June stating that no one has entered the room since it was cleaned. And in Spain, Bahía del Duque de The Tais has agreements with international reference centers for disinfection and certification protocols.
No to the tourism of partitions
Evidence tells us that pre-COVID-19 marketing, sales, and communication strategies will not work for post-COVID-19 travelers. In this uncertain present, operational standards for safety and cleanliness will be subject to new and high expectations, and marketing practices will have to change (many have already done so) accordingly. Some begin to classify this new generation of travelers as “Generation Clean”.
The V of the market
The market will rebound in a V-shape, they say, sooner rather than later. Citizens want to make up for time locked up, there is a need for travel and disconnection. Hotels that best meet guests’ new expectations for meticulous cleanliness standards, as highlighted during the shopping experience and evidenced during their stay, will be better positioned to take advantage of the upcoming emerging demand. But I still believe that people will want to enjoy themselves without having to think about hygiene and safety. They will want to disconnect, in the widest sense of their meaning, without worry.
Millennials are expected to be the first to start traveling once the restrictions are relaxed. Therefore, we recommend considering the exact ways on how to attract them and including them as an essential step in your business recovery plan. Almost 90% of millennials value the authenticity of the brand on the hotel’s “perfect and packaged” messages. They appreciate a high value in the transparency, trust and authenticity of the brand.
Additionally, millennials are more attuned to advances in mobility and social media. In addition to regular communications, you must embrace technology if you have not already done so. Being tech savvy travelers, they want a mobile first guest experience, personalized messages, deals and offers, 24/7 service and more.
Did hotels use this time for maintenance and renovation?
The coronavirus outbreak did not mean that the hotels are idle, on the contrary, there was much to do. It was a perfect time to catch up and improve. Whether it’s a spontaneous renovation or completing the property improvement plan, there has been no better time to do it.
Concierge apps can help provide hotel guests and non-guests with the option to deliver meals directly to their rooms without even talking to someone. Would you have the same answer in a hotel in Iceland as in the Canary Islands? Don’t they come looking for the human of paradise in our islands?
Perhaps some technologies are well regarded, but eyes to dipitize everything … We can consider self-service payment systems to be good. Some orders through mobile applications.
But a contactless service?
Courtesy hand sanitizer parked at entrances, exits and some key spaces, such as entrances to restaurant areas.
In addition, hoteliers must closely monitor employees’ health conditions and take reasonable precautions to ensure that the disease does not affect or spread them.
Therefore, hoteliers will implement, reconsider, update, or adopt established protocols to ensure that staff are safe and healthy and, furthermore, do not contribute to the spread of infection.
In the end, there are a variety of ways to overcome these unexpected and challenging times to recover as soon as possible. The expression that tells us: “what matters is not how you fall, but how you get up” resonates more forcefully.
Awareness of finitude will make us want to enjoy more
The coronavirus crisis (what ugly names crises have) has brought with it a new awareness of how vulnerable we are in daily life. We reconnect with the idea of our finitude. At the same time it confirmed to us how anthropologically social we are in this part of the world. We need social contact, for now with a safe distance.
In hotels, we will probably want to spend very little in the personal environment, such as a room, and we will want to take advantage of the time in the common areas. To see and be seen, to share, for the tribe to celebrate this return to freedom. Obviously, there will be better-prepared hotels than others to respond to the concerns many people have before deciding where to go: What are their standards? Good, very good, excellent or extraordinary? Will hygiene and cleaning teams be well trained? When was the room and bedding last disinfected and sterilized? Can I trust what this hotel promises?
These concerns will start even before prospective guests start their online searches. And here the brand comes strongly into play. Its reputation, its career, its values and the confidence it inspires. Branding will become an essential consideration in the search, booking and purchasing process and will require continuing to deliver on the promise of value for some and for many to think of a new approach to how they communicate, market and build brand value.
Make it part of your brand
As wise investors say, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Cleanliness must be part of the brand’s promise to provide subconscious assurances to potential customers that the hotel, resort, villa, apart hotel will be clean and safe. Whether it’s a grand luxury or a hostel, brands that incorporate this into their DNA will eventually become synonymous with the highest level of security and cleanliness necessary to attract a new generation of loyal guests.
And it is certain that the standards of cleanliness will not be the same in all establishments, so those differential aspects of value must be communicated at all points of contact with customers. This will act as a potential differentiator against the competition and as a value-added benefit for guests. Neither overstepping or overacting, all in its proper measure. A hotel should not feel like a hospital.
But we must not lose sight of the day after. What else does your hotel offer? What other differentiating and outstanding aspects? What makes it inimitable? What do you have to communicate or say that others do not? If all hotels will be clean and safe, why else will they choose you?
Recovering the “moments of truth”
A moment of truth is any interaction in which the client comes into contact with your services and forms an impression of your hotel. The concept originated at Scandinavian Airlines by President and CEO Jan Carlzon. What connects this to our reality is that he assumed the helm of an S.A.S. at the end of 1981 when the company’s numbers were really bad and despite everything, it transformed the airline. It focused on business passengers, decentralized the organization, invested heavily in training, and dramatically improved service and punctuality.
The bold and risky strategy worked: S.A.S. It was profitable again in Carlzon’s first year as president.
Investing in a brand is always profitable
In the case of Scandinavian Airlines, Moments of Truth for passengers are the times when they come into contact with the airline’s staff. This used to start with the reservation stage (often this is now completed online), followed by the check-in desk, boarding call, plane entrance, security briefing, and food. Each of these are moments of truth, moments when passengers come into direct contact with the airline and form an opinion of the airline. Knowing these Moments of Truth is important for the way your hotel is perceived and, therefore, its reputation.
Perceptions and realities
It is especially important that they understand what we are doing and why. The service we provide, as experienced by our clients, is actually a series of moments of truth. The quality of the service depends on everyone. At the point of contact, each staff member has a direct influence on customer perception of the hotel. While perceptions may not be the ultimate truth, they are what people use to make their decisions and form their opinion about brands. Perception is what counts. Perception, when it comes to the customer, IS the reality!
A new luxury: time and experience.
It is important to remember that luxury brands are based on stories and a rich heritage. This is a unique time for companies to show what their values really are and how much they are willing to give to support these values. Today’s news will evolve into textbook case studies and marketing stories for decades to come. Today is the time to build strong brands for the future.
The experts I had the good fortune to talk to in these weeks explained to me the difference between cleaning and disinfecting. Cleaning refers to the removal of dirt and impurities, including germs, from surfaces. Bedding, towels, and clothing can also become contaminated with the virus, so adding disinfectant when washing clothes is important. Cleaning alone does not kill germs. Disinfection, on the other hand, works through the use of chemicals. Disinfectants should be applied during routine cleaning of rooms, common areas, gym, outlets, and meeting rooms. To facilitate the process, equipment such as electrostatic sprayers or nebulizers are used to ensure that hard-to-reach surfaces are not lost.
It is also essential to ensure the health and protection of personnel and not only that they receive the appropriate personal protective equipment and follow the specified procedures to stay safe, but that they have been trained in this without losing sight of the DNA of the brand they represent in what they do and how they do it.
“Branded or well-run independent hotels can have a compelling advantage over home swapping because hotels will use professional or industrial grade cleaning products. Its cleaning staff will be trained to clean according to the standards established by the hotels. And hotels will have marketing budgets to promote this. ”
Customer perception becomes their reality. An excellent experience will reinforce the word of mouth. Who do you believe more in a family member or friend or in the advertising of a hotel? Reinforce the brand promise it makes by constantly demonstrating its commitment to guests and in these circumstances with safety and cleanliness in a visible way.
In addition to making the hygiene of the space and the health of your customers and equipment part of your brand promise, highlight your commitment to them. At the end of the day it is because of them that you are what you are. To highlight a history of security, confidence, small details and great memories is to go beyond today. No one will want to go to a place just because it is clean. Expectations always demand more, and better.
One opportunity is to be able to customize the visit before it begins. Translate into meaningful experiences, ensuring that guests return to where they meet and meet their individual needs, because you already know them or because you will ask them things to customize their visit and experience to the fullest.
More disruption on the horizon
In a May 2020 article in The New York Times, Elaine Glusac asked: “Hotels vs. Airbnb: Has Covid-19 Disrupted The Disruptor? For years, house sharing has put pressure on hotel rates and occupancy levels. Social distancing, hygiene and refund policies may be the new game changers.
If we only focus on today we will miss tomorrow. And although many need to survive today, customers will continue to want to travel and live unforgettable experiences. And only cleanliness and security don’t provide that. So welcome the measures of care and protection, but do not forget that a hotel is a place of escape, of dreams, of desires, of relaxation, of meeting, of enjoyment, of celebration. A space with soul, that when connecting with a client, the client is already treasuring that positive experience and wanting to return.
It is time to get up again; better than before.