Consumer surveys all predict the same thing for the second half of 2021: a huge wave of travel. But in the midst of yet another wave of lockdowns, the post-COVID surge that everyone has been expecting since last summer sometimes feels more like a mirage than a future reality. Yet, it is coming. The European Travel Commission found that 52% of Europeans intend to travel within the next six months—and intra-European travel is currently dominating their plans.
That’s fantastic news, of course, and something to look forward to. However, it also comes with its own challenges. With a full reopening on the horizon later this year, now is actually the perfect time to begin answering the tough questions that come with a transition back to normal. Questions like:
- Will you at some point require proof of vaccination before a guest’s stay?
- If you’re hosting both unvaccinated and vaccinated guests, will there be separate areas and/or different restrictions for each group?
- How can you prepare a smaller staff to handle a potential influx of travelers later this year?
Luckily, hoteliers do have a place to look for guidance: the airline industry. Because the airline industry has continued to operate throughout the pandemic—forced to adapt to current COVID trends at an even faster pace than hoteliers—they’ve already begun to plan for these eventualities. Here’s how they’re beginning to strategize for the rest of 2021, and the lessons they have to offer their hotelier counterparts.
Empower Guests with Self-Service Options
The International Air Transport Association has identified self-service options as an absolute necessity for reducing queues and contact at airports during COVID, but also for reassuring travelers and improving satisfaction. When web and mobile apps are available to passengers, for example, they can answer their own questions and meet their own needs—only approaching staff when they absolutely need to. As travel scales back up, airlines are planning to use self-service technology to overcome a few critical transitional challenges: the ability to serve both vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers effectively and reduce pressure on potentially overwhelmed staff. Even better, self-service technology (especially mobile technology) has already been growing in popularity for years, so the investment will continue to pay dividends even as Europe enters the new normal.
For hoteliers, the business case for self-service options could not be clearer. If you can implement technology like mobile apps, mobile check-in, mobile key, or in-room tablets as lockdowns lift, you’ll be in a prime position for myriad advantages. Not only will you be upgrading safety measures in the short-term and providing convenience guests want in the long-term, you’ll also be able to take small, unnecessary tasks off of staff—leaving them time to focus on high-priority services and tasks. Win, win, win.
Maximize the Productivity of Smaller Staffs
Let’s not beat around the bush: the airline and hospitality industries have been decimated in the last year. COVID has led to massive layoffs across the board at the vast majority of airlines, hotel brands, and boutique properties. To combat the lack of manpower during the eventual travel surge, airlines again are turning to tech to lighten the load. Both automation and business analytics will give a smaller number of employees the tools they need to keep things running effectively and make travel enjoyable once again.
This is an angle many hoteliers are not currently considering: mobile hospitality technology has seen a huge rise in demand during the pandemic, but staff technology has taken a backseat. No more. A smaller staff needs more help. And frankly, with technology costs lower than ever (oftentimes less than a property’s laundry bill each month!), there’s never been a better time to consider how you can provide incredible service at scale without necessarily needing to increase your headcount. One travel surge won’t make up for months of losses, and technology can fill in the gaps to increase efficiency and streamline processes until you’re ready to fully rebuild your team.
Being back in lockdown is a frustrating experience, but it’s also given hoteliers a window of time in which to create a plan to tackle the ever-shifting circumstances this year and next will bring. As lockdowns come to an end and vaccine rollouts pick up speed, now is the time to take action. Start taking your cues from the airlines, and invest in the technology that solves transitional challenges while elevating guest and staff experiences—so you’re fully ready to capitalize on the post-COVID travel boom as soon as it starts.
INTELITY is the global leader in contactless guest experience technology, uniting mobile, in-room, and operational tools into one fully-integrated hospitality platform. Built for the hotel, casino, and luxury residential markets, INTELITY has been named the “Official Mobile and In-Room Technology Provider” by the distinguished Forbes Travel Guide in 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020, and is in use at boutique properties, casino-resorts, and global hotel brands, including Marriott, Fairmont, Hard Rock, and more. For more information, visit www.intelity.com.