The trends shaping hospitality

The trends shaping hospitality

As hoteliers face a news set of challenges in 2022, Jad Shamseddin, COO of Aleph Hospitality, addresses the hospitality trends that are influencing the sector.

Hospitality is known to be one of the most competitive industries, and hotels are constantly under pressure to keep up with the latest trends to avoid being left behind by their competitors. This has been further accelerated by the global pandemic, during which the needs, expectations and priorities of travelers changed considerably. New trends are emerging that will likely continue to impact the way hoteliers run their businesses.

The largest and most successful hotel companies have always focused on innovating and evolving, keeping up with and introducing new hospitality trends. This includes everything from marketing and operation management to embracing the latest technologies, such as the use of AI. Hotels that use AI and marketing are able to keep up with the latest trends and have the advantage of being able to enter new target markets and communicate effectively with them.

The adoption of new technologies has also led to more efficient operations and an enriched guest experience. In contrast, failing to keep up with the latest hospitality trends could negatively impact the customer experience and have some painful consequences, such as competitors acquiring some of a hotel’s loyal clientele.

Moreover, global events like Covid-19 are likely to continue to impact hospitality trends. The unprecedented pandemic forced hotels to place greater focus on operational aspects to deliver more sophisticated hygiene, cleanliness and safety practices. The same applies to the pressure exerted by authorities across the globe to operate more sustainably, preserve nature and focus on eco-friendly solutions and services. Some of the key hospitality trends that are a result of — or have been accelerated by — the pandemic include the following:

Safety and hygiene
This is the most prominent new trend on the list. The emergence of Covid-19 resulted in immediate practices, some of which were introduced proactively by hotels, while others were recommended by health authorities in an effort to contain the spread of the virus. Measures varied from the provision of hand sanitizers and increased cleaning of high contact areas to the implementation of policies relating to wearing masks and/ or other protective equipment, as well as ensuring adequate social distancing.

Enhanced F&B delivery at home
Many hotels and restaurants realized that they could only sustain their food and beverage sales during the pandemic by introducing and increasing deliveries, allowing customers to enjoy a restaurant experience at home. This meant accepting mobile/app and online orders, faster deliveries and offering contactless deliveries and payment, as well as tips for drivers. Moreover, finding innovative new ways to impress customers is perceived as a competitive advantage. Bars have explored ways to deliver drinks to customers’ homes, while restaurants have started offering extras, from candles and table settings, to QR codes with music providers’ playlists. This trend is likely to stay and will become even more sophisticated over time.

New focus: co-working spaces
Working remotely has become the norm for many and is forecast to be more than just a short-lived trend. Companies like Twitter, Facebook and Amazon announced a hybrid or flexible approach to working remotely post pandemic. This means that hotels are being used as alternative offices for those seeking a change of work environment. This poses a great opportunity for hotels to capitalize on the work-from-anywhere trend, adapting their offering to meet the needs and wants of this emerging segment with comfy seating spaces, good lighting, ample electrical sockets, free high-speed Internet and great coffee.

Use of apps and digitalized guest experiences
Apps are increasingly allowing hoteliers to manage the services they provide to their customers and can now control many aspects of the guest journey and experience. This trend has gained significant momentum since 2020. Consumers who have adapted to unlocking their smartphones and laptops using facial and fingerprint recognition will soon come to expect the same convenience in accessing their hotel rooms. Unfortunately for the establishments looking to welcome them, these upgrades may be costly to install and maintain.

Contactless payments
Many hotels have implemented contactless payments as customers and staff members feel increasingly uncomfortable handling cash. Contactless payments are now viewed as a necessity rather than a luxury. Through contactless payments, customers save time in sorting through cash or entering their PIN. The development of Apple Pay and Google Pay has eliminated the need even to carry a wallet or cash. This trend has become convenient and is here to to stay.

Use of robots: not an odd thing anymore
Automation ranks high on the list of hospitality trends, with robotics being a good example. Hotels, restaurants and similar establishments can use robots to greet customers and provide customer information, while they can also play a vital role in operational security. Within the hotel premises, robots are now being used to deliver room service and perform cleaning and other housekeeping tasks. Meanwhile, restaurants can use robots to carry out various aspects of food service. This can be especially useful when dealing with restaurant customers who are trying to reduce close contact with other people as much as possible.

Less travel, more staycations
Travel restrictions over the past two years have led to a sharp rise in staycations. Even with international travel resuming, rising airline prices, PCR testing requirements and travel bureaucracy have made international travel more expensive and cumbersome, especially for shorter breaks. Traveling less or staying local has become more common and it will be interesting to see how this trend develops as the travel industry bounces back.

Sustainable operations
In recent years, sustainability has become more relevant in hotel operations as people become increasingly sensitive to environmental and social issues. Avoiding disposable plastics, eliminating unnecessary paper consumption through e-receipts and reducing food waste are among the ethical and environmental considerations that are shaping decisions made at hospitality management level. In addition, the deployment of ecofriendly switches, the replacement of miniature toiletries with larger dispensers, the introduction of vegetarian and vegan food options, the selection of ethically produced bedsheets and the use of energy-smart bulbs are also well documented.

Personalization of services
Today’s guests expect to be recognized and treated as individuals. Establishments have made personalized email marketing accessible to the masses, ensuring highly targeted, audience-specific communications. Far beyond simply adding the customer’s name to email greetings, data provides insight into past buying habits to enable hotels to tailor their offers and promotions, thereby automatically providing similar services to previous stays.
Platforms such as CRM and chatbots use data to create one-to-one interactions between the guest and the host.

What’s next?
While hoteliers may be anxious and confused about the future of the industry, the majority would agree that we must continue to evolve and reinvent ourselves to unlock the opportunities and adapt to the challenges faced today, and those of the future.

Jad Shamseddin,
COO of Aleph Hospitality
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