As hospitality operators start to re-open and customers – according to the latest numbers from Forbes – report missing dining out the most of anything during lockdown, a crucial sector often needs inclusion in the analysis: hotels.

With new analysis from McKinsey suggesting a recovery is as far away as 2023, we called in the experts to share practical tips on what hotels can do today to embrace technology, invest in getting guests back and guarantee satisfaction when they do.

Carl Weldon – Chief Operating Officer of HFTP Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals – lives and breathes hotels. So much so he was even born in a hotel! After working with hotel clients around the world for several decades, Carl has some simple and effective tips to run your hotel better right now.

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What is the future of hotels?

Post-COVID, hotels will have to adapt more than many other businesses in the hospitality sector. Not only has the way people travel – and therefore nightly stays – changed, but so too has the expectations of people when they travel. Here are Carl’s tips for what you need to think about now.

Cleaning standards

Whether your business is a boutique operator or part of a multi-national chain, the expectations of cleaning standards has changed. This includes a deep clean of all the rooms and surfaces, removal of items such as decorative pillows on chairs and regular reminders of the new cleaning standards you have implemented to give your guests a peace of mind.

For branded hotels in bigger cities, this will also include a series of baseline cleaning standards across the chain. More than anything, Carl says, people want reassurance that your hotel’s cleaning standards are as high as possible and care is taken to protect your guests and your staff right now.

More important than any standard though is this: adhere to the standard. Your guests are watching carefully with a more critical eye than ever before.

Contactless or touchless check-in

Every touchpoint of a guest’s hotel experience – from check-in and passport scan to check-out, payments, door locks and even the food and beverage standards – will have to be automated, which means managing your hotel staff in a new way.

Just as restaurants have adapted to increase the use of food delivery services – with contactless food drops – in the past few months, so too should hotels change the means of room service by streamlining the menu to fit your guests’ expectation and facilitating contactless drops from staff, as one example.

Staff management

As with any business in the experience economy, people make the difference. With the gradual increase in consumer spending on experiences again, it has never been more important to invest in your best asset – your people.

Your staff expect up-to-date advice and communication, plus the ability to change and swap shifts as needed. For everything you need to communicate better and faster right now, head over to our dedicated resources page.

Get into the cloud

Carl says it’s also never been more important to be able to run your business from anywhere. Ensure your hotel’s digital toolbox is in the cloud so you can make better decisions in real-time from your mobile device.  There is also a hygiene factor here – no need for engineer or technician visits to your hotel.

Think about your building uses

While large gatherings – like conferences and weddings – might be postponed for now, there are still smart ways to use your building spaces and generate revenue for your business.

  • Can you offer bespoke packages for smaller gatherings?
  • Can your hotel kitchen partner with a local hospital to provide catering for frontline workers?
  • Is there an option to rent former conference spaces out as long-term office rentals?
  • Can you offer longer-stay options in larger suites or apartments that would have used other channels for that previously?
  • You will have to change your breakfast offer at least. Buffets are now off-limits in order to guarantee safety, but can you change the way you cater and keep a revenue stream?

Hotels have long thrived on adaptability and change, and so taking some of these tips into consideration can also help your business and your staff survive the uncertainty long term.

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The experiences your hotel guests expect

But doing so relies on hotels embracing flexibility and adapting to the changing expectations your guests have for the future of hotel stays. Here are a few essential experiences Carl says they expect.

Cleaning standards

Just as new and multiple cleaning standards are the starting point of our section on the future of hotels, so too are they top of mind for your guests as they step into hotel rooms again. Keeping your hotel clean is obviously most important, but right after that is communicating what this means to your customers.

Think about explaining these changes in cleaning standards in your customer communications. Outline at various touchpoints before and during their stay the steps you have taken to ensure their safety – whether that is in email comms, on your website or in signs displayed around your hotel.

When it comes to cleanliness, there is no such thing as over-communication. But – remember – then you do have to deliver it!

Communication

As with the expectations around cleanliness, Carl says your guests will also expect to hear from you more. Keep in touch in the lead-up to their stay and make it clear the effort and thought your hotel has put into making that memorable.

Following their visit, it is just as important to seek feedback on the experience so you can know what to plan for improvements and also share the positivity with your staff and those guests coming to stay with you next.

Personalisation

While the data from Forbes shows that consumers are ready to come back – so long as the experience is safe, it’s a fair bet that they will be more discerning in what they spend money on when they do. As a result, personal experiences and memorable experiences will help set you apart from your competition.

This requires giving your staff the tools to understand your guests and help you attract more of them. But it will end up being one of the best investments you can make in setting your hotel back up for success.

Technology

Smart hotel operators understand that optimising your systems and sharing data between them can help you make better business decisions and respond in real-time when you need to.

Take a look at the tips around the touchless and contactless experience we’ve listed above and consider how to implement these to give your guests the digital-first experience they expect.

Community

Quality hotel operators understand there is a vital stakeholder beyond your guests, your staff and – in some cases – your head office: and that’s the local community you do business in.

Now is the time to ensure you are effectively engaging with the local community about some of the changes to your hotel’s practices and how you are keeping your people – including those who live around it – safe right now.

Get the insight you need into your best asset

While there are practical changes hotel businesses can make and there is cause for optimism in new and improved practices and revenue streams, the key to making it all work is clear: it is your people.

Understand what your staff think and get the results of our exclusive survey of more than 1,800 UK hospitality workers. Understand the people who understand your business.

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