Demand for hotels is changing, and the volume of overnight guests in the global market has been decimated by the Covid-19 pandemic. But changing customer needs have been creeping up on the hospitality sector for some time. Key factors include rising digital maturity impacting both leisure and business guests, a rise in flexible working, and an increase in digital nomads working remotely for weeks or months at a time in new locations.
The events of 2020 have significantly accelerated many of these trends, at the same time as a significant downturn in demand for overnight stays. This storm is leaving hotel brands with some big decisions to make on how to respond to changing patterns of demand that are now here for the long term.
One area in which hospitality brands are trying to create new opportunities, and rolling out new marketing campaigns to promote, is the option to work-from-hotels. The danger in this concept is that just selling what you already have for day-use is not enough to secure the long term revenue stream that a hotel needs in order to survive. An opportunity is clearly there and is relevant to both leisure and business travellers, domestic and international.
These new campaigns and services are also a result of hotels beginning to address different emerging needs from their potential customers. Hotels are specialists in overnight stays, and the needs of those who never stay the night are completely different. It takes new muscles to explore the different target customers for a day-use product, and even further honing to offer relevant and appealing services that work beyond this pandemic environment.
A lack of experience in this area needs to be counterbalanced with relevant partnerships. Organisations who have already found ways to make money – and communities – from digital nomads are just one place to start. There are already examples of hotels making new friends in this space. New York’s iconic Wythe Hotel has recently partnered with co-working company Industrious on a project to repurpose rooms into working spaces relevant for today’s socially distanced needs.
Hotel brands with properties still in development have a real opportunity to look at their real estate and address how the bricks and mortar will accommodate these seismic shifts in how workforces will behave into the long term future. Flexible floor plans with spaces that can evolve to accommodate co-working and long-stay living are just one solution we can expect to see.
When any location can be a place to work from, digital nomads are on the increase and looking for accommodation that gives them a flavour of a certain destination without committing to rental contracts. To pull in such audiences, the working spaces and add-on facilities also need to be attractive, packed with opportunities to safely socialise and network alongside other like-minded professionals. This audience wants the lifestyle assets of a certain destination without a relocation headache. An enviable postcode, hotel services, access to first-class local concierges, and great bars and restaurants are all part of a desirable package.
The right technology is key when it comes to connecting guests and making them feel part of a community. Such technology should also be able to integrate services that deliver additional revenue for the hotel, such as virtual concierges or contactless F&B delivery. A natural consequence of clever technology should be personalisation to remember previous orders, bookings and tailored experiences. Importantly, harnessing data shouldn’t replace the human touch, just enhance it.
Of course, it is also a smart move to find a management consulting company that can read the latest market insights in a scientific manner and transform them into outcome-driven strategies to decipher the hype from the homerun.