The hotel experience will not be the same for travelers when they return – and travel managers should be ready for the changes
By: Harvey Chipkin
As business travelers take to the road in ever-increasing numbers, they will be returning to many of the same hotels they were familiar with before – as well as new ones, because of pandemic-driven changes in company policies and client locations. Will it be lodging as usual? With the industry facing critical staffing shortages, will guests see a reduction in service? How should managers deal with the expectations of their travelers and with upcoming contracts with room providers?
Travelers can expect significant changes, according to both hoteliers and intermediaries – not necessarily for the worse, but ones travelers would do well to anticipate. For example, operators might position innovations like contactless technology as a positive while guests may continue to seek more human interaction, so progress may be in the eye of the beholder.
Bjorn Hanson, adjunct professor, Jonathan M. Tisch Center of Hospitality, New York University and a longtime industry observer, says most guests will accept limited housekeeping as they understand the combination of health and safety practices, the challenges of staffing, and room rates that are 15-25 percent below 2019 levels. But by late 2021 and into 2022 as rates continue to recover and COVID-19 concerns diminish, many guests, says Hanson, “may perceive the reduction in service as nothing more than cost cutting with health and safety primarily as an excuse.”
Steve Reynolds, CEO of Tripbam, a hotel rate shopping platform, says he doesn’t expect long-term service disruptions, particularly in the US. In Europe, he says, “the opening up is going more slowly so they may have lingering issues into early 2022, but those should dissipate by the second quarter.”