2021- Looking Ahead Into The New Year

2020!! What a year it has been – especially for the hospitality industry. Prior to the start of the year everyone in the industry was thinking and strategising on what the new decade had in store. Amidst rumblings of a new contagious virus spreading in distant China, we were all reflecting on the 2010s and ruminating on the disruptive impact social media, a strong economy, accessible travel, new technologies and other service industries have had on the worldview of the modern-day customer. Experts were envisaging a world where customer needs would gradually evolve from being mainly focussed on service quality and customer experience, to also being focussed on customer goals i.e., Customer Led.

Just as the hotels and serviced accommodation sectors were adjusting and starting to adapt their business models to cater to the individual needs of their customers, boom!! Covid-19 hit! Everything changed, there were travel restrictions both local and international, businesses closed, holidays were cancelled, public and private gatherings were postponed. Face coverings, gloves, sanitisers and even toilet tissues 😀 were sold out. Hotels, tourist attractions, restaurants, cinemas and pubs were shut, even accommodation bookings were cancelled by the online travel agents. The scary part is that the spread of the virus doesn’t appear to be abating and the hospitality industry needs to adapt in order to be successful going forward – luckily, there’s now a vaccine that’s gradually being rolled out and hopefully things will go back to normal or some semblance of normal soon.

Against this backdrop, we decided to look ahead to 2021 and consider what hospitality industry providers, especially the serviced accommodation sector, need to do to in the coming year to remain successful and relevant.

Sanitation and Cleaning Standards: The global pandemic means cleanliness and sanitisation is at the forefront of the minds of guests. Providers need to continue to revamp their already high cleaning standards and take extra steps to ensure that all apartments are deep cleaned after every guest checkout to ensure guests enjoy a safe, hygienic environment. The cleanliness and hygiene standards of serviced apartments needs to be taken very seriously. Guests and staff alike are entitled to stay at and work in a clean and safe environment.

Modernise their services: From hi-tech check-in services, to 24-hour snack bars, to fully equipped dedicated workspaces, to attract and retain customers, providers need to innovate and offer services that surpass any similar offerings in quality. Experts believe providers need to consider either; a) unbundling their services to keep rates competitive and allow customers only pay for what they use; or b) partner with local businesses and facilities to provide the unbundled services to customers at a discount.

Implement New Systems and Processes: Hospitality service providers generally view investment in new technology and process improvement as avenues to reduce employee headcount and overhead costs. New systems and processes need to be viewed as a means of freeing up employees to spend more time engaging with customers to create a unique personalised experience rather than manual data entry and paperwork.

Invest in People: When it comes to creating a memorable user experience, nothing beats having customer-centric people working for you. On average, most people view working in the hospitality industry as a stop-gap before getting a better paying job. This is as a result of the current reputation of the industry as one that’s low paying with somewhat harsh working conditions. To attract staff who view hospitality as a genuine career path, hospitality services providers need to consider paying better wages, increasing head count to improve the working conditions and investing in training employees. This will ensure that the facilities are adequately staffed whilst allowing the staff fully understand the individual customer needs, preferences and characteristics in order to deliver an exceptional service and create a really great customer experience.

In order to excel in a new post-covid Customer Led era, hospitality services providers (hotels, serviced apartments and apart hotels) need a paradigm shift in their view of what brand loyalty means exactly. They need to completely revamp their way of thinking and step out of their comfort zone, take a few risks, try new concepts/ideas, offer unique, customisable and unexpected services and conveniences to their guests. Attention needs to focus on anticipating and offering features that guests will find safe and attractive.

The deciding factor will be the provider’s ability to make the right decisions with regards to their service offerings, implement the right systems & processes and ensure employees are customer-centric – allowing them to connect and build lasting relationships with their customers.

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