Photo by Nick Wong

Moving forward, how will the hotel industry be defined?

As we deal with the ramifications of COVID-19, it’s hard to look past this pandemic and truly envision what the hotel industry will look like when we pull back the curtain on the new normal.

After so much devastation, this industry will take a long time to bounce back to the levels it experienced in the past decade. Not surprisingly, with each recession it takes years to recover and this is more than a recession — it’s a seismic upheaval, the likes of which we’ve never seen and the repercussions, simply put, are hellish.

Undoubtedly, this too shall pass. But how long it will take and what will the true implications for the industry be moving forward? Cleary, the pent-up demand for travel is significant as consumers long for normalcy after suffering through three long months with no human interaction, no thought of escape and intensified fear of what the future holds until a vaccine is found.

At its core, COVID-19 will force the hotel industry to look inwardly and critically to best determine how to re-set and re-invent and it will force us all to become more creative and critical to regain lost business and consumer confidence. And, lest we forget, going back to “normal” is not an option. Just as 9/11 forever changed the way we travel, this pandemic will forever alter the face of hospitality.

In the process, the essence of hospitality will have to be re-examined, re-worked and re-defined. Furthermore, the way the industry conducts business with its guests will have to be altered beyond having staff wear gloves and masks and ensuring physical distancing. Equally important, the way hoteliers use technology will have to be accelerated. The industry had already made great progress on the technology front, but now hoteliers’ relationship with technology will need to be amped up to help them deal with the repercussions of this pandemic. Mobile key, which has been talked about for a long time, will become a reality for most hotel companies. And even independents, who had been slow to adapt to technology because of prohibitive costs, will be forced to make substantive changes in all aspects of hotel operation.

As an industry, hoteliers have always prided themselves on providing unparalleled customer service, with a number of human touchpoints along the way. But, where that’s always been viewed as the industry’s saving grace, how will that now translate in this “new normal?” Certainly, hoteliers can still put heads in beds with fewer touchpoints along the way, but is it still the same hospitable experience? Or does it simply become a sterile and clinical relationship?

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