What trends are currently changing the hospitality industry?

The future is all about digitization, virtual/augmented reality, chat-bots, and understanding the ever-changing consumer behavior.

What trends are currently changing the hospitality industry?

The unforeseen events during the Covid pandemic made us forget the meaning of hospitality. Home-cooked meals, work from home, virtual learning, and online shopping made a tremendous shift in consumer behaviour. At one point in time, the hospitality industry ceased to exist. It's become gruelling to understand the current trends changing the hospitality industry.

The hospitality industry, which welcomed millions of passengers booking through online travel agencies, boarding flights and cruises, renting cars, staying in top-notch hotels, and eating out while entertaining themselves with movies and casinos, came to a complete stop. 

While 2020 saw flight cancellation and the public closing its doors to the outside world, 2021 returned with a slight turn up in domestic tourism, staycations, a few international flights, and family vacations. We called it Revenge Tourism, but the loss that occurred by the economic plunge is still to recover. 

The year 2022 started with the grandchild of Covid-19, spreading its wings to frighten humanity. But our boosted immunity has somehow brought the pandemic to the curb. The countries like the UK announced to ease the Covid restrictions by removing the mask in schools and ending the vaccine mandates. The other countries may follow the same pattern. Sweden announced no PCR tests are now required to travel to Switzerland. It seems like life is almost back to normal. Isn't it? is here with the current trends in the hospitality industry

The Battle of talented employees: - Since Covid prevented young millennials and experienced professionals from earning a livelihood, many moved to other industries searching for better-paying salaries. Lockdowns disrupted part-timers and permanent employees, and now since things are slowly getting on track. It's become rather challenging to find talented workers. 

Companies are struggling to match the salaries. It's also hard to retain the employees through the various pandemic waves and increased restrictions. 

A restaurant opens for take-out and works with five employees. Suddenly there's a shift, and they are forced to open only with 50% occupancy. They hire more staff, then return to normalcy with 100% occupancy. Another wave hits, and the restaurants are closed again. It's just one example of a restaurant, but it is the truth of every sector in the hospitality industry. 

The amount of time and money invested in training the new staff goes to waste, and it comes back to square with a new batch of freshers. The worst part is; it falls upon the customer reviews as the new untrained staff is inexperienced in handling the restaurant at full capacity. 

Work from home and Remote work: Until 2019, we couldn't close a deal without meeting the client in person. The pandemic showed a new picture where Virtual meetings became a norm. The companies mostly retained their senior executives who managed to keep the company alive, but many lost their jobs. 

After staying in lockdown for weeks, the world realized we could still connect, if not only in person. We saw a series of virtual personal and professional gatherings—even many prestigious events shaped up behind the 7" screen. Even after an ease in restrictions, people still chose to have hybrid events instead of just having it in-person. 

People upgraded homes to more significant properties with even farmlands to rejuvenate themselves other than TV and computer screens. Some people who owned apartments moved to luxury hotels, resorts, and hotel apartments for amenities and change of scenery. 

Smart Rooms: The shift in technology doesn't only limit Alexa and Google to our homes but works well in the hotel room settings. You can now get access to your hotel room through your smartphone. Not only that, the TV streaming doesn't require a remote but a few buttons from your phone. The remote access to the room key and the essential amenities in the hotel provides a safe environment for the customers. 

Many hotels have smart check-in systems and touchless access to the elevator. 

Safety and Hygiene: - In the middle of the pandemic, there could be many shifts in consumer behavior, but one that plays the most crucial role is the cleaning and hygiene of any hospitality establishment. 

The world is in havoc. When customers decide to leave their home premises, they expect hospitality companies (airline, airport, hotels, restaurants, retail, cinema, casino) to understand cleaning and sanitization clearly. 

Some hotels use machines to sanitize the luggage before a guest checks in the hotel. The use of hand sanitizer, touchless menu, QR codes, and payment are essential to gain trust and provide safety. Mask mandate in certain public areas and social distancing play a critical role too. 

The company's marketing material should emphasize their safety and cleaning practices. 

Contactless Payment: - With the rise of digitalization, more people are now using contactless payment methods. It saves time and effort to carry a wallet or enter a pin when they can use Apple and Google pay—installing a mobile wallet on the phone is easier than ever. 

The employees are much more comfortable handling contactless payment in fear of catching the Covid. 

Voice Search: - Believe it or not, the voice search is the way forward. Generation Z doesn't bother to type on their gadgets anymore. They are familiar with Siri, Alexa, and Google Home voice commands and know what they can handle. 

The technology has made it easier for customers to book hotel rooms and restaurants and adjust their rooms' atmosphere. Every company needs to structure its text for customers to find their website on voice search easily. 

Food delivery instead of dining in:- While the whole world was under lockdown, some people still had their eyes on the clock. Yes, we're talking about the delivery guys who drove around the clock to deliver fresh hot meals to the customers. 

The F&B aggregators like Uber Eat, Zomato, Just East, Doordash, Skip the dishes relieved the busy professionals, aka parents, after their hectic 9-5 virtual session behind close rooms or while managing their children's virtual learning. 

The food delivery apps provided a safe contactless delivery of their favorite meals from the variety of cuisines included in the list. It gave them the luxury of sitting in their pajamas and relishing the meal while binge-watching the Netflix series on television. 

Online Groceries and products:- Grocery stores never shut down even though it made us feel like we were preparing for the war and dressing up in armors before heading out of doors. While some pushed themselves to risk their lives and entered the stores in person, some chose to stroll online. 

To begin with, buying groceries online seemed like a hassle, but the thing with online groceries is that people only bought what was on their list. It saved them a few bucks online compared to walking through isles and filling the trolley with everything on the list or otherwise. 

Everyone noticed the white van pulling outside their home or neighbors' homes frequently. Companies like Amazon have earned billions during the pandemic. Even clothing websites gained momentum due to not having access to stores in person. 

Virtual Reality Tours: Many hotels, restaurants, entertainment destinations, and museums organize virtual reality sessions where the customers can feel what the organization offers without physically visiting them. It provides a 360-degree experience of the facilities inside the hotel or organization. These virtual tours can be accessed on any device without having access to VR sets and serve as the best marketing tool. 

With the rise of the Metaverse, future consumers will demand virtual and augmented reality, and it will be crucial for any hospitality organization to grow and sustain. 

The future is all about digitalization, virtual/augmented reality, chatbots, and understanding the ever-changing consumer behavior. 

International Travel and Events:- In 2020, we saw the cancellation of events worldwide. The fear of Covid pushed some prestigious events such as Olympics in Japan and World Expo in Dubai to cancel. Although these events returned in 2021, they still didn't see as many visitations as before. 

With the rise of vaccinations and boosters, people are now confident to travel, and events like Winter Olympics in China continue to prosper. For 19 days, about 2,900 competitors will contend in 109 different winter games, seven more than the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

According to the reports from Dubai, Expo 2020 has recorded 9 million visits since its grand opening on October 1, nearly a third from overseas. 

The next in line is Qatar's most awaited FIFA World Cup in the 4th quarter of 2022. FIFA Tournament Time Demand Model figures show that as many as 1.7 million individuals could visit Qatar with roughly 500,000 guests in the country on the most active days.

Written by Vandana Raj Bhatt, MD, Hozpitality Group