Year 2020 transformed the luxury travel industry. How have travelers’ expectations changed and how can hotels and restaurants meet them, when we move toward the new normal?
About a year ago, many of us drafted our travel bucket lists for 2020 full of hope, plans and anticipation.
In only a few months, due to the coronavirus outbreak, the plane tickets turned to refund vouchers and hotel reservations were postponed to an unseeable future. Bucket lists became like wish lists we wrote to Santa Claus as kids: something we really, really, really wanted but weren’t quite sure to get.
While it’s safe to say that 2020 transformed the travel industry, everyone – including luxury travelers – are keen and likely to get back to their plans as the International Luxury Travel Market predicts.
How can the hospitality industry answer their new expectations and demands and combine safety novel experiences?
Clarity comes first
While quick testing becomes more popular and the hope of a vaccine glimmers, there is still no hope of going back to our old travel habits overnight.
Many hotels and restaurants will have to live with restrictions for a while, and the most important step is to communicate about them clearly, luckily this is exactly what many service providers in the industry are doing.
Travelers will want to know how the rooms are cleaned in between clients to ensure there is no risk of infection in the hotel room. They will want to see hand sanitizer stations and know how many people are admitted to the pool at the same time to respect social distancing.
Catering to this need of information and safety can still be combined with high quality standards and staying on brand. Follow the example of the Nordic airline Finnair who partnered with a local high-end distillery, known for the world’s best gin, to provide the passengers on a plane with branded, high-quality hand sanitizers.
One of the most coveted features in a hotel reservation is flexibility. Flexible rebookings, cancellations and last-minute changes are understandably in demand by travelers, however they can be tricky for service providers.
Clarity comes to play here as well: if full refunds and same day cancellations can not be offered for all guests, different options should be laid out as clearly as possible.
The hotel reservation site Booking.com leads the way by adding visible recommendations to choose a refundable offer and pointing out when the refund won’t be available.
The Swiss found out another good way to marry flexibility with clarity: the Dents du Midi ski region developed its own “Covid Friendly” label to help visitors spot out the accommodations and services which offer flexible booking options in case of covid-related changes.
Road trippers are coming!
Airlines have taken one of the biggest hits in the pandemic, and changing regulations still make people hesitate when booking tickets. This means that road trips are in high demand and hotels need to shift their offers to match this situation.
This can mean more parking space and more valet staff but the situation also opens new opportunities for marketing. Suddenly, a remote location and free parking are strong selling arguments that beat city center hostels any day of the week.
Make things as easy as possible
As eager as travel enthusiasts are to get back on the road, in the air, or to the rails, the psychological load of the last year has left its mark on all of us. Dealing with uncertainty and constant changes has its toll and this fatigue can mean there is simply less energy to go towards travel planning altogether.
This is where the hospitality industry can hold out its hand and make planning and dealing with the situation as easy as possible for their guests.
For example, a guide detailing local restriction measures and links to tracking apps and other relevant sources of information is a great relief for a tourist.
Also, applications like Nocto, which allows travelers to see the vacancy in different restaurants, for example, and to avoid crowds this way, make planning and getting out easier and more enjoyable.
The way to the new normal will take its time but all these little actions help us, bit by bit, gain back the confidence to start working on our bucket lists again.