The COVID-19 Pandemic has impacted us all, however the hospitality industry is amongst one of the hardest hit, facing astronomical losses in revenue during 2020 resulting in a need for shifts in both how the industry runs and plans to re-open. Airlines are hemorrhaging cash; hotels are sitting virtually empty and travelers are staying home. The crisis of right now is real for workers, owners and investors tied to travel.
As of April 21, 2020, according to Hospitality.net, the number of scheduled flights across the globe is “down by 64% compared to the same week last year.” In addition, according to the AHLA (American Hotel and Lodging Association) since the health crisis started in the U.S. in mid-February, hotels have lost “$18 billion in room revenue” and this number is rapidly growing resulting in an estimated loss of “$500 million in room revenue per day.”
The impact on jobs is not far behind in staggering effect. Owners and leaders have been faced with furloughing thousands of employees and the reality of whether or not many will return to work is uncertain. In the hotel industry alone, “nearly 3.9 million total jobs have been eliminated or will be eliminated in the next few weeks.” This has left any remaining staff to take on additional work while also facing stricter guidelines that undoubtedly lead to a larger workload.
Planning for What is Next
Hospitality business leaders are now faced with how to move forward and create new standards that will keep all people safe and healthy while traveling. As we learn more about social distancing from federal, state and local officials, the hospitality industry will need to be innovators while facing these changes –they are faced with new restrictions and standards that will prove to be challenging for an industry that sees thousands of people moving in and out of its structures daily. Housekeeping and cleaning staff will become some of the most important workers to have back on staff and working efficiently.
Beyond that, hotel leaders, are also faced with re-establishing trust and making a commitment to guests. This will no doubt be largely focused on how stricter cleaning and sanitizing standards have been adopted by each company in order to address the COVID-19 pandemic in-addition to complying with social distancing expectations and standards.
Two of the key components to addressing change for the hospitality industry are:
- Marketing Campaigns: the hospitality industry should currently be running marketing campaigns that set out to show that the industry understands the severity of the current situation, appeal to a traveler’s fears and concerns regarding future travel, and address how the business is changing in order to make clients feel safe and secure while they travel. An emotional awareness is key— building trust stems from establishing stricter cleaning standards, such as the AHLA’s “Safe Stay” council’s industry best practices that are being implemented immediately. GlobalData says “Travel agents that maintain an emotional connection with consumers through the pandemic will emerge stronger post COVID-19.”
- Operational Standards: now is the time to think through how operations can be done more effectively and efficiently. Re-writing processes and procedures to meet stricter standards and figuring out ways to increase productivity through virtual and autonomous assistance are key. Consumer behavior is “shifting to digital channels, products, and services,” according to McKinsey & Company. These shifts were already gaining popularity at a moderate pace over the last ten years, but the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many to rely on automation, grocery delivery, curbside pick-up, and zoom calls. Hotels are already shifting their operational standards by implementing autonomous vacuum sweepers to help increase cleanliness in their hotels. In fact, they increased their cleanliness score from 82% to 90% by using Whiz, ICE Robotics and SoftBank Robotics, autonomous vacuum sweepers. Read more in our Hilton Garden Inn Case Study.
Being emotionally aware and embracing technology as answers to the current crisis were already key trends across the globe—COVID-19 has forced us to embrace these things as standard not optional and at a faster pace—pushing us to discover new options and ways of going about our everyday lives.
The Future State of Travel
While embracing all of this change at one time may seem overwhelming, all industries face these changes and must start to think through the long-term impacts of COVID-19. This undoubtedly means identifying new standards of clean across all industries. The hospitality industry has the opportunity to be the front runner with innovative ideas that can push us all to make the transitions necessary to keep each other safe.
And, interestingly enough, according to Hospitality.net “While hotel demand fell by 40%-50% in these key markets (U.S. Canada, Australia, Europe) during the second half of March, the desire to travel the same amount or more has only fallen by 10-20%—reaffirming that as long as they can, consumers will always want to travel.” Good news for the travel industry! As soon as the go-ahead is granted, the hospitality industry is sure to see a resurgence. This means they should be ready to address what consumers will expect.
Key Expectations of Travelers:
- The highest standards of cleanliness—For hotels, this means deeper cleans (all porous surfaces must be washed after each guest), added sanitization and wiping down of all surfaces, enforcing cleaning staff to wear protective gear at all times, possibly letting rooms sit empty for a certain period of time between guests, and removing all items in a room that once had the chance of being touched by multiple guests.
- The hospitality industry to strictly follow and enforce social distancing guidelines—for both hotels and airlines this could mean tape markers throughout buildings reminding guests to stay 6ft apart, mandatory masks, clear plastic shields installed between clients and staff, and according to a recent Bloomberg article, possibly “keeping middle seats empty,” on flights. In addition, it is likely all travelers will have their temperature checked before entering any public space.
- The addition of virtual and autonomous technology—the hospitality industry will come to rely on practices such as virtual check-ins, key less entry for hotel rooms and autonomous technology as a way to reduce body count in all public spaces.
Providing Lasting Solutions
We are all being forced to change in many ways right now and increasingly we rely on technology and automation to make things easier and safer for us all. Even just twenty years ago, asking millions of employees to work from home would not have been a possibility. Due to technological advancements, that we’ve come to love and depend on, we are able to work from home, communicate with our teams over zoom calls, bank from our phones and so much more!
The hospitality industry is no different. Airports, airplanes, hotel lobbies, hotel rooms and many other travelled spaces will need to rely on technology to help them through COVID-19. Technology like WHIZ and EMMA, subscription based autonomous floor cleaning robots, by ICE Robotics and SoftBank Robotics are one way the hospitality industry can embrace technology to support staff and changing standards of clean. Not only can these autonomous helpers take on repetitive tasks, freeing up other staff to focus on higher priority concerns, they are also able to work independent of an operator—meaning in a time when the least amount of people in one space is desirable, these robots can continue to get work done!
Autonomous cleaning technology is one way the hospitality industry can assure travelers that they are working hard to provide the strictest cleaning standards—keeping the health and well-being of travelers at the forefront of their mission!