As a consequence of tight worldwide travel restrictions imposed to help control the Coronavirus epidemic, the hospitality industry has been facing grim prospects as tourism is in a downtrend. While the use of hotels as controlled quarantine facilities for inbound travelers and as front-line aid worker accommodation has helped to mitigate the impact of the lockdown measures in some countries, this commentator believes there are significant opportunities for hotel owners, operators, and developers to review in order to better position themselves to weather these critical times, both short and long term.
Notes: The article is based on Kerem Cengiz, MENA Managing Director from thehotelshow.com
With the number of new COVID-19 cases in the Region gradually declining, the hotel industry is looking into a figurative ‘crystal-ball’ to see what the future holds for current assets and planned improvements. International airline rates may certainly rise to suit social distancing standards, imposing less seating space; travel insurance fees and conditions may also influence people’s ability to travel, whether for business or pleasure, long trip or city break.
Travel restrictions throughout the world are forcing local tourism to take a hit, and we’ve already seen a spike in domestic and interstate leisure and business travel as a consequence of pent-up demand. In the UAE, and particularly in Dubai, we’re seeing an increase in “package packages,” which include appealing offers that include lodging and F&B. We may expect a rise in demand for a variety of types of accommodations, ranging from low-cost family resorts to downtown business hotels, luxury leisure facilities, and everything in between. The recent dramatic decline in oil prices, which has made a liter of gasoline much cheaper, may help to stimulate domestic travel even more.
It is expected that operators hoping to promote repeat visits from local visitors would rekindle their interest in refurbishing. Renovating homes that may have been used for quarantined reasons, on the other hand, may experience a surge in desirability to help offset the possible reputational issues.
A hotel’s architecture does not need to be considerably altered to facilitate an instant reaction to calamities such as the pandemic, as we are witnessing from many different regions of the world; they are already equipped with the majority of needed facilities, like established single points of admission and egress, ridged cleaning regimens, centralized telecommunications systems connecting each room, and huge open plan meeting or banquet halls that may be configured as emergency response spaces.
Minimal acts, such as publicly emphasizing healthcare, security, and wellness issues in customers’ thoughts and minimizing physical interactions, will have a significant phycological influence on visitors’ perceived and real safety in these surroundings. In our tech-savvy world, engaging cellphones for operating room admission, lighting, audiovisual equipment, blinds, air conditioning, and even elevators, is no further difficulty.
While offering urgent assistance is critical from a financial and corporate social responsibility standpoint, operators would be remiss if they did not consider the good and negative brand implications of being linked with the epidemic. According to research on the matter, tourists and business travelers may be cautious to book reservations at facilities that were utilized for quarantine reasons during the epidemic in the future.
In a similar vein, we’re not sure how bad publicity from visitors ‘detained’ in their hotel rooms during the necessary 14-day quarantine period may affect hotels’ financial performance after the epidemic. While a medical-grade clean may be adequate to fulfill regulatory health and safety criteria, it may not be sufficient to remove unfavorable publicity or impressions from the minds of potential customers. It may be unavoidable that more visible adjustments such as remodeling become a need for owners and operators.
Owners and operators must develop to become more flexible when local and international travel constraints are loosened, adapting to the shifting circumstances that will inevitably follow from this global experience. Some travelers may acquire an aversion to tradition and seek psychological comfort by maintaining a psychological distance, while others may return to type and want chances to connect, socialize, and interact.
There has already been a slew of recent breaches of mandatory social distancing requirements in venues all over the world, from Tokyo to Seoul, Beijing to Dubai, resulting in a spike in localized infections; we’ll see more of this unless property owners and operators take the need to adapt seriously, or face fines, extended closure, and possibly prosecution.
We predict a rise in ‘Health & Wellness’ oriented facilities driven by customers’ hyper-awareness of the value of ‘Physical & Psychological’ wellness, with some hotels already starting to adopt such methods, we anticipate substantial transformations in hospitality models that will go considerably beyond the standard offerings we see today.
Growth in Artificial Intelligence and Big Data gathering will allow marketers, operators, and hotel owners to customize these wellness programs to their customers’ unique and particular demands, which will drive many of the improvements we are expected to see.