If there’s one thing we’ve all learned about life over the last ten months, it’s that no matter how sure we are (of anything!) things can still always take a sharp turn, leaving us scratching our heads and marvelling at the lack of control we truly have…
Having been forced to face this stark fact, the hospitality industry still did its damnedest to come up with innovative solutions to the issues Covid-19 rapidly threw in its direction and for the most part, adapted quickly and impressively. The world as we know it is a different place to what we understood it as being in January 2020. In order to cope, manage, and eventually thrive again, hotel owners, GMs, sales & marketers, will need to continue thinking flexibly, fluidly, innovatively and openly, and know that the hints of certain trends we saw in 2020 should be invested in on a greater level in 2021.
A key consideration when you’re planning for 2021 is to remember what impact this pandemic has had on us collectively (evident when you look back on recent trends and activity). It has turned us all inward, made us question what is truly important. As part of this, it has accelerated the want and need for ‘wellness’, local produce, invigorating an interest in the outdoors, a craving for human contact and reassurance (whether face to face, on the phone or online). Remind yourself of this every step of the way. Take a step back and remember that ‘consumers’ are not abstract robots; they’re people.
Here are some trends to watch out for. Try and hone in on these where possible this year.
Putting your customers first
So this can manifest itself in a few different ways. Firstly, the way to put your customers truly first is to make sure all departments are working holistically together to create the best experience possible for them – sales and revenue, front of house, marketing.
In order to make people feel comfortable, it will be important to make sure all the information they need is clearly accessible on your website and socials. It will also be important to make your contact details clear and accessible so people know they can email or phone with questions you’re happy to answer for them.
Through the content you produce, use this as an opportunity to connect with people. Don’t copy and paste, try and consider your tone, your language. Writing stuffily and formally will not engage anyone, and in order to engage in 2021, you will need to level with people – people! Not faceless credit card owners. Review your branding and language across all platforms, your socials too. Is your brand coming across as warm, inviting, flexible?
Another way of putting your customers first is being mindful of their thoughts, values and beliefs. Make sure your content is inclusive of all people. Not to use too many buzzwords, but now is a time more than ever to be tolerable and open to a diverse range of staff and travellers – and to make sure this diversity is represented where possible in your content.
Did you know: 75% of people expect brands to take a stance on the social issues that matter most to them? We can no longer silo ourselves and our businesses off from the rest of the world. We are all many things – we work, we parent, we support, we believe, we think. There can often be a fear as a business to make a stand on social issues. However it’s very hard to come across as authentic if you aren’t showing the world what you’re doing to be more sustainable, or showing the world the steps you’re taking towards being more environmentally friendly. Put some time and effort into thinking about who you are this year, and how to represent that positively through action and content. It will pay off.
On a smaller note, making sure you have technologies in place which mean guests can order food and drink by contactless methods (QR code) and check in via automated means through their smartphones will leave a good taste in their mouths!
Keeping watch of your cleanliness standards
Wash your hands! One of the most important messages to the public since the beginning of the pandemic, washing hands is a key way of staying safe and protecting yourself from catching the virus.
For anyone travelling anywhere last year, whether it was to a local hotel or further afield, it was so important they were made well aware of cleanliness and sanitization policies in place. Customers need to know staff are taking precautionary measures on an individual level, but also that the standard of cleaning in rooms, common areas and bathrooms is consistently high. Communicating this information and making it fully accessible is necessary and ensuring your customer’s questions have a forum and can be answered easily is important, too.
The importance of local
‘Organic’, ‘free range’, ‘locally produced’ – some more buzzwords and phrases surrounding trends lists for 2021! With good reason. There’s been a surge of desire for locally produced products in every sense, including and most importantly, with food. While globalization has been an amazing development for the most part, a counter-culture has presented itself which results in this craving to support businesses back at home who are producing beautiful products of an incredibly high quality, at an extremely difficult time financially.
As a hotel, it will be important in 2021 to be able to say the food you’re producing is local, it’s free range, it’s organic. What are the stories you can tell around this – do you know the farmers who supply your meat, your dairy, your vegetables. People want to take care of themselves, they want to know where their food comes from.
Partnering with local restaurants will also do a job in terms of supporting other local businesses (which is an important cause socially and for communities) and it also lends itself as an opportunity to tell a story. You could potentially create a wine and food trail looking down the line towards summer time and beyond (an outdoor, socially distanced one of course!) The possibilities are endless.
‘Local’ also relates back to the conversation about sustainability. The pandemic has made us all much more aware of the importance of supporting local business, impacts air travel can have on the environment and more. Being a brand that shows you care about this will carry you into 2021 on the right foot.
New ways to engage your guests
We’ve heard a lot about the rise in ‘wellness’ experiences. This trend will accelerate in 2021 for a few reasons. Firstly, it’s fair to say that collectively, much of the globe has been through a harrowing ten months! The people who are lucky enough to have the expenditure available to take a holiday will want to look after themselves, nourish themselves, give back to themselves. This is why it’s no longer enough to tack on the word ‘wellness’ in a description of your pool or spa. Are there experiences you can create which guests can enjoy in nature, such as open air exercise classes or outdoor seaweed baths? This is another opportunity to look around your community and partner up with different businesses to create a unique, truly memorable experience. Be creative!
Another new way of engaging your guests is considering the new situation many of them now find themselves in: remote working. This one is also a useful way for you to use up free space you may have. Think of your hotel’s surroundings. Most likely it’s beautifully decorated, with plush seats, a calming or pleasing view, high speed internet ticking along in the background. What nicer way to spend a few days of work?! I can’t think of one. Be creative with your remote working packages. How can you provide true value while highlighting relevant, attractive inclusions that will make it worth someone’s while to stay with you during their work week. This is an area that will blow up in 2021, and hotels who can get their innovative caps on the soonest will come out on top.
Garnish your social media with a twist of innovation
How can you use your social media more effectively this year, and have it help you go that extra mile? Think a little outside the box. Social media is a key part of the buying experience now, but in order to help that along, as a brand, you can use Facebook and Instagram to promote the joy and excitement around trip planning – not just focusing in on you and what your property has to offer. Help to enrich your guests’ holiday as a whole. Share itineraries, activity ideas, tag other businesses, maybe even create a competition for one lucky guest to win a full day of activities on their trip. All of this helps to increase your reach, but also sends a message about the kind of brand you are.
Micro-influencers are another way of utilising social media differently this year. When many of us think ‘influencer’ we think big personality, we think of maybe two or three household names, all of which are most likely already promoting 10+ brands at the moment. Micro influencers are those with 10,000 followers or less. Generally, their engagement rate is actually higher than larger influencers because they have a dedicated follower base that trusts their recommendations. These authentic influencers won’t promote a brand they don’t truly like or feel they can get behind (if they’re doing their job right!) Perhaps do some research and find out who, in your area, would be a good one to partner with, and make a plan together. Using micro-influencers widens your reach in a way that feels natural, feels authentic – it’s a form of advertising that engages your guests completely differently to, say, a paid Facebook campaign.