Features Calendar 2021
Despite the overwhelming adversity the hospitality industry faced in 2020, there is reason to hope for a significant rebound in 2021. The promise of vaccines and robust consumer demand should be major factors in leading the way, but hotels will have to adapt to the conditions of the New Normal to ensure the health, safety and comfort of their guests and staff. At the forefront of these strategies are hotel apps. A mobile app is an essential technology at every phase of the guest experience - pre-arrival, arrival, in-room, food & beverage, amenities and departure. The goal is to make guest interactions as touch-free as possible and the app can be used to facilitate communication, reduce physical touch points, provide social distancing measures, and implement safety regulations. The app can also be used to track employee movements for exposure tracing purposes. The January Hotel Business Review will report on how some hotels are using mobile apps to offer guests and employees a superior experience and a sense of safety and protection
By all accounts, hotels can expect to welcome back more guests in 2021. But it is necessary to have a strategic communications plan in place - including an effective social media strategy - that will rebuild brand awareness, promote guest engagement, and maximize recovery efforts. And for the foreseeable future, hotels will also be compelled to use their social media channels to communicate the actions they are taking to protect the safety of their guests. In that regard, accuracy and transparency are paramount. Hoteliers must be certain that what they are posting about cleanliness, contactless service, cancelation policies, etc. are accurate and true, and consistently communicated across all social media channels. To that end, some hotels are featuring employees in videos of their behind-the-scenes, day-to-day activities, demonstrating the safety measures they are practicing. The February Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate safety concerns in their social media strategies.
The immense devastation suffered in the hotel industry last year has compounded a problem that human resource professionals will face once the market starts to recover in 2021 - a pending labor shortage. Though some hotels have done their best to retain employees or to ease the suffering caused by mass furloughs, staff reduction was inevitable and many of those employees may not be available to return when guest traffic picks up. Consequently, hotels will once again be competing to find and retain qualified talent to staff their operations. Naturally, companies will have to review their wage and benefits packages in order to remain competitive. They might also wholeheartedly embrace the work-from-home trend for some corporate positions. In addition, human resource professionals will also have to definitively convince frontline employees that their hotels are safe to work in. The March Hotel Business Review will explore what some HR professionals are doing to address these and other employment issues in their respective departments.
Though expectations are that hotels will return to some semblance of normalcy in 2021, their highest priority must continue to be the health and safety of guests and employees. To that end, hotels are training their guest service personnel in enhanced cleaning routines, which include the following practices - bathrooms, elevator buttons, remote controls and other high-touch items, are disinfected and cleaned with a higher frequency; all tables, chairs and menus in restaurants are cleaned at a much higher frequency, and after each seating; floor markers in public areas to remind guests and team members to maintain physical distance; hand alcohol stations and disposable gloves in lobbies and restaurants; loose items such as pens, note pads and information material removed from rooms and meeting rooms; limiting the number of seats in restaurants and public areas; and revised food & beverage offerings. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will review how guest service personnel are being trained to maintain health and safety protocols in their operations.
One theory about the pandemic states that future viruses are more likely to originate and flourish due to global warming. If true, the urgency to accelerate the adoption of eco-friendly practices is greater than ever. Of course, there are many other reasons to create a sustainable operation, including reduced utility costs, savings on operational costs, healthier and happier guests and employees, and positive publicity, marketing and community goodwill. Many hotels are introducing innovative programs into their operations - from recycling bins in guest rooms to starting a roof top garden. Other hotels are using eco-friendly cleaning products, reusing towels and sheets, sourcing locally grown food, supporting the use of electric vehicles, and permitting guests to refill their reusable water bottles with clean, filtered water. Finally, some hotels are encouraging guests to get involved by making it possible for them to participate in local community clean-up projects. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.
During an economic downturn, it is tempting to slash marketing budgets to make up for lost revenue. But smart hoteliers play the long game, knowing that companies who stay engaged with their customers will be the first to benefit from a rebound. Therefore, now is the time to renew and revamp sales and marketing strategies in order to be ready for what lies ahead. For example, this is a perfect time to refresh website content, social media and SEO. The same for hotel blogs where content can be updated to give customers inspirational ideas as they begin to travel and meet again. Multimedia assets should also be revised with new photo/video shoots that provide accurate information about how setups, room configurations, and onsite offerings have changed to accommodate safer meetings and social distancing. The June Hotel Business Review will focus on the sales and marketing strategies that some hotels are adopting in anticipation of a recovery in 2021.
There is no doubt that the Hotel Spa industry is undergoing an immense transformation as a result of the pandemic. New cleanliness standards for facilities, new safety standards for employees, and new ways of interacting with guests are now the New Normal, and will be for the foreseeable future. Given that some former patrons might be reluctant to return due to safety concerns, some spas are offering contactless experiences that utilize high-tech technologies to address wellness concerns like sleep, stress, pain, and immunity. Other spas are expanding their services to include life coaches, osteopaths, psychologists, and nutrition counselors in an effort to help their guests achieve a balanced lifestyle. Some spas are tapping into traditional Asian rituals to create programs such as sound healing, chakra balancing, and intuitive energy reading. Other programs emphasize re-connecting with Nature and have developed outdoor treatments such as Star Bathing, Feet in the Creek, and Treehouse meditations. The July issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotel spas are doing to promote and manage their operations so guests can safely return for their health, wellness and beauty treatments.
Hotel restaurants were not immune to the devastation that Covid caused in the food & beverage industry last year. In order to survive, many operations expanded their services to include packaged food sales, prepared meals to go, mini pop-up grocery stores, meal kits, takeout, and delivery to make up for lost revenues. These hybrid operations have become increasingly popular in hotels because they maximize limited F&B space and also attract local business. In those restaurants where customers are willing to dine in, there is a greater emphasis on safety protocols. Tables and chairs are spaced far enough apart to provide a sense of safety and comfort between parties. There are also stricter cleaning and disinfecting practices occurring in between dining encounters. In addition, there is a greater emphasis on outdoor dining with its offer of fresh air. The August issue of the Hotel Business Review will report on what some leading hotels are doing to manage their F&B operations in the wake of the pandemic.
Naturally, the Hotel Group Meeting business has been rocked during the Covid-19 pandemic, and the effects may be felt for years to come. But according to planners, there is pent-up demand for hotels to resume this area of their business and savvy hoteliers are being exceptionally creative in making that possible. The key is successfully implementing all recommended safety guidelines. For example, in addition to social and physical distancing, some planners are utilizing assigned seating as a way to keep people from using multiple seats and tables throughout an event. Some planners have also initiated a color-coded bracelet system that indicates the wearer's confidence level about being physically approached. Hybrid meetings are also increasingly popular, where some attendees join in person and others are looped in virtually. Other hotels have instituted a "bubble" approach, dedicating an entire wing to smaller groups, essentially walling them off from any health risks outside their area. The September Hotel Business Review will report on what some hotels are doing to address these concerns so that the group meeting business can safely resume.
Of all the departments within hotel operations, Revenue Management may have been the hardest hit, due to the pandemic. The logic goes - no revenue, no need for revenue managers - so many industry professionals were furloughed. If business rebounds in 2021, as expected, then hotel management will have to determine when prevailing occupancy levels justify bringing back their revenue management team. Also, the pandemic seems to have exposed some weaknesses in the traditional RevPAR models. There is a growing understanding that it is no longer sufficient to use a "revenue per available room" model; instead, hotels are adopting a TRevPAR model (total revenue per available room). This model recognizes that revenue streams from other departments are just as important as the revenue gained from rooms. As a result, hotels are looking at ways to monetize any and all hotel offerings - from dining outlets and spas to outdoor function spaces and local partnerships. The October issue of the Hotel Business Review will examine these developments and report on how some leading hotels are executing their revenue management strategies.
Like every other facet of hotel operations, architecture and design firms are adapting their work to ensure the safety and well-being of both guests and staff. New ways to bring Wellness into hotel spaces are being explored and these solutions are taking on many forms. Hotel designs are incorporating more open floor plans, open air spaces, high ceilings, outdoor areas and operable walls into their spaces. Guests no longer want to be packed into tight areas. More "biophilic" elements are also being incorporated, offering guests the sense of being outdoors. Another trend is the reimagining of guest rooms to support remote work capabilities. Some hotels are converting empty guest rooms into office spaces, complete with effective lighting and suitable backgrounds for video conferencing. Dedicated Zoom Rooms are also becoming increasingly popular. The main goal is to provide guests with a positive experience in a space that feels safe and comfortable. These are some of the architecture and design subjects that will be covered in the November issue of the Hotel Business Review.
As might be expected, the Hotel Law profession is contending with all types of legal issues stemming from the effects of Covid-19. Nearly all hotel employers are being impacted, dealing with issues such as leaves of absence, workers' classification, discrimination disputes, arbitration agreements, and union relations. In addition, some hotels are being obligated to comply with new Covid-19 health and safety laws, pertaining to workplaces that pose a risk of "imminent hazard." There are also legal issues surrounding workplace Covid testing, and quarantining and isolation requirements. Worker compensation issues are also a concern when employees may have contracted Covid at work. New laws are classifying these illnesses as "occupational injuries" and therefore eligible for benefits. Other non-Covid legal issues that are coming to the forefront involve an uptick of lawsuits pertaining to the American Disabilities Act and, in some states, there has been an expansion of the Family Leave Act. These are just a few of the subjects that the December issue of the Hotel Business Review will address in the area of Hotel Law.
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