By Bob Rauch

Travel is taking a new direction in 2022 and it’s important for hoteliers to continue adapting to the consumer changes for these travel predictions. Through a combination of technology, guest expectations, and employment, here are the most important traits to consider in your 2022 management plan. Enjoy reading these trends and have a spectacular and very Happy New Year!

1. The talent void – We furloughed and laid off the majority of our workforce, but we can fix it by recruiting those with strong communication, technology, sales and analytic skills. Yes, we will pay them more but they will perform better and will provide superior customer service that is currently lacking.

2. Live events 2.0 – We will see the return of live events but for a while, they will often include a hybrid component. Companies know they must send their key sales people on the road, but rather than send 4, maybe 2 stay back and pay a reduced admission fee and have access to all the speakers and presentations. The live events will often have strict protocols, on-site COVID testing and more. Every hotel chain is jumping in with their own version of hybrid meetings technology.

3. Contactless transactions – These are here to stay. Nobody wants to touch something that is not clean and sanitized, whether it be in a hotel, restaurant, attraction or meeting environment. Mobile ordering, digital check-in, QR codes, self-service kiosks, digital menu boards and much more. Why? Because they are both safe and effective at reducing labor costs.

4. Hygiene, sustainability, safety and wellness – Firms like Ecolab have been working on the hygiene part of this equation for years. Add in the consumer preference of sustainability and the pandemic’s impact on thoughts about wellness and these all meet up for a package of plastic reduction, reusable spray bottles, recycling, water savings and more. Sanitizing stations will live on and third-party health and wellness ratings will become commonplace.

5. Death of the good-old boy network – Guests appreciate great service but knowledge of what guests wanted in the 1900s does not make for a successful hotel. Guests want technology that provides them with 2020s quality of life. Fast, free Internet, texts that keep guests updated, smart TVs with the content they want, contactless transactions, use of the mobile phone for everything and more. Add in positive reviews and they are happy!

6. Sales are forever changed – Sure, the basics are critical and sales calls have not changed dramatically, but prospecting tools have changed, booking technology has changed and the process is no longer manual. Order takers are out, data and technology are in and the hybrid meeting component alone will eliminate those who just don’t get it.

7. Technology is an investment, not an expense – AI-enhanced guest communications, customer service robots and automation in the front and back of the house will improve profits both short and long term. As an industry, we need to embrace automation, not because it will reduce labor but because it will drive revenue and automate manual, repetitive tasks. Given our labor shortages and increased cost of labor, we get a bonus.

8. Art to science – Yes, our industry is still an art. But it has morphed into a science, first with revenue management and now with all things digital, the Internet of Things (IoT) and digital disruption to name a few. Airbnb and other short-term rentals are nibbling away at our market.

9. All things digital – Every channel that we go to for rooms costs dollars and we need to know how much! How do we develop a business plan post-pandemic? We need every tool in the toolbox and they are all technology-oriented. Web sites, digital marketing, laser-targeted sales, and knowledge of the changing landscapes are required. Get help from Kalibri Labs, they have the toolbox (no, I do not have a special relationship with Kalibri).

10. Wow customer service returns – Personalization and a return to wow service that we have not seen in a long time will return this year and be a differentiator. All the technology in the world won’t bring people back without this. Hire today’s women as they really get this!

With these shifts in consumer travel trends for 2022, we expect an ongoing recovery to our room revenue and occupancy rates – we should hit very close to 2019 numbers for most US properties. The exceptions to this are convention hotels and those that have large amounts of group and corporate business. Those hotels will see a strong pick up in Q2 of 2022.

In our October 2021 Economic Forecast for 2022, 50% of our readers predicted 2022 as the recovery year, while 40% suggested 2023 was more reasonable. Continue to hang in there and utilize these predictions and tips to speed up your economic recovery. See you in 2022!