By David Lund
Having been around awhile I have seen the changes that have come as a result of major global events. The starkest example is our pre- and post-911 world. It showed us that the idea of getting on an airplane means we need to prove we do not have any threatening objects with us, like guns, knives and explosives and we need to prove we are who we say we are. We even must prove we’re not a threat and that we’re on the right security list.
Talk about a big change in the way we travel – not to mention the changes in technology and investment.
I think the other side of this pandemic is going to see some profound changes in the traveling world and the hotel business. In this piece, I am going to get my crystal ball out and make some predictions:
- Prove you are healthy. Right now, it seems that testing and determining who has had the virus, who has the antibodies, who has a fever, etc., is the path forward to re-opening our world. Will we need to be tested before we travel? Will we need to prove we have had the vaccine or antibodies before we get on a plane in the future? How will hotels receive guests? Will we all need proof we are healthy before we can interact with one another? I can see that this would be a possibility. What will that mean for hotels, restaurants and bars?
- Cleanliness scores. In the past two decades, we have seen the social media phenonium of service scores and customer ranking of our hotel world that has had a major impact on how we are perceived by the public. I think going forward that the same applies to our cleanliness. The brand and hotels that have the highest cleanliness scores will be in higher demand by the public. I see a boom in the way this information is collected and used.
- Cleaning methods. How we clean our rooms and facilities now is probably not what will work going forward. The public and our governments will demand higher and more transparent cleaning standards. The idea that the same cloth can be used to clean several surfaces in one room sends a chill down my back. Our industry must do better, and perceptions need to change. The brand and hotels with cleaner facilities win.
- Room certifications. Our guests will be demanding clean rooms. We need to come up with a way to guarantee that our rooms are germ-free. I recently saw a video where a hospital room was being sanitized by a UV robot. Will our rooms need the same level of sanitation and evidence of the same? Will customers expect this and will our facilities with such abilities be able to charge a premium?
- Healthy employees. We are already hearing that employers will need to ensure their employees are healthy before they are allowed back at work. Does this mean each day before we allow our staff to come inside our buildings that we need to screen them? How will we do this efficiently and what will it cost? Let’s face it, our biggest liability going forward might be what we currently hold as our biggest asset. Our people all go home each day to their unique environments and then they come back to our guests. How will we ensure they are germ-free?
- Touchless everything, like check-ins and guest room doors. Anything we can do to remove the need to touch surfaces like elevators, tv remotes, thermostats, etc. will be welcome enhancements that are going to separate the men from the boys when it comes to clients choosing where to stay.
- GOPPAR index. The focus will shift from REVPAR index to GOPPAR index. Owners will demand greater transparency and the only way this can be delivered is by comparing the performance of your hotel to a competitive set. Higher REVPAR must translate into higher profits. Right now, these comparisons are possible but, as an industry, we do not embrace this process. The future will demand more transparency and the hotels and brands that get in front of this will be rewarded. Read more about that here. We need a new champ.
- Financial leadership. Our business has always been about providing great service, having engaged colleagues and generating profit. The first one has always been visible, great service. Since the dawn of time that has been our mantra. Colleague engagement was a more recent phenomenon that our industry embraced in the last three-four decades. The future belongs to the hotels and brands that drive financial leadership skills into all areas of the operation. Having leaders that know how to manage their payroll and expenses and flex those against business levels will be paramount to success. Being the brand that develops its managers financially and creates great financial leadership bench strength will be rewarded handsomely.
I know I do not have a real crystal ball – just my limited view of our world. But one thing is for sure, this is our wake-up call and things are going to change BIG TIME.
Who will be ready to rise to the challenge – who leads the way? I hope we can come together as an industry and meet these challenges.