PHOTO: Marten Bjork

The pandemic hit the hospitality industry hard in 2020 as people curtailed or eliminated travel plans and huge profit makers like trade shows and conferences were canceled.

The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) predicts 56% of consumers will travel again this year, but expects business customers to wait longer and half of hotel rooms to remain vacant.

Some hotels are taking proactive measures to lure customers back and increase occupancy.

Use Royal Connections

One example is the Drake Hotel in Chicago, which has housed the rich and famous over the years, including Princess Diana on her only visit to the city. The hotel is currently offering 100 days of rooms valued at $ 100, plus a competition for those who want to spend a night in the Princess Diana Suite.

In addition to Princess Diana, the Drake has hosted celebrities from Walt Disney to Winston Churchill.

Apart from the anniversary celebration, the hotel introduced the “Crowing Lady Package”, which offers two nights in the same 1,500 square meter suite in which the princess slept almost 25 years ago.

“We felt it was timely to bring out our unique story with the Royal Family and Princess Diana’s stay with us during her visit to Chicago in 1996,” said Damien McArdle, general manager of the hotel, in a media statement.

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Cleanliness and hygiene top the list of customer concerns

According to AHLA, when choosing a hotel, improved cleaning and hygiene practices for guests come second only after price.

Hotels go to great lengths to go beyond their normal cleaning schedules to ensure that guests are as safe as possible during their stay.

Hotels understand the need to reassure the public that they have new safety precautions in place. Life! Casino & Hotel Philadelphia has a Play It Safe campaign for improved health and hygiene. The Atlantic City Resorts Casino Hotel is also running a Play Safe and Work Safe campaign to welcome guests and team members back when state law allows.

These and a handful of other hotels have bipolar indoor air quality (BPI) technology installed in their HVAC systems that has tested more than 99.9% effectiveness in neutralizing COVID-19.

Both have consistently advertised their new security initiatives through press releases and customer contact.

“Resorts’ Play Safe, Work Safe plan to responsibly welcome guests and team members back after their closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Mark Giannantonio, President and CEO of Resorts Casino and Hotel said in a statement via the air filter system. Tests conducted by Microchem Laboratory confirmed the presence of coronavirus was reduced by 99.92 percent within 30 minutes of exposure to AtmosAir’s bipolar ion technology. [It] Research shows that will provide the best air quality technology currently available. “

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Use technology to keep customers safe

Closely related to the idea of ​​improved cleanliness and hygiene is a high-tech environment that offers customers a contactless experience, said Emir Dukic, CEO of Rabbu.

“Contactless features have replaced wasteful experience and loyalty benefits. Peace of mind is the new luxury for travelers, “said Dukic.” CX in the lodging sector is growing rapidly with the possibilities of intelligent technology. Many companies are already able to use intuitive booking platforms, online check-ins, virtual identity verification and instant hands-free access control. For guests, the new customer standard is a contactless way from their car to their room. Hoteliers who have invested in smart technology have positioned themselves well to meet the short-term and long-term demand for COVID. ”

Dukic added that the need for high-end technology doesn’t end when the guest reaches their room. Much of the current demand in the accommodation market is currently coming from employed people. Remote workers long for new landscapes and are committed to more local travel, short-term rentals and flexible stays. They want a place where they can stay safe, productive, and inspired when they face another segment of the workday at home. Fast internet speeds, office space and adequate infrastructure for the remote workday are beyond their requirements.

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Reconsider what the hotel experience is

“For an industry with low profit margins, even without a global pandemic, it is critical to withdraw guests as quickly and safely as possible,” said Luca Zambello, co-founder and CEO of Jurny. “We’re seeing many hotel owners step out of their comfort zones and adopt innovative new solutions to seduce guests while adhering to social distancing measures.”

Marketing promotions change quickly, Zambello added. A number of hotels are adjusting their offerings to cater to new audiences, including stay-kationers and the new work-from-home audience. The owners are using marketing promotions to target this group, including monthly subscription services to give guests access to rooms, workspaces and facilities for a standard fee.

“The owners are rethinking the amenities,” said Zambello. “With most hotel operators forced to close down public areas like pools, spas, gyms, and even breakfast areas, part of the appeal for new and returning guests is adjusting the amenities. Some hotels incorporate fitness equipment into each room in place of a gym and / or send personalized breakfast deliveries as an alternative to traditional continental breakfasts, while others completely redesign the rooms to include kitchenettes for longer-term guests. “