Like non-essential retail, hotels and hospitality venues have had to close once more during the second national lockdown in England. But before the lockdown, many were already at the forefront of pivoting their business models.
This not only helped support their communities during the first wave, with many opening up their rooms to exhausted key workers, but has helped their businesses explore new formats and services to meet emerging demands.
As hospitality businesses look ahead to reopening on 2nd December, we look at how the sector is adapting to these new trends and opportunities to keep their doors open.
With ONS figures suggesting almost a quarter of the UK population is now working exclusively from home, it seems the home working revolution has begun, and hotel firms have been quick to offer remote working spaces as part of their services.
Accor, for example, has begun building in modular workstations, converting rooms into offices for daily uses by employees who don’t want to work from home or need a break from the at-home office set-up. The ‘home office’ concept allows customers to book their own hotel room, at a discounted rate, for an uninterrupted, premium remote working experience. Their “office” is then available between 9am and 6pm and, during that time, guests can also enjoy in-room amenities and comforts, including room service. It has now rolled out its new ‘Hotel Office’ concept to 320 hotels in Europe since August.
Some hotels have also stepped up to support professional sporting teams as they form biodiversity bubbles. Take for example Toronto’s iconic Fairmont Royal York hotel, which became the home of the National Hockey League bubble for the Eastern conference. While this provided an ideal opportunity to diversify their offer before fully reopening to the public, it came with its own new logistical challenges.
For instance, every day, each staff member had to take a COVID-19 test, check in via a health screening app and take their temperature, with all the data feeding into one central system.
“If you had said to me a year ago that I was going to have an app that our 1,000 colleagues would use every day as a checkpoint before moving forward, I would have said pretty aggressively, ‘that’s not going to happen,’” said Edwin Frizzell, the Royal York’s General Manager, speaking at AxoniCom LIVE 2020, the event from Axonify that shares smarter strategies for building a resilient frontline workforce.
“In 2020, we made that happen with about seven days’ notice. We trained everyone on the technology, implemented it and executed it for 30 days without issue,” he said. While technology will never replace the human connections at the heart of hospitality, Frizzell predicts this will be a watershed moment: “I think, moving forward, we’ll see a renewed focus on integrating technology into the hotel environment.”
Virtual experiences replace on-site events
Like many retailers, hoteliers have also turned to tech and embraced digital experiences to replace in-person activities across their sites. Instagram cooking masterclasses with Italian chefs, digital concert series on Zoom and virtual kids’ camps, are just some of the virtual schemes hotels are now building into their services.
“We’re also seeing innovation with technology for ‘high-touch’ guest engagements, which have been very well received,” Richard Hyde, managing director of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, told Travel Weekly.
It’s Canal House hotel in Amsterdam has launched a new app that controls in-room facilities and communicates directly with hotel staff, while its Rockliffe Hall hotel in Darlington has created a Spa in a Box concept, that allows guests to safely treat themselves to a contact-free skincare treatment.
Image credit: Axonify, 2020