There is no doubt that the hospitality, travel and wellness industries have been hit hard by the global pandemic. How effective and sustainable the recovery of these industries will be will depend on how each manages to successfully pivot and adapt to the changing reality. But first, we must understand where we are, what are the main challenges we face, why we’re facing them, and from there craft how we get can out of this stronger.
Over the coming weeks, I will be running a series of interviews with hoteliers from diverse backgrounds to gain valuable insights on how they are dealing with the current situation and what strategies they have in place for the short, mid and long term.
Kicking off the series, I interviewed Noelle Homsy, a hotel development manager based in the United Arab Emirates, to get her view on the future of wellness in hospitality. Noelle comes from an architecture background, designing villas and commercial buildings, before moving into hospitality. Her insights into the changing behaviours of travellers and how the hospitality industry must respond have garnered positive responses from the business community.
1. New Guest Behaviour
Guests have been in isolation for over 40 days, the period it normally takes for new habits to stick. Staycations are also becoming more popular for their flexible and hassle-free nature, giving rise to a new type of guest. As such, the hospitality industry must find innovative ways of meeting the demands of this new guest. We are no longer just selling a room and service to people. Travellers today are seeking holistic experiences that cannot be replicated elsewhere.. Currently, hotels are focusing more on managing guest perception and complying with health regulations in order to regain the trust of travellers. The next phase would be to grow out of survival mode and pivot the industry.
2. Thoughtful Hotel Design
This aspect encompasses both architectural design and service design. Guests are highly unlikely to leave the house just to be cooped up in another four-walled room – they can get that at home. What is more likely to encourage travel is the prospect of learning something new. A study by Colliers International shows that there are four pillars that the industry needs to focus on – Ecotourism, Wellness, Adventure and Agritourism (EWAA). Of these, wellness tends to be the anchoring pillar that runs throughout the industry. Thus, wellness must be included in all aspects of the hotel, from the architecture to the service delivery. Going forward, wellness will become a huge part of preventative health care, and hoteliers must keep this in mind.
3. The Big Picture
One of the major characteristics of a free market is competition. Right now, prices are being slashed all around to stay competitive. While this could help with survival in the short-term, it is definitely detrimental to the longevity of any business. A more long-term strategy needs to be developed, where the industry players innovate beyond the survival stage and into a new business model. This is the role of the regulating bodies. As they device this long-term strategy, we will see the industry grow back to its original dominance organically. However, these regulating bodies have to align all hospitality stakeholders and hospitality development with this overarching tourism destination strategy.
This year is marked primarily by the need to survive as a business, but Noelle urges hoteliers and investors to keep a watchful eye on market trends as we move into a new phase of growth and innovation in the industry. I am grateful to Noelle for this insightful take on the future of hospitality after COVID-19. You can read her article on Staycations available on her LinkedIn profile.