From this summer, the chaos of air travel to staff shortages in hospitality sectors around the world, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on travel continues to this day.
The hotel industry continues to move toward recovery after years of unplanned losses, although experts believe a full recovery is still several years away. A recent report from the American Hotel and Residence Association indicates that room revenue for this year is expected to exceed 2019 numbers on a nominal basis, but when adjusted for inflation, revenue per available room may not exceed that figure again until 2025. reaching pandemic levels.
The data is perhaps not surprising given the surge in interest in vacation rentals through Airbnb and VRBO during the height of the pandemic. Many travelers have expressed a preference for renting a private home that allows distance from others, the ability to cook their own food, and space for the whole family to gather.
But that doesn’t mean the hotel experience is off. Below, industry experts share how hotels are trying to lure travelers back to these famous accommodations—and some great deals you might be able to cash in on in the process.
Focus on workspaces
Since March 2020, many office spaces have been closed for good, while others remain largely empty as flexible policies allow workers to come in just a few days a week or as infrequently as they want.
Business travelers who may have previously worked from their company’s offices in another city no longer necessarily do so. Even those who don’t travel for work take advantage of the opportunity to “work from anywhere” and explore new destinations once they check out for the day. As a result, many hotels are now marketing themselves as ideal workspaces for those “leisure enthusiast” travelers.
“With so many people working from home, we’re seeing incentive programs for hotels,” Jessica Nabon, travel expert and author of “The Catch Me If You Can: One Women’s Journey to Every Country in the World,” told HuffPost. “They’ve grouped different devices around multiple properties, so people have spaces to work.”
Marriott International’s efforts to reinvent the Sheraton hotel brand began before the pandemic, but the chain’s redesigned lobby focus on communal and private workspaces has become more important in the past two years. Renovated properties in urban areas such as downtown Phoenix, Arizona and Denver, Colorado feature modern tables and counters, comfortable seating, coffee shops and other new spaces that encourage work and collaboration.
Amanda Nichols, one of the world’s leading brands in Sheraton Hotels & Resorts, said: “We have heard from our hotels that guests and locals frequent their lobbies and choose to meet with clients or hotel colleagues while some offices remain closed. “
Non-overnight guests can take advantage of these types of workplace options by conducting business from publicly accessible hotel lobbies, or, in the case of the Sheraton, by purchasing a day pass for 12-hour access to a private room and business facilities within Enterprise.
Long term accommodation offers
Remote and hybrid work models also give people the opportunity to spend more time at the destination than they can when they have to be in the office five days a week. Now, instead of spending the weekend in a new city, travelers can plan a trip from Wednesday to Tuesday, work weekdays and spend the rest of the time exploring local attractions, restaurants and shops.
Hotels respond accordingly with offers that encourage visitors to choose their properties for these long-term stays.
“Miami Beach hotels are offering travelers opportunities to extend their stay through long-term deals and remote work packages, catering to the needs of new nomads,” said Steve Adkins.Hairdressers of the Miami Beach Convention & Visitors Authority. For example, the Dream Hotel South Beach features an extension of the Dream Longer package, an offer that extends up to 25% off stays of seven nights or more.
In fact, industry experts have cited the extended stay business model as one of the strongest areas of recovery since the start of the pandemic.
“While rentals can provide a cost-effective option for travelers, especially for large family groups, hotels offer standardized features and services that the customer knows best,” said Mychal Milian, director of complex operations at Mychal Milian. AC Hotel Fort Lauderdale Airport is another Fort Lauderdale Marriott airport. “Branded hotels have a loyalty base of leisure and business travelers who are motivated by frequent flyer programs that will offer highly attractive perks such as room upgrades, late check-in, airline miles, executive floor access, etc.”
In addition to the usual loyalty program benefits and amenities, many hotels have stepped up their offerings to attract visitors in the age of COVID. Think complimentary spa treatments and fitness classes, restaurants with Michelin-starred chefs, custom cocktail bars, extended happy hours, live music events and seasonally themed experiences.
“Many hotels offer immersive and personalized guest experiences to take visitors back in time… anything from offering in-room gym equipment to star-studded experiences to setting up private art/graffiti tours or culinary excursions,” Katie said. Fontana, vice president, said. of Communication. In the Dream Hotels Group. “There’s always been a focus on the guest experience in any hotel, but hotels are really escalating that into more lifestyle entities.”
Ash Tembe, vice president of sales and marketing at AIC Hotel Group, said his brand has been working to implement exciting offers that people can try individually or in small groups after coming out of the lockdown.
“In addition to bookings and attractive promotions, each hotel has curated an exclusive list of private experiences, including cooking classes, tastings, campfire experiences, dance lessons and more, allowing guests to book and share with the people they traveled with. to experience,” he explained.
Focus on strengths
Even without the extra amenities and experiences, basic hotel accommodations can offer benefits that aren’t necessarily available with vacation rentals. Recent advertising campaigns for hotels have confirmed these differences.
“There’s nothing like a great stay at a hotel,” Nichols said. “I personally enjoyed walking into a hotel and seeing how many people loved the feeling of being together and traveling again. When you walk into a hotel and feel the energy of the people around you, that feeling of opening the guest room door and seeing a freshly made bed waiting for you, plus the personal service you receive with every interaction.”
It’s only natural that those in business are quick to take advantage of the convenient and personalized service with a concierge, room service, assistance with bags, housekeeping, and even just a 24/7 desk to help with unexpected maintenance issues or other needs.
Marketing in the pandemic era has emphasized familiarity with the hotel experience, increased flexibility around cancellations, connection with others, and a commitment to wellness and stress-free travel. Of course, there’s also a lot of focus on health and safety, from the American Hotel and Residence Association’s “Stay Safe” initiative to Hilton’s “CleanStay” program to Accor’s “allsafe” plan.
“Our main message was around the strict protocols put in place on each drug, giving travelers the immediate peace of mind they were looking for,” Tempe said. “We’ve also kept our policies flexible, seamlessly adapting to changes, and being proactive in our communications to keep our guests informed.”
Increased diversity in housing options
Another way hotels operate to compete with the vacation rental model: implement their own.
“Renting a home can be a good option if you’re looking for more space or more privacy during your stay — say, a big family reunion,” Nichols said. “We know that many Marriott Bonvoy members enjoy using home rentals – which is part of the reason why we launched our own home rental platform, Homes & Villas by Marriott International, because our research showed that around one in four of our members already use house rental services.”
She confirmed that the Homes and Villas program allows Marriott Bonvoy members to stay in a rental home while using loyalty points or earning more points for future hotel stays.
“Renting a home can give you more options in terms of location,” Nichols added. “In fact, 40% of the locations where we have rental homes are new destinations in the Marriott Bonvoy ecosystem.”
While the Marriott program tends to cater to both upscale and upscale vacation rentals, there are also affordable rental options from other hotel brands.
“For those who prefer an apartment-style stay, Yotel Miami is the first Yotel to also feature Yotel Badgal, General Manager Gilberto Garcia Tonon. “The furnished spaces – ranging from studio to one and two bedrooms – have a full kitchen with appliances, dishwasher, washer and dryer, a living room with a custom Murphy bed, and a balcony with breathtaking views of Biscayne Bay and downtown Miami.”
Whether these efforts to compete head-to-head with Airbnb and VRBO are fruitful or not, the fact remains: hotels want you back, and they’re thinking outside the box — a standard room — to make it happen.