The future of social distancing

COVID-19 is forcing humankind to innovate and change the way we work and live. Individuals and corporations will be more resilient in a post-COVID-19 world. Once we have left this pandemic behind, there is a high possibility of the following disruptors coming into play:

  • More Online Shopping
  • Rise in Esports
  • More Digital Events
  • Increased Reliance on Robots
  • AI-Enabled Drug Development
  • Telemedicine
  • Better Monitoring Using IoT and Big Data
  • Strengthened Digital Infrastructure
  • More Contactless Interfaces and Interactions

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What Hotels could do in a pandemic

Hotels can offer significant value to authorities, whether through government procurement or voluntary offerings during the current pandemic, including:

  • To house quarantined individuals with actual or suspected COVID-19 infections.
  • As hospital facilities to treat COVID-19 patients and others.
  • To house doctors, nurses, and other health care workers, including potentially allowing them to remain close to medical facilities.
  • To house National Guard troops or government workers.
  • To provide food and beverage facilities for overflow meal service for patients, health care workers, and others.
  • As laundry facilities for the overflow of hospital linens.

Hotel owners and their counsel should seek to secure strong indemnification and insurance requirements, including additional insured status, waivers of subrogation, and primary and non-contributory wording. In certain cases, government contracts may not allow for alteration, but private party contracts generally allow for amendments.

Areas of ‘Property Insurance’, ‘Workers Compensation’ and ‘General Liability and Umbrella and Excess’ need to be worked on. The pandemic remains a fluid situation for many businesses, including hotel operators.

The answers to critical risk management questions — along with government policies and support — will continue to evolve as conditions change and potential losses develop. Hotel companies should work with their advisors, including insurance brokers and legal counsel, to manage contractual risk, understand how insurance policies will respond, and seek to ensure seamless operations and risk mitigation while COVID-19 remains a threat.

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Death of in-person conferencing?

Globally, 52% of staff have already been working from home at least once per week. The coronavirus outbreak has forced far greater numbers into remote working than otherwise would have been the case. The pandemic has only served to accelerate a transition that was already underway on a global scale. The current circumstances, millennial sensibilities and drastic improvements to cloud-based services combine to create the perfect storm. 

The impact of large-scale events on the environment has also been called into question in recent years. For example, accusations of hypocrisy were levelled at attendees of this year’s World Economic Forum summit in Davos, many of whom travelled to the climate-centric conference via private jet.

The coronavirus pandemic could herald the demise of traditional, in-person conferences. This could absolutely be the start of a trend that sees the world’s largest conferences take a different shape going forward. We are now lucky enough to have workplace apps and online services that allow people to connect regardless of location, so large scale conferences are more feasible than ever before.

Immersive technologies such as virtual reality (VR) have waited patiently in the wings for an opportunity to seize the enterprise stage. Attending conferences via VR headsets could solve a host of challenges associated with public health, but also with travel costs, the environment and engagement.

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Virtual Escapism

While regular travel may be off the cards for the foreseeable future, virtual escapism is open to everyone with an internet connection. Some of the world’s leading galleries, museums and national parks are all just a few clicks away. Here is a selection of the best VR travel experiences to keep you sane during lockdown.

  • Le Musee du Louvre, Paris: The Louvre, the world’s largest art and antiques museum, was forced to close its doors as Paris went into lockdown. While you can no longer waltz into its famous glass exterior, you can learn something of the phenomenal collection via a number of virtual tours, charting everything from Egyptian antiquities to the Galerie d’Apollon… louvre.fr/en/visites-en-ligne 
  • British Museum, London: The UK capital’s famed museum has hooked up with Google Arts & Culture, along with more than 2,000 other leading institutions, to offer an interactive tour. Wander through time and click on different artefacts to see them up close, read up on their history, and hear more information with an audio guide… britishmuseum.withgoogle.com
  • Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam: Stuffed with masterpieces from the Dutch Golden Age, the Rijksmuseum is one of Amsterdam’s most popular attractions. Online, it offers the chance to explore 11 “exhibits”, where you’re able to interact with various works from the museum, read about their history and see close-ups of the pieces. They include Vermeer’s The Milkmaid and a breakdown of the work of Jan Steen… artsandculture.google.com/partner/rijksmuseum
  • Musee d’Orsay, Paris: Housed in the fabulous former Orsay railway station, the Musee d’Orsay displays art dating from 1848 to 1914. An online tour goes through the history of the building, first constructed for the Universal Exhibition of 1900. Viewers can also explore some of the most famous pieces in the collection, including one of Van Gogh’s self-portraits, and take a virtual wander through the galleries… artsandculture.google.com/partner/musee-dorsay-paris
  • Guggenheim, New York: New York City’s iconic gallery has a Google Street View tour where you can “amble” along its winding corridor and view works up close, such as Catherine Opie’s daring Self Portrait/Pervert triptych; Ivan Navarro’s installation Homeless Lamp, the Juice Sucker; and Ovitz’s Library by Jonas Wood. On top of that, you can also simply gaze upon the building’s remarkable architecture… artsandculture.google.com/streetview/solomon-r-guggenheim-museum-interior-streetview
  • Uffizi Gallery, Florence: This gallery houses the art collection of the Medicis inside a 16th-century building. Online, there are four exhibitions that take viewers through various works, explaining their significance and showing close-ups of important details within the paintings. See such works as Piero di Cosimo’s Perseus Freeing Andromeda like never before… artsandculture.google.com/partner/uffizi-gallery
  • Central Park, New York: NYC’s green centrepiece is available to tour online. Not only does it show you the sites, it also comes with a guide who talks you through significant events in Central Park’s history as you “travel” from the West 72nd entrance… youvisit.com/tour/centralpark
  • Grand Canyon, Arizona: There are plenty of pictures of the famed canyon online, but get a little deeper with a VR archaeological tour. This allows armchair travellers to explore and learn more about the history behind the canyon’s formation by clicking on different geological features… nps.gov/features/grca/001/archeology
  • Yosemite National Park, California: Experience this natural wonder in real time by clicking through to its webcams. The views include Yosemite Falls, the view of the Half Dome from the floor of Yosemite Valley, and vistas from the High Sierra captured at 8,000 feet… nps.gov/yose
  • Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado: One of the best things about being in the great outdoors is the way you experience it with all your senses. Rocky Mountain National Park has allowed virtual visitors to use their ears rather than their eyes, with an online “sound library” that features an array of birds and wildlife found in the park… nps.gov/romo

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Travel post Covid-19

Here’s how people will travel after the coronavirus:

  1. They’ll stay in the country. International travel will fall out of favour as people stay closer to the safety of home. 
  2. They won’t travel far from home. “Staycations” and road trips will be favoured over flying or cruising.
  3. They’ll make it quick. A softer economy will mean the traditional two-week summer vacation could turn into a long weekend.

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Confused travellers seek definitive answers

In these uncertain times, it is becoming likely that travellers will desire more direct communication from online travel agencies (OTAs) soon.

According to GlobalData, 44% of global travellers typically booked with an OTA in 2019, whilst only 17% would consider using an in-store travel agency.

However, recent events, including the demise of Thomas Cook, Brexit uncertainty and now Covid-19, have raised concerns regarding the reliability of an OTA in terms of direct communication.

Confused travellers seek definitive answers

Upon discovering holiday plans will no longer take place amid global travel restrictions and mass flight cancellations, travellers seek advice from the platform they booked with.

The majority of travel companies that offered direct bookings are now allowing travellers to change or cancel reservations without any additional fees. However, if a consumer has used a third-party agent, it can make the cancellation process drawn out and complicated.

With Expedia, bookings with an array of airlines cannot be adjusted or cancelled through the platform itself. For some bookings, travellers will have to contact the airline to make changes. Booking.com has introduced ‘forced circumstances’, expecting companies to refund prepayments and waive any cancellation costs for travellers that have pre-booked. This may end in disputes regarding liability, leaving the customer in the dark for longer.

At times like this, travellers will seek more direct communication and definitive answers regarding holiday plans. If they had booked directly with a package provider or flight operator, the communication process between agent and consumer may have been more streamlined.

A personalised approach remains integral, as well as direct communication

Personalisation is a key theme driving the future of travel services. According to a recent GlobalData survey, 89% of global travellers are now ‘always, ‘often’ or ‘somewhat’ influenced by how well a product or service is tailored to their needs and personality.

Online travel giants, such as Expedia and Booking Holdings, are at an advantage with this theme as data and personalisation go hand in hand. With access to a large number of customer records, OTAs can offer personalised experiences tailored to each specific traveller.

In a post-Covid-19 world, however, one to one communication could become of greater importance, working in the favour of more traditional travel agencies.

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Slow Travel

Slow Travel is a mind-set that rejects traditional ideas of tourism and encourages you to soak in your environments and keep yourself open to new experiences. Slow travel is for you if you want a balanced itinerary where you can pace yourself and eliminate the stress of rushing around. It’s intentional and immersive — allowing you to go deeper on the things that matter most to you while traveling. It’s conscious and connected — connected with yourself, those around you, and the world.

There is something undeniably romantic about taking things slow. It is this allure that forms the basis of slow travel – a growing trend that’s swapping whistle-stop city tours for leisurely strolls, and red-eye flights for low-key cruises. Travel should be so much more than lurching your way frenetically around a destination, trying to scratch things off a tick-list (a sure fire way of reaching ‘tourist burnout’).

On paper, slow travel is an offshoot of the slow food movement – a focus on local farming, regional cuisine, communal meals and traditional food preparation methods that began in Italy in the 1980s as a protest against the opening of a McDonald’s in Rome. This cultural initiative has evolved into an entire way of life known as the Slow Movement, which aims to address the issue of ‘time poverty’ through an increased focus on making connections; with people, places and things.

In its simplest form, slow travel means travelling by particular modes of transport such as train, horse, walking, biking and boating. It’s all about appreciating the landscape as you go, and being at one with it – which you don’t get by flying or driving when you’re seeing everything from behind a pane of glass.

Another perspective  is that slow travel is a mindset, not just a series of choices. While physically slowing down is necessary, slow travel is more mindset than velocity. Slow travel is to tourism what meditation apps are to our lives. In it, connecting to the soul of a place through its history, food, language and people becomes more important than chasing bucket list ticks and Instagram photos. Slow travel enables us to learn, relax and rejuvenate; to be part of a place for a short period rather than just crash through it. Done responsibly it allows us to go beyond the ‘leave only footprints’ mantra that has long been associated with ecotourism. When done right, it can leave positive impacts that will last long past your trip, benefiting the local communities, economies and wildlife.

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Pitfalls of a home-sharing strategy

Despite hotel owners’ fears, the hotel players involved in homeshare tend to dismiss sceptics’ concerns about cannibalization. The audience for vacation rentals, they argue, seeks a different product than the business traveller staying a night or two in a city or the young single looking for adventure on a budget. Hotel companies are eyeing potential vacation destinations that wouldn’t necessarily support a full-blown hotel development. Length of stay is probably the biggest factor that separates demand for hotel rooms versus vacation rentals — hotels average less than two nights; vacation rentals tend to stretch out for seven or more nights.

Hotel companies will be weighing their ability to scale and the potential revenues that homeshare affiliations will yield. Airbnb has already set the bar low, so potential fees from renting out a single home or apartment pale versus the management or franchising fees associated with hotels.

For many companies, it’s hard to justify the economics of investing in the marketing and infrastructure to support something that represents a very small share or revenue for the foreseeable future. One way to mitigate the smaller profit is to focus on the upper reaches of the market and destinations where higher daily rates will yield higher income.

Homeshare owners need some love, too. To be competitive and continue to grow the platform, marketshare and units, companies need to make their products more attractive from the top to the bottom for all constituents, both travellers and owners.

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Unlimited Luxury

Luxury has gotten its hands on all-inclusive and the trend isn’t slowing.

Luxury hotels are experimenting now with what looks like a fully stocked, free minibar, daily breakfast for two and other amenities like laundry or a cocktail in the lounge. At the 24-room, 5-star Bhutan Spirit Sanctuary in the Himalayas, guests receive as many treatments as they’d like over three, four or seven night stays.

It’s a trend that really draws on the experiential — if a guest is already paying luxury prices, giving them that extra bit of luxury will only result in delighted guests.

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Sustainability Rankings for Hotels?

How are you saving the earth today?

According to Booking.com’s 2019 Sustainable Travel Report, 70% of global travelers say they would be more likely to book an accommodation knowing it was eco-friendly, whether they were looking for a sustainable stay or not. The up-and-coming younger travellers will change “more likely” to “most definitely” in the coming years, especially as their spending power grows.

It’s time for hotels out front on sustainability to make their case known – and it would be very interesting to start seeing rankings on booking engines that prioritize hotels in a given location on how small their carbon footprint is.

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Can F&B outlets affect the RevPAR?

One of the thorniest dilemmas in hotel operations is whether to have to a restaurant and then how to run and manage it, since Food and beverage could be a boost to one of the thorniest dilemmas in hotel operations ~ whether to have to a restaurant and then how to run and manage it, since Food and beverage could be a boost to a hotel’s credibility or as a potential cash drain.
Restaurants must add to the overall value of the hotel, and thus average daily rate, even if they are not a runaway success as stand-alone offerings. Restaurants are changing their concepts and becoming as popular with locals as they are with guests, and that never used to be the case. The most important focus for hotel F&B is to make any restaurant or bar a destination in its own right and to give employees the level of expertise they need to succeed.
It’s difficult to be specific on what (a restaurant) brings to (revenue per available room), but it is about brand value and allure. On some days, you may only have a few residents eating in the restaurant, but if the restaurant adds to the hotel’s allure and RevPAR, it may yet be worth it. After all, it may be a qualitative process, not a quantitative one. What is critical is to have differentiation, and that does not only mean going upscale. Have experiences to sell. You could put street food into a hotel if it seems right, and even if it does not make profit, it will add to the hotel’s brand value.

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Corporate travel & Sharing economy

As traditional hotel chains continue to reap the profits of unwieldy business travel expenses, a new trend is emerging among many business travellers: participation in the sharing economy.
The sharing economy’s popularity within corporate travel can be attributed to the same factor that has launched its entrenchment in the world as a whole: convenience. Instead of queuing in a long line at the rental car vendor after an even longer flight, business travellers can open their phone and call a car directly to their hotel in minutes via rideshare apps such as Uber or Ola.
Corporate travel policies often limited business travellers to just a few hotel options, and sometimes these options are further away from the places where travellers have their business obligations all in the name of a company partnering with a certain hotel chain. With home-sharing platforms such as Airbnb, business travellers are able to pinpoint the most convenient lodging locations for their business obligations and find a home-sharing option that is free of being tied down by any hotel chain loyalty.

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F&B affects RevPAR?

One of the thorniest dilemmas in hotel operations is how many F&B Outlets are required and then how to run and manage them, since Food and beverage could either be a boost to a hotel’s credibility or a potential cash drain.

Restaurants must add to the overall value of the hotel, and thus average daily rate, even if they are not a runaway success as stand-alone offerings. Today, restaurants are changing their concepts and becoming as popular with locals as they are with guests, and that never used to be the case. The most important focus for hotel F&B is to make any restaurant or bar a destination in its own right and to give employees the level of expertise they need to succeed.

It’s difficult to be specific on what (a restaurant) brings to (revenue per available room), but it is about brand value and allure. On some days, you may only have a few residents eating in the restaurant, but if the restaurant adds to the hotel’s allure and RevPAR, it may yet be worth it. After all, it may be a qualitative process, not a quantitative one. What is critical is to have differentiation, and that does not only mean going upscale. Have experiences to sell. You could put street food into a hotel if it seems right, and even if it does not make profit, it will add to the hotel’s brand value.

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Boost your hotel revenue

Apart from selling rooms, hotels wish to maximize their revenue. But with many markets becoming more competitive, boosting revenue is easier said than done. Increasing room rates to broaden margins might be great during high season, but during the low season, high rates drive customers away. Instead of simply adjusting room rates up and down, there are many other ways for hotels to generate more revenue and create a better guest experience at the same time.

Quick ways to drive more revenue in only a week: Upselling, Using your local network and Involving employees

Ways to drive more revenue over a quarter: Improve guest satisfaction and online reviews, Leverage low-demand days and Host unique events and activities

Ways to generate more revenue in the next twelve months: Get familiar with Google Hotels, Harness the power of hospitality tech, Analyse your distribution and optimize it.

To come up with the coolest ideas on how to implement some (or all) of these ideas, get your team together for some brainstorming. You’d be surprised by the original concepts they’ll come up with and how much more ownership your team will take if they feel like they’re playing an active part in creating and implementing new revenue-generating strategies.

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The Gig Economy

The gig economy is booming, and that’s good news for hotels. The gig economy is defined as a labour market characterized by the prevalence of short-term contracts or freelance work as opposed to permanent jobs. In a gig economy, temporary, flexible jobs are commonplace and companies tend toward hiring independent contractors and freelancers instead of full-time employees. A gig economy undermines the traditional economy of full-time workers who rarely change positions and instead focus on a lifetime career.

In less than a decade, the contractor workforce is expected to become the workforce majority. While the contractor workforce may not be a fit for all business models, hoteliers are undoubtedly benefiting. Timely solutions for staffing needs, seamless integration and measurable results are what hoteliers need and want.

Today’s contractor workforce represents diverse professional backgrounds and experiences allowing for that seamless integration that every hotel leader is seeking. Unfilled positions result in lost revenue. Hotels have goals, and ownership expects those goals to be met – no excuses.

Most contractors have 10+ years’ experience in the hospitality industry, and more than 64% users agree that contractors offer varied experience and unique perspective required for taskforce.

From the perspective of the freelancers/contractors, Lifestyle is key. Both freelancers/contractors and full-time professionals prioritize achieving the lifestyle that they want; however, freelancers/contractors are more likely to get it. More than half of all freelancers/contractors say no amount of money would convince them to take a traditional job.

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