Are Luxury Hotels the winners of the Covid-Crisis?
With more and more markets starting to recover it seems that luxury hotels in resort destinations are the ones gaining market share. Is it because of the definition of space or is it reflecting the fact that people travelling again travel less and are willing to spend more in return for a better experience?
Covid-19 has had a huge impact on the hospitality sector and the challenges ahead will require innovative solutions. Wings may have been clipped by the travel ban during this pandemic but the desire to travel and see new horizons hasn’t gone away, so building confidence around health and safety will be paramount to getting customers back. Marrying safety and socialising successfully is going to take invention and those hotels that will come out of this crisis stronger will be the ones that rise to the challenge. Terraces, balconies and outdoor space are already prime assets and will continue to be so.
An unsurprisingly result of the pandemic is a continued focus on hygiene and cleanliness. We’ve all become accustomed to carrying hand sanitiser with us wherever we go, washing our hands frequently and being careful of the surfaces we touch, and this trend will definitely be sticking around for some time and affecting the way we travel.
Dean Winter, Group Director of Operations at Swire Hotels predicts “that people’s attention to and demand for hygiene and cleanliness will increase.” Continuing, Dean explains that “people won’t change how they travel but will expect hotels and airlines to be increasing sanitisation measures.”
“Attention to hygiene and cleanliness will increase”
Dean Winter, Group Director of Operations at Swire Hotels
Lucy Jackson, Co-Founder and Director of Lightfoot Travel echoes this, saying “the increased sanitisation of flights and hotels will understandably be very important. Many luxury hotel brands are already rolling out new initiatives to increase cleanliness standards including a contactless service, guest service apps and new hygiene technology, which is very reassuring.”
Sustainability has risen up the agenda. While greener buildings became a ‘nice to have’ rather than a ‘must-have’ after the 2008 financial crash, the world has moved on since then. During the lockdown, health and well-being have become intrinsically linked with the environment — the dramatic improvement in air quality from travel being limited has been plain to see.
In the modern world we live in, it’s increasingly hard to truly get away from it all, switch off and enjoy a much-needed break. But as a result of the pandemic, the experts predict that many more travellers will actively seek out less crowded trips, searching for privacy and a greater sense of calm and peacefulness. Off-the-beaten track and natural destinations are sure become even more in demand.
Roland Fasel, Chief Operating Officer of Aman shares his view that in the future “people will want to get away from the crowds and find a peaceful sanctuary more than ever.” Learning from the increased interest in villas and private dining opportunities at Aman, Roland says that “privacy is the overarching trend as a result of this pandemic” — with the outcome being that luxury hotels and resorts will have to adapt to this demand.
There will inevitably be a drive towards value and efficiency to reduce costs whether that is in the operation of the hotel or in how it is built.
Space and design will need to reflect new concerns about safety and sustainability and will be paramount in attracting and building a customer base. Health and wellbeing will become the new currency, not just for hotels but the entire hospitality and entertainment sector.
Cleanliness will need to be more visible as customer and client expectations will be different — could we see the return of staff in white gloves calling a lift, even temporarily? Simpler design with easy to clean surfaces will help reduce the time and cost of extra cleaning and services. And there will be a move to minimise visits to and from rooms such as more in-room dining, which may require a re-configuration of space to accommodate a suitable table.
Self-contained space such as that offered by apart-hotels will inevitably become more desirable while hotel restaurants will need to accommodate at-seat service rather than a buffet-style food offer.
Although it may take a little time, the luxury travel industry will bounce back post pandemic, with the experts believing that if anything, it will benefit us all.
As people look to travel once more, whether it’s domestically or internationally, Dean explains that it is up to the hotels to offer guests the same sense of luxury as before. “Hotels will have to become more creative in terms of working around any restrictions that become the norm as travellers will still expect to receive the same level of service and high quality experience from before COVID-19. They will need to adapt and find different ways to surprise and delight guests.”
In line with this, Andrea touches on how the pandemic will affect his role in the travel industry, stating “travel agents will need to become more ambitious in how they design experiences. A new paradigm of luxury travel that is life-enriching and values-based is emerging. The good news is that it will contribute to the better world we have been imagining during this pandemic.”