CEO of Jurny, a hospitality tech company offering SaaS-based management solutions designed to accommodate the modern traveler.
Travel was one of the hardest-hit industries during the first 100 days of the pandemic. Several months later, air travel is ticking up, and hotel occupancy rates have improved since reaching lows in April. However, as travel resumes, it has a whole new look for both travelers and service providers.
As the CEO of a hospitality technology company, I’ve observed these four new travel trends emerging from the pandemic — some which I believe are here to stay.
1. Vacation Rentals Surpassing Hotel Stays
Although the short-term rental industry experienced a 300% growth in the past five years, according to a recent report by data solutions company STR, hotels have historically outperformed short-term rentals in terms of higher occupancy rates and average daily rates. Several long-standing factors have attributed to hotel dominance, particularly business and group travel, which accounted for about one-quarter of demand prior to the coronavirus, STR also reported.
But the outbreak of Covid-19 has turned the industry on its head. The hotel sector experienced steeper declines than short-term rentals when travel restrictions were placed, STR’s research found. And while both were hit hard by the pandemic, short-term rentals boasted almost double hotels’ occupancy rates, likely due to their ability to adapt to social distancing measures easier with more remote and private locations.
It will take time to reach pre-Covid-19 levels, but both are beginning to stabilize, according to STR. Overall, the accommodation industry is rebounding with weekly occupancy gains that I predict will continue to grow thanks to more bookings in the fall and winter months. Nevertheless, with more technology upgrades to help limit touch points and interactions, hotels still have the potential to emerge from the pandemic as the leader again.
2. Road Trips Not Too Far from Home
With many airline fleets grounded and international travel restrictions still in place, many Americans are turning to the open road to explore locally and minimize interactions with others. Not to mention, an oversupply of oil is slashing gas prices and enticing more travelers to hit the road. Many people, especially families, are also looking toward nature, and some private and public campgrounds have seen an increase in visitors over the past few months.
I believe this will continue to become more common as more people have the option to work and learn remotely. From my perspective, though TSA screenings recently reached a new pandemic peak, as long as gas prices are low, travel is restricted and the pandemic persists, so will the popularity of local road trips.
3. Rise Of Smart Accommodations
Technology is cementing its place in travel during Covid-19. Some hotels and short-term rentals are opting for remote check-in and other services through mobile phones to better comply with social distancing guidelines. Many major hotel operators have even implemented contactless technologies such as mobile key entry and room temperature controls in units to help reduce touch points and potential staff interactions.
I believe contactless technologies will become part of the “new normal” in the hospitality space, but it’s important to note that the upfront costs of implementing these technologies could pose a challenge for smaller hotels. However, I also predict we will see new startups emerge with innovative solutions to help the industry adapt and evolve.
4. Sanitization As A Key For Comfort And Marketing
According to Kate Walsh, dean of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and expert on hospitality management, “sanitized cleanliness will be the new differentiator” in the hospitality industry.
In the past, hotels typically placed their personalized services, inviting environment and amenities at the focal point of their marketing strategy. However, the pandemic has challenged hotels to reexamine what hospitality means in the context of social distancing and limited interactions. For guests to feel safe, hotels are bringing the often behind-the-scenes work of cleaning to center stage.
While sanitization might not stay as the focal point of hotels’ marketing strategy after the pandemic, hotel cleaning procedures will likely never be in a behind-the-scenes role again.
What Does This Mean For Leaders In The Travel And Hospitality Space?
The market is constantly shifting, and new trends (and competitors) are emerging overnight. Organizations must be flexible and adaptable in their approach to survive inevitable industry and business changes. Organizations that can embrace newness without losing their primary focus will gain a competitive edge in today’s rapidly evolving climate.
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