We’re thinking a little like this: no long check-ins, a Star Trek salute for welcome (we’ll accept namaste too) and no crowded hotels, lobbies and restaurants. Luxury will be a refined concept, automated and cemented in health and hygiene, at least for a good while. The future is technology and isolation in the most sustainable fashion, and the warmth of the ‘human touch’ will become a concept to shy away from. We aren’t surprised though. Things were slowly moving in this direction long before the pandemic, with trends like ecotourism, remote wellness retreats and optimal privacy already on the rise. Once the travel industry resumes its operations, these trends will only accelerate, no matter the industry’s revival speed.
This change will start at home. Many properties were already leaning towards mobile or app-based check-ins with in-depth questionnaires weeks before arrival. In the future, this may become an exercise for all properties; it would not only minimise human contact, but also reduce the time spent in public. As for keycards, well, brands like Hilton and Chalet Hotels have already been moving towards Bluetooth locks or digital keys that unlock using phone apps.
Carrying the practice of social distancing and self-isolating forward, “Villas might become more popular as people will be able to isolate and enjoy the company of their loved ones,” says Karen Slocombe, Director of Sales & Marketing, Samujana, Koh Samui. for restaurants, the practice of social distancing may lead to more grab-and-go options, fewer tables, an increase in room service and unfortunately, the demise of breakfast buffets. Sigh.
Of course, a major concern and investment will be cleanliness and sanitation. Hyatt has already taken up a Global Care and Cleanliness Commitment and this month, they will introduce a cleanliness accreditation (GBAC STARTM) for their properties worldwide. Initiatives like this will include third-party auditing, sanitisation experts in hotels, enhanced food safety, and protective equipment for staff and guests. Physical barriers, social distancing circles and guests taking a temperature check will become the new norms in all hotels.
Hand in hand with the latest technology, hotels will also be savvier. Utilising touch-free doors, dispensers and sinks will be first. The next step would be using ultraviolet lights to check cleanliness, electrostatic sprayers with top-notch disinfectants, and full-body sanitising machines. Robots zipping between rooms for deliveries, contact-less conveyor belts serving food, and chatbots don’t seem very far-fetched, Mr Jetson.
While all this seems like a step in the right direction, a big downside to such measures would be large-scale events like conferences, MICE events and weddings. After the novel coronavirus, hotels will have to prepare themselves to lose revenue from these big gatherings.
On the flipside, however, wellness retreats, resorts in remote locations and eco-friendly stays will emerge strongest. According to Patrice Landrein, general manager, Pimalai Resort & Spa, Krabi, “After this period, the approach for tourism will be different. People will definitely want to venture into nature.” The wish to ‘escape it all’ and recover from these tense times would motivate people to look into rejuvenation therapies and wellness for the body, mind and soul. And hotels are already gearing up to tackle these expectations.
The novel coronavirus pandemic has forced people to introspect the human impact on the environment. This need for a more sustainable approach will become more urgent with people wanting to use resources wisely and be more responsible while travelling. This will reflect in the hospitality space too. This is a resilient industry and has bounced back from many global hits. And while this screeching halt may have been a jolt that no one asked for, it gives time for hotels to revamp and reinvent their identities, offerings, and come back stronger than before.