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The Pandemic’s Legacy: Guest Expectations Before and After the Calamity

As the world is reportedly getting ready for the return of travel and more and more countries are gradually lifting the restrictions, it seems only natural to want to account for which scars exactly the pandemic has left on the face of the hospitality industry, and how long they might take to heal. In the light of the consumers’ warming attitudes toward travel and the increasing number of bookings, we are taking a look at the recent research conducted by STR to see what changed in the guests’ behavior and how that might affect the future of the sector.

Some things never change, and this is precisely so when it comes to the two main factors influencing the accommodation choice: location and value for money. This spurs optimism as it is likely that, despite the significant impact coronavirus has caused the travel industry, its basic determinants have remained unchanged and will, perhaps, continue being so in the future. Nevertheless, cancellation policies are now playing a much more important role. Almost a third of respondents in the research have named them to be the main factor influencing their booking decision, which is significantly higher than recorded in the study conducted last year. While such an attitude may shift as travel becomes more predictable, it is also possible that guests are now more accustomed to greater flexibility from the supply side and will demand it – or some modified version of it – on the constant basis in “the new normal”.

COVID-19 has also upended hospitality by hitting the food & beverage sector. The vast majority of the hotel operators had to move away from buffet breakfasts in favor of the grab-and-go or a la carte services. How did the public respond? Turns out, there is weak overall support for completely contactless F&B services with North Americans leading the way. This is perhaps due to the already prevalent trend among them to consume their meals with limited interaction even before the pandemic. The good news is that this does not seem to discourage most of the guests and does not invite nostalgia for the good old days of waiting upon a waiter.

Finally, the housekeeping department has been affected by the calamity as well. Pre-pandemic, almost all the guests agreed with the necessity of regular and pedantic room cleaning services, but the fear of social contacts has divided the public opinion on the issue in a drastic manner. Around 40% of travelers expect minimal housekeeping in the current circumstances, while 30% support the opposite view with the remaining third preferring to stay neutral. Who would have thought that cleaning procedures could become such a polarizing issue?

It is still very hard to say whether the above-mentioned attitudes are here to stay or if they are just a legacy of unprecedented times destined to be replaced, once the vaccines are spread out and life begins to seem normal again. Regardless, hoteliers should take note of what their customers are currently looking for, while also managing to stay alert to future trends. Such a balance has never been easy but could indeed be the characteristic setting successful providers apart from the rest.

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