Current forecasts predict that the hospitality industry will be back to pre-COVID-19 levels in about three years. This of course is contingent on no additional flare-ups. For example, New Zealand claimed they had eliminated the virus but are now seeing a few additional cases. So, hospitality brands will have to move cautiously in removing the most stringent protocols (no-contact check-in, no in-room food delivery, no daily housekeeping), until we know they are fully out of the woods. The hotel owner-brand relationship has never been under more stress. My own research tells me that the brand-hotel relationship is a primary driver of hotel performance. A positive relationship leads to higher occupancy, revenue, guest satisfaction, and quality assurance scores. With many branded hotels experiencing dramatic declines in revenues, shrunk to well below the break-even point, they are unable to meet their basic expenses. Brands that have been kind to their owners and are sharing their pain by forgiving or deferring fees while the hotels are suffering will be the ones that will keep their franchisees in the long term.
Professor, School of Hotel Administration, Cornell SC Johnson College of Business
Only a fifth of U.S. frequent business travelers are comfortable staying in a hotel right now, while the majority say they are comfortable staying in a hotel within the next six months. Even as the economy slowly opens up, business travelers will be carefully monitoring new safety and health policies of airlines and hotels. Given the amount of U.S. hotel revenue from business travelers, hotels that quickly implement new safety standards have the best chance of winning back customers. Frequent business travelers tell us their most important policies are health screenings of guests and employees, requiring people wear masks in public spaces, and ensuring rooms are empty for periods of time between guests. The return to business travel will be slow and “wait and see.” Employers are cutting travel budgets and will be very cautious in requiring or pushing employees to travel for business or attend conferences. If the virus lingers, business travelers will continue to find other ways, such as virtual meetings to do their jobs.
Senior vice president, U.S. Senior Client Officer, Ipsos
Because of the mixed and uneven response to the crisis — and the recurring viral flare-ups in regional hot-spots, consumers remain uncertain about the safety of travel. Though most feel open to initiating some types of travel plans, they mostly involve easier to get to, domestic locations. Domestic travel focuses on regions that have avoided the worst of the virus. A wider disparity occurs between the non-affluent and the truly affluent on their approach to travel during this period. Affluent travelers feel more confident in air travel, due to the greater distancing and higher-end service in the front of the plane vs. the back. Airlines cater to high-end business travelers by promoting a higher tier of service (and confidence of cleanliness) in first- and business-class travel. There’s a lot of focus on hotel protocol for maintaining proper social distance and for sanitization. Hotels have to work harder to make people feel comfortable—and need to provide assurances and cues of their achievement of highest levels of cleanliness and safety. Because of this, small hotels struggle to deliver and to instill that confidence. The ultra-affluent find their own ways to “buy” safety while on vacation. They book high-end villas — or even entire hotels — to keep “social distancing” even on vacation. High-end hotels cater to these high-end consumers with offers on multiple rooms and isolated sections of hotels. Those who can afford it take private jets.
Senior vice president, team lead, Ipsos Affluent Intelligence
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