The pandemic trends that hotel CEOs expect to stick around

CEO panel at IHIF
Global CEOs: The Only Way Is Up - Hospitality Leadership in a Brave New World panel at IHIF. (Mark Green)

Changes in hotel operational procedures, increased use of technology, rebranding of properties and even catering for academic tutors are some of the changes that have been sped up by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Speaking at the International Hospitality Investment Forum (IHIF) in Berlin, Choice Hotels International CEO Patrick Pacious said following the global lockdown in 2020, occupancy of his hotels was 30% in April last year.

He added this prompted a review of the business and led to the group immediately introducing cost cutting measures, such as only cleaning on rooms on request, that previously would have had lengthy trials before potentially being introduced.

Pacious said: “A lot of the innovations we had been thinking about to support our customers we pushed out during Covid and we are really glad we did.”

BWH Hotel Group President and CEO David Kong agreed that the pandemic had accelerated the pace of change of the increased adoption of technology and anyone operating a hotel would need to be prepared for that.

He added: “A lot of us ordered take out from restaurants during Covid and downloaded the apps to make our orders. That’s going to drive consumer behaviour going forwards and so booking a hotel, checking in or checking out is something that’s going to have to be much easier in the future.”

Kong also said the group took advantage of the lockdown to rebrand certain hotels and cited the example of a Best Western property in Austin, Texas, that was moved to the trendier boutique division, Aiden, and which is now reporting a 30% to 40% increase in average rates.

Meanwhile, Minor Hotels CEO Dillip Rajakarier said one of the biggest changes he has seen was in the families market, with many families trying to combine their children’s education with a holiday.

He argued this has led to tutors now travelling with families and he is now considering how best they can be accommodated to ensure he can tap into this growing market.

Pacious added that increasing lengths of stay are also having an impact, with serviced apartments becoming more popular than ever – a trend he believes will stay and grow.

Radisson Hotel Group CEO Federico Gonzalez also argued that while issues of sustainability might have been put on hold as hotels fought for their survival, they will soon emerge again as consumers demand greener options as they resume travelling.

However, he added that, as before Covid-19, this is a matter that needs to be solved by the global industry as opposed to leaving it to individual countries and companies to sort out.