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If hospitality is your game, take note: 5 trends shaking up the industry

Guest expectations have changed since the pandemic. August de Richelieu/Pexels

Guest expectations have changed since the pandemic. August de Richelieu/Pexels

Published Aug 3, 2022

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Tourism in South Africa is recovering, with increased volumes of both local and foreign travellers.

With the removal of the final Covid-19 restrictions, this is expected to increase further, especially in coastal areas which have become increasingly popular with remote workers.

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To take advantage of this uptick, Max Urban, co-founder and managing director of Propr, says it’s crucial for hoteliers and short-term rental owners to note that guest expectations have changed as a result of the pandemic.

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Consumers’ appetites for digital technologies and experiences have grown, but unlike other industries that swiftly adopted tech solutions, the hospitality sector has lagged.

“The industry needs to innovate and adapt now more than ever to meet consumer demands for accommodation that caters to the changing world of business and leisure, unique stays, instant communication on their preferred platforms, and smarter technologies to enhance their experiences, amongst others.”

These are the five trends reshaping the hospitality space:

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1. Flexibility

The pandemic ushered in the era of offering flexible cancellations, and when new travel restrictions can be imposed at a moment’s notice, Urban says guests may be unwilling to book accommodation with strict or moderate cancellation policies. Accommodation providers have no choice but to embrace the last-minute nature with which guests book.

“Gone are the days of looking at next year’s forward bookings.”

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2. Digital nomads are the new business travellers

Telecommuting has exploded since the start of the pandemic and businesses are becoming more accepting of remote workers. This has resulted in an upsurge in digital nomads travelling the globe and staying in places for weeks or months at a time.

“Properties that can offer dedicated workspaces and high-speed internet are much more likely to get booked.”

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3. Becoming load shedding-proof

With load shedding being the new normal, he says properties need to offer solutions that minimise the impact on guests. This ranges from special lamps and bulbs to inverters that can power internet routers. Doing so is a great way to be set apart from other listings at the moment.

4. Standing out, not being standard

“Today’s guests are looking for something special beyond the stock standard hotel room, prompting the hospitality industry to experiment with their offerings,” Urban says, adding that Marriot, for example, has carved out separate portfolios of properties under the Homes & Villas by Marriott International banner which enables guests to book self-catering accommodation.

Other hotel chains, he says, are expected to jump on this trend to make their properties unique and, in doing so, use their assets more efficiently.

“An example of this could be renting out a hotel room during the day for use as a home office and hiring it out to a traveller at night.”

5. Smarter technology

Advances in technology will not only benefit the guests but property owners and professional hosts too. Urban explains that pricing algorithms are becoming increasingly sophisticated and can adjust pricing to capitalise on specific demand spikes. For example, a premium could automatically be applied to one-night gaps in the calendar to make those bookings more worthwhile.

“IoT tech will also be able to synch an establishment’s calendar and switch the geyser on or off to save on electricity. Additionally, automatic inventory checks based on photographs will cut down the time it takes to check properties. Some of these technologies are already in existence and others are not too far off.”

BONUS TIP: Automate or stagnate

Soon the days of guests picking up the phone or walking down to reception to speak with staff at hospitality establishments will be no longer.

“They increasingly want their communication to be instant and digital, sparking the need to automate processes to assist guests and enhance their experience. Guests nowadays prefer to interact via WhatsApp and chatbots and the industry needs to catch up,” Urban states.

However, this needs to be done in a way that does not allow communication to become robotic.

“Guests still expect a personal touch for certain types of interactions, even if they are automated or executed electronically. One of the ways that we have managed to get the balance right is by automating highly structured communication which gives our team more opportunity to spend quality time with guests on things that computers don’t handle well yet such as planning a custom itinerary and talking about missed expectations.

“We also use tech to alert us to opportunities where we can delight or help our guests. For example, we automatically flag certain key words like ‘anniversary’, ‘birthday’ or ‘locked out’ and then notify our guest experience team.”

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