We all still feel the impact of the unprecedented events of 2020. Their lasting repercussions continue to spill over to 2021, particularly in the travel and hospitality industry.
Just a few months into 2021, pivoting consumer expectations and health standards have set new benchmarks and challenges for enterprises in this space. While many organizations have made significant shifts and managed to come out stronger, what do these changes mean for the industry’s major players? How are their brands adapting, evolving, and expanding more than a year after the pandemic’s onset?
Checking in on 2021
As global vaccinations go on full throttle, there are promising signs of improvement toward containing COVID-19, even with concerns over the growing number of variants. First and foremost, fewer people in the U.S. are now getting infected. Daily identified COVID-19 cases dropped from the peak at about 314,000 in January 2021 to about 100,000 in the first half of February 2021. Even as local and international travel restrictions begin to ease up, it still appears to offer a slow and steady recovery for the industry.
Air travel may only see a small improvement: The International Air Transport Association predicted, in a worst-case scenario, only a 13% year-to-year improvement in 2021. The new lockdown restrictions due to the recent detection of coronavirus variants could be the reason for such a dim outlook.
Still, travelers are hopeful: Travel Pulse shared some key findings from a survey of over 5,800 travelers. Close to 70% of the participants want to travel in 2021, many of whom carried over some of their vacation days from 2020 into 2021.
The hotel industry is unlikely to have a full recovery until 2024: According to AHLA’s report, hotel occupancy in the US will increase from 44% to 52% in 2021, and further to 61% in 2022. That was still below the 66% level in 2018 and 2019. Room revenue will reach $110 billion in 2021 and $144 billion in 2022. This is down from $167 billion in 2019.
All roads lead to recovery, but for travel, this will take time and will be in phases, starting from domestic leisure travel. A full recovery is not expected until 2023 or 2024, according to the report.
Restaurant sales are improving: US restaurant sales are projected to increase to $731.5 billion or 11% in 2021, but still far behind 2019’s $864.3 billion. By December 2020, roughly 110,000 restaurants and bars, or about 10% of such establishments, closed either for the long-term or permanently .
More Room for Hospitality’s Big Players
Here’s a peek into how the hotel industry’s biggest names are taking advantage of the latest trends and developments as they gear up for a busier year ahead. We’re seeing a lot of movement and changes from well-known hotels and new properties.
Equality Recognition and New Hotels for Wyndham: Wyndham Hotels & Resorts recently announced seven new hotel franchise agreements. The company was also recently designated a “Best Place to Work” for the LGBTQ+ community, achieving a perfect score on the 2021 Corporate Equality Index, a national benchmarking survey and report on practices.
InterContinental Hotels Group Makes Brand Updates: As part of a brand refresh for this year, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) renamed itself IHG Hotels & Resorts. It also reorganized its 16-brand portfolio along with introducing a new logo and visual identity, and shortened the name of its IHG Rewards Club to IHG Rewards.
New Offerings From Hilton Luxury Brands: Upscale clients now have more options within Hilton Hotels & Resorts’ portfolio of luxury properties, thanks to three newly introduced offerings. Hilton’s newest brand, LXR Hotels & Resorts, made its U.S. debut with the addition of the recently redesigned Oceana Hotel in Santa Monica, California.
Marriott Makes Major Moves: Sunwing Travel Group’s hotel division, Blue Diamond Resorts, has signed an agreement with Marriott International to combine brand concepts, making 19 of Blue Diamond’s properties a part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection by mid-2021 .
Positioning Your Brand to Embrace the New Normal
While global events and forecasts sound bleak for the travel and hospitality industry, there are several gold-mine opportunities and takeaways to consider. Branding may need to do more with less given the dips and slowdowns in revenue flow, but when done right, companies of all sizes can be a catalyst that can further move the industry ahead.
Here’s how branding can gain “immunity” amid uncertainty:
Increase Your Business Value: Highlight in your branding how you prioritize guest health and well-being, safety procedures, hygiene policies, and other decisions intended to protect your customers. The key is to make sure that these changes are clearly communicated to customers before arrival, whether through your booking confirmation emails, apps, digital content, or social media promotions.
Generate New Customers: Make sure your property or destination is visible on all distribution and communication channels that leisure customers use. You can also highlight associated facilities or amenities that they might find interesting by striking the right balance between inspirational and informational leisure-focused content.
Improve Employee Pride And Satisfaction: People are becoming increasingly sensitive to environmental and social issues. Sustainability in hospitality isn’t one thing—it’s a complex recipe of intangible services, brought together often by those working behind-the-scenes. Internal and external communications can reflect this, and therefore build you a brand that reflects a strong culture and advocacy.
Create Trust Within The Marketplace: Influencer marketing is fast becoming a great opportunity for hospitality marketers—a digital version of the traditional word-of-mouth for increasing hotel brand awareness and generating direct bookings. You can leverage this with a strong digital presence and building a community helmed by influencers to serve as compelling social proof.
Support Advertising with a Strong Brand: Efficient advertising on various channels and being where your audiences are will help in attracting more customers to your hotel or travel business.
Travel industries and hotels can use YouTube videos, Instagram, Snapchat, or Facebook live to engage their target audience. [3, 4, 5].
Keeping Customers King Still Wins
Movers and big players in the hospitality industry are bringing innovative products and services, with customer experience remaining at the forefront. TaskUs is a trusted and reliable partner for many of these companies and can build an innovative support solution to zero in on creating an exceptional experience for guests and travelers. As these people are always on the move, they need to have access to support at any given time, on a channel most accessible to them. However, it is not just enough that you have omnichannel capabilities. You also need a partner who can execute these capabilities with ease. As a leader in next generation customer service, TaskUs provides superior omnichannel experience, allowing customers to get help through various communication channels such as chat, email, and social media.
With TaskUs’s top-notch, full-service digital CX solutions, we can provide our travel and hospitality clients with a guest-focused support strategy that will help them secure—and grow—their customer base even in uncertain times.
With Trust and Safety, we focus on two things:
- Digitization of many services brought about by the pandemic. As things become more digital-dependent, we have to ensure client information is protected and they continue to get a personalized experience, among other things.
- Ensuring health and safety. Comprehensive COVID-19 protective measures and government policies must also be strictly adhered to. And we’re helping our clients in this area by providing support for contactless technology and advanced bookings.
As machine learning, AI, automation, and other technologies impact the travel and hospitality industry, you can expect that TaskUs is at the forefront of these innovations. By combining our people-first culture and innovation mindset with cutting-edge technology, we help our clients bring their customers delight wherever they are in the world.