2021 Hospitality Industry in ‘A New Normal’

Hasnain Noorani _ CEO & Founder of PrideInn Group of Hotels.

Back when we all thought that 2020’s biggest headache would be a seemingly endless year of political campaign related to BBI and 2022 elections, hotel industry in Kenya was set to enjoy the fruits of a robust economy. But the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic threw the industry into chaos, forcing hotels and resorts to not only rethink their strategies for the year, but in many cases to completely overhaul their operations.

The hospitality industry has endured tremendous shifts and disruptions over this year, forcing businesses to rapidly implement innovative trends and partnerships that will reshape the future of hospitality. Local hotel chains for instance PrideInn innovated a brilliant events and conferencing platform dabbed “RevMeet” in partnership with tech giants Microsoft and Safaricom. The platform saw guests and delegates hold events and conferences at the hotel connecting virtually with those in various locations across the globe seamlessly.

If hoteliers do have the capital to invest in technology enhancements post covid – 19, it could help guests feel more confident in their hotel stay. Booking.com’s Future of Travel survey for 2020 indicated that 63% of travelers want hotels to “use the latest tech” to ensure safety. And 64% of travelers feels tech will be important in controlling health risks.

From developments in decision-making and purchasing power, one of the main keys to success is to consciously prepare and adapt. The new 2021 hospitality trends are considered more evolutionary than revolutionary. Among the predictions include an increased focus on customer service following a record dip in occupancy. Many brands are extending loyalty programs through 2021 and maintaining communication with brand loyal customers. These brands are looking to 2021 for gains in occupancy and more regular travel from their most frequent guests.

Industry players know business travel will change in many ways, but one thing they’re certain about is that it will return.

Reimaging Hotel food and beverage sales

As guests ease into the comforts of dining at home more frequently, it will be key for hoteliers to tap into this market. The opportunity to include packaged liquor sales like a bottle of wine, beer, or cocktail components with ‘to go’ orders are an easy revenue enhancement and guest convenience. Hotels will continue to pursue this where jurisdictions allow. With dining at home comes opportunity to reach guests through online delivery platforms, and the ability to consistently deliver a seamless process and quality product will become an expectation.

As days go by in which some hotels sit vacant, money is being burned. This unfortunate byproduct of COVID-19 has required savvy hoteliers to discover creative ways to repurpose these now underused spaces. Many hotels provided housing for first responders and essential workers. As the general public has continued to adjust to this new way of living, we are seeing less of this need. Hoteliers are now focused on gaining extra revenue from guests who want month to month apartment-like units. Because hotels are set up with high-speed internet and a work-friendly desk, they have also made a fairly easy transition to co-working spaces and business offices.

Hoteliers are expected to continue this alternative use trend in 2021 if it fits into their broader business and performance strategies. We also anticipate that the hotels with restaurants will continue to implement dramatic changes in the way they serve their customers. In addition to being a “contactless” food and beverage service facility, drinks and foods will be available in three distinctly different ways: outdoor dining, indoor dining with distancing and “grab and go.”

The writer is the CEO and Founder of PrideInn Group of Hotels and chair of Kenya Coast Working Group