Hotel occupancy rates have picked up a bit since they bottomed out in April and May, but for the most part, the industry is still in survival mode. Contactless check-in and room entry, stringent sanitation protocols and socially distanced dining are now must-haves, but more innovative ideas have to take root to convince many guests to book a stay.
Recently, these ideas are starting to emerge at some properties, and several of them have the potential to turn into longer-lasting trends. These are four that are worth watching in 2021.
1. Work-from-hotel packages. With office workers continuing to work remotely, hotels are inviting people to leave their home offices for change of pace and stay a day or longer. They’re setting up tech-enhanced guest rooms and small meeting rooms, complete with snacks, for both locals and “digital nomads”—those workers who may be giving up their apartment or home for a more flexible lifestyle. They can book longer stays and do business from a different city or country every month.
CitizenM, a hotel chain with locations in the U.S. and Europe, offers a corporate subscription plan for large companies. For a monthly fee of $600, one employee can work at any citizenM living room anytime they want, sleep for three nights (including a welcome drink and breakfast) and use the meeting rooms.
Resort hotels are also marketing to families with children who are currently learning remotely. They offer work spaces for the parents and educational and recreational activities for the kids in desirable destinations such as the Caribbean.
2. Cocktails to go. Several hotel chains introduced bottled and canned cocktails when they reopened for guests—a trend that limits contact at the bar and allows guests to grab a drink to enjoy in their room. Now the trend is accelerating as hotels are signaturizing their cocktails-to-go as a point of differentiation.
The Kimpton Gray Hotel in Chicago created a pop-up “bodega” at the front desk that is bookable through its new Cheers to Giving Back package. Guests can pick up a rotating bottled Concierge Cocktail that is specially crafted by the staff. The Rabbit Hole Rye Pomegranate Old Fashioned Soda, for example, was created by bartender Miguel of the hotel's rooftop bar, Boleo.
The seasonally changing cocktail series has a charity component as well. The Gray team chooses a nonprofit that benefits from the Concierge Cocktail program, such as No Kid Hungry.
3. Personal fitness trainer. With hotel gyms either off-limits or closed completely, guests are missing out on of the top amenities. According to AF&Co.+ Carbonate, a trend forecasting and hospitality marketing company, hotels are equipping rooms with wall-mounted in-room gyms that provide fitness instruction through a mirror. The Mandarin Oriental in New York City offers mirror suites with the Mirror and Tonal system. Others hotels are partnering with Peloton and providing guests access to the company’s branded fitness classes from their rooms.
4. Reimagining events. Cancellation of conferences, weddings, proms and other large events has had a devastating effect on hotel business. And it looks like these pandemic cancellations will continue into 2021. Hotels have to adapt by creating packages for small gatherings and meetings.
On the wedding front, all-inclusive packages for the bride and groom and a small group of guests can include an outdoor ceremony (weather permitting) a champagne toast, wedding cake and an overnight stay. But an essential element of any wedding now is state-of-the-art technology for live streaming. Having a Zoom account and a laptop or iPad on loan can also win over the wedding party.
The same with meetings. If 10 or fewer colleagues gather for a webinar or meeting, the spaces must be upgraded for live streaming and to accommodate virtual attendees.