Digitisation, privatisation and “staycations” were among a variety of strategies adopted by luxury hoteliers to reinvent themselves through the pandemic. That was the finding from the latest case study carried out by the Swiss business school Glion Institute of Higher Education, in partnership with luxury travel community, Traveller Made, to gauge the status of the hospitality sector.
This year Glion’s Bachelor students looked into how hotels responded to the COVID-19 pandemic and managed to reawaken their businesses.
“New, creative ideas were quickly implemented in order to respond to the crisis, resulting in the delivery of high end, innovative services and products to a demanding ultra-wealthy clientele,” Traveller Made reported.
According to feedback from hoteliers and survey results of 250 customers focused on their expectations during the pandemic, among the keys finds were:
Enhanced experience through Technology
Hotels had to rethink their marketing strategy and review their in-house technology platform to keep a link with their clients. Digitalisation gave path to new ways of welcoming guests and providing high-end customer services while implementing worldwide sanitary measures on property [see below example from Palazzo Versace Dubai] and training staff on digital tools.
Contactless concierge services, infrared wall monitors, density sensors, robots and drones along with smart marketing tools such as chat bots and augmented reality enhanced the customer experience which became more direct and secure. Hoteliers managed to increase their direct bookings by having a far-reaching digital presence. Booking applications were rapidly created with this same goal in mind.
Out-of-the-customer-box services and products
According to Glion’s findings, hoteliers adapted their offering and went beyond previous boundaries.
Changing the room’s function was one of the key factors that helped hoteliers propose new services. Turning empty rooms that were not being sold to international clients into other products adapted to essential local market needs (such as standalone pop-up restaurants, individual out-of-work home spaces) was the common strategy. Staycations – [such as that offered by Kimpton La Peer, West Hollywood – see right] – with in-room cooking class or diner experience demand increased by 80%, workation office packages were released and ‘Click and Collect’ restaurant offers emerged.
The implementation of functional, outdoor spaces to retain their customers and keep the property active was also key. Open-air concerts, micro-events and privatised dining options are part of the new experiences that emerged. There was also a growing trend towards developing packages combining vaccination and vacation.
Health and safety training programs
In response to the pandemic, enhanced protocols were implemented at the property level, enabling hotel staff to react appropriately when dealing with demanding guests.
Emotional Intelligence training along with physical and mental health support programs were also offered to the staff to guarantee a seamless customer experience.
Quentin Desurmont, Traveller Made President said: “Our industry is currently facing four challenges: Value Capture, Recruitment and Talent Retention, Technology and Sustainability”.
“It is essential to empower youth to take part in the discussion and support their contribution to the recovery efforts. We are delighted to partner with Glion Institute of Higher Education for just this reason; be inspired by the younger generation who show us their vision of the future hospitality industry.
“With them Traveller Made is determined to propose solutions and innovative projects that will help the hospitality community to outer perform in the coming years,” Desurmont said.
Georgette Davey, Managing Director of Glion Institute of Higher Education said partnerships between education institutes and the industry develop invaluable benefits to all partners.
“Students gain an opportunity of applying years of academic knowledge to business challenges and look for solutions which actually make a difference in the industry. Business partners, on the other hand, are provided with innovative and fresh ideas as well as outside perspective on the challenges that they are facing.”
Lead image: Private Dining Balcony Party, Pier One Sydney Harbour, Autograph Collection | Credit: Pier One Sydney Harbour.