From Point A to B: Travel and Hospitality in the New Normal
As head of the Customer Experience Lab, I am naturally curious about consumer behavior and how that links with our behavior research across various sectors. One way to improve our understanding is to put ourselves in shoes of consumers interacting with companies and then explore the big picture regarding upcoming trends. With this objective, I remain dedicated to observing and experiencing the latest customer experience trends and changes in various sectors. Today, we focus on the travel and hospitality industry.
Ah, traveling! Going on a holiday! Taking a leisure trip for a much-deserved rest and relaxation! Dear reader, remember those? It’s a different world we’re all living in now, after a global pandemic halted the way we live our lives. For most industries, it’s almost expected to face business disruption during these challenging times, however—given the strict lockdowns and social distancing implemented in almost every country to prioritize health and safety—moving from point A to point B wasn’t entirely the easiest, and the travel and hospitality industry may have experienced the most setback.
As we all tread carefully into this “new normal,” we slowly pick up where we left off. Traveling is made possible nowadays, as long as we adhere to strict protocols on social distancing, personal hygiene, and safety. With this being said, I would like to share a couple of observations that I took note of as I travelled for the first time outside of my home in today’s new normal setting, post-pandemic.
A quick background—my daughter and I were both celebrating our birthdays, and all we wanted to do was to escape for a bit. As we live in Florida, we are lucky to have great beaches and places to go.During the entire last semester we kept talking about how a year ago on our birthdays, we went to a hotel on Marco Island, which is about two hours away from where we live. So we took the plunge, got a day with a good price, and we all went to a hotel which we love and knew well. Here are a couple of observations for our quasi-staycation:
Stay local: With all the travel restrictions and angst over getting on a plane, staying close by and within local vicinities can give travelers a chance to relax close to home. Another great advantage: much lower costs vs flying!
Comfort travel: During the pandemic, we spoke about what we would be forever grateful for, and one of the many things that got mentioned was family vacations. Today, it’s easier not to take things for granted and be thankful for familiarity, given all the uncertainty that we’ve all been through this rough year. For me, going to a familiar place was as good as having homemade soup as it brought good memories.
Check-in has changed: Hotels surely revamped their websites and focused clearly on communicating better with customers. Of course, the key selling points for this hotel was the reduced capacity, safety, and healthy precautions. We received detailed information regarding what had changed, precautions taken, and rules.
Digital is king: I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again—from QR codes, reaching customer service through social media, to touchless payments, digital is seizing the day. Once you get over the hurdles of using a new digital platform, it becomes so much easier to point, click, and order!
Mobile app rules: I never really felt a need for a hotel app but nowadays, there are many added benefits, and QR codes and daily schedules make a much more compelling proposition now. We also liked how less paper was being used to print menus and we can use the mobile app for transactions. I really hope this change sticks.
“Eau de Clorox”: The room in our hotel during our tiny vacation was very clean, and the scent we encountered wasn’t that of lavender, lemongrass, nor citrus, it was cleaning products. We called it “Eau de Clorox.” Today, the smell of professional-grade cleaning products is a must, and also a key marketing point—what better way to proclaim cleanliness and safety than through the senses!
Reduced tourism: Last time we went to this place we met people from out of town, but this time around most guests lived within three hours. The impact of not having the regular flux of summertime tourists from different corners of the world was palpable.
Patience is a virtue: Given the many changes because of living in a post-pandemic setting, things take longer given reduced capacity and hours of operation. We were so relieved to be out and about, and we realized the huge changes occurring around us. In turn, we had greater empathy and patience when things take longer than usual. Guests seemed to have more patience as well and compassion.
Alcohol everywhere: Not talking about the drinking kind! There were hand sanitizer stations, alcohol gel bottles, and wipe dispensers everywhere. We were only a step away from somewhere to have clean hands and practice good hygiene at all times, which brings us comfort and security.
Mask it up: As masks have become ubiquitous, they are also becoming a fashion statement nowadays with cute options for kids, matching family masks, masks coordinated with clothes, and masks for specific teams or interests. And on this note—don’t forget to wear your mask everywhere you go!
At the end, we felt energized and relaxed even if I left my bubble for only 24 hours. My daughter remarked that for an hour there, she almost forgot about COVID-19, and the experience reminded her that this too shall pass, and we will have a new way of living.
Here’s to hoping that the steps we make today to slowly get back up after a challenging time can lead to brighter days ahead.
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