Customers want to travel again, and the hospitality industry must note their needs
Tourism in South Africa is recovering, with an increased volume of arrivals for both local residents and foreign travelers. With the removal of the final COVID-19 restrictions, this is expected to increase further, especially in coastal areas, which have become increasingly popular with remote workers, as they offer a better quality of life. To take advantage of this uptick, it’s crucial for hoteliers and short-term rental owners to note that guest expectations have changed as a result of the pandemic.
Tourism in South Africa is recovering, with an increased volume of arrivals for both local residents and foreign travelers. With the removal of the final COVID-19 restrictions, this is expected to increase further, especially in coastal areas, which have become increasingly popular with remote workers, as they offer a better quality of life. To take advantage of this uptick, it’s crucial for hoteliers and short-term
rental owners to note that guest expectations have changed as a result of the pandemic.
The pandemic ushered in the era of offering flexible cancellations. When new travel restrictions can be imposed at a moment’s notice, guests may be unwilling to book accommodation with strict or moderate cancellation policies. Accommodation providers have no choice but to embrace the last-minute nature with which guests book. Gone are the days of looking at next year’s forward bookings.
Digital nomads are the new business travelers
Telecommuting has exploded since the start of the pandemic, as evidenced by the increase in daily active users on Microsoft Teams from 75 million users in 2020 to 145 million in 2021. Businesses are becoming more accepting of remote workers, which has resulted in an upsurge in digital nomads traveling the globe and staying in places for weeks or months at a time. Properties that can offer dedicated workspaces and high-speed internet are much more likely to get booked.
Becoming loadshedding proof
With loadshedding being the new normal, properties need to offer solutions that minimize the impact on guests. This ranges from special lamps and bulbs to inverters that can power internet routers. Installing these is a great way to be set apart from other listings at the moment.
Stand out, don’t be standard
Today’s guests are looking for something special beyond the standard stock hotel room, prompting the hospitality industry to experiment with their offerings. Hotel chains are expected to jump on this trend to make their properties unique and, in doing so, use their assets more efficiently. An example of this could be renting out a hotel room during the day for use as a home office and hiring it out to a traveler at night.
Automate or stagnate
Soon, the days of guests picking up the phone or walking down to reception to speak with staff at hospitality establishments will be no longer. They are increasingly wanting their communication to be instant and digital, sparking the need to automate processes to assist guests and enhance their experience. Guests nowadays prefer to interact via WhatsApp and chatbots and the industry needs to catch up. This needs to be done in such a way that communications don’t become robotic. Guests still expect a personal touch for certain types of interactions, even if they are automated or executed electronically. Automate highly structured communication, giving teams more opportunities to spend quality time with guests on things that computers don’t handle well yet, such as planning a custom itinerary and talking about missed expectations. Use tech to alert yourself to opportunities where you can help guests. For example, automatically flag certain keywords like ‘anniversary’, birthday’ or ‘locked out’ and then notify the guest experience team. The guest experience now starts before arrival, whereas before they would only be focused on once they were in-house. Through automated communication, guests can also be upsold extras like tours, additional cleans or a stocked fridge to enhance their stay even before they set foot through the door, and these can be handled quickly and seamlessly.
Advances in technology will not only benefit the guests but property owners and professional hosts too. Pricing algorithms are becoming increasingly sophisticated and can adjust pricing to capitalise on specific demand spikes. For example, a premium could automatically be applied to one-night gaps in the calendar to make those bookings more worthwhile. Internet of Things tech will also be able to synch an establishment’s calendar and switch the geyser on or off to save on electricity. Additionally, automatic inventory checks based on photographs will cut down the time it takes to check properties. Some of these technologies are already in existence and others are not too far off. Over the past six months alone, booking levels have returned to what they were pre-COVID. In a year or two from now, it is anticipated that the hospitality industry will play a big part in helping economies recover, but players in the space need to be ready by responding to guests’ changing needs.