The social conundrum

Hotels have increasingly been branded and marketed around concepts like large communal public spaces and co-working lobbies where locals gather together alone. In the new era defined by social distancing and what I expect will become a greater concern about hygiene, what will become of these businesses known for their trendy lifestyle approaches? How will they adapt? What will lifestyle hotelkeeping look like in the years ahead? Trends are about to evolve – likely significantly.

Concepts surrounding lobby social spaces, hostels and even home-rental businesses may be redefined as the fear of being too close to strangers pervades the new world order lingers for much longer than COVID-19 itself. Will there be another pandemic – a question that will likely remain in the headlines for years to come – and how do we best prepare? Owners and brand leaders must soon reconsider their market positions for guests walking through their doors with new expectations and requirements.

Will emphasis return to guest room amenities, in-room pampering? Will room service make a huge comeback, and how might you capitalize on that? How will you position F&B and keep it as profitable as it was becoming for hotel concepts like Ace, Hoxton, Proper and the many independent hotels with social sensibilities? What will happen to wide open breakfast buffets at limited-service hotels? What will happen to the experiential movement with amenities like group yoga classes and chef’s table dining? Will consumers have short memories as in the past and return to their old socialization habits? I am not sure they will.

Getty Images
Getty Images

These are the questions you need to ask internally and via consumer research. Will technology play a more important guest-facing role, even for concepts with higher touch quotients? For example, will luxury brands like Four Seasons start installing self-check-in kiosks? What are the other tech-focused conveniences your guests will demand?

These are not simple questions to answer because underlying all of this is an enduring human spirit, to gather and toast life. But make no mistake, the way hoteliers operate is going to change as a result of this pandemic.

Start asking the questions about how your guests want to see you react, and please chime in here with how you think services and amenities will evolve.