4 Ways the Hotel Experience Will Look and Feel Different
As much of the country moves on to their second round of vaccinations, travelers are taking steps to returning to the open road. What used to be old hat — getting on an airplane, stepping into a lobby, etc. — will feel new again. It will be a little scary while at the same time exhilarating, hotel chains like Hilton are expecting.
The trick will be balancing all the new with the old, so traveling seems as easy as getting back on a bicycle — even if the path has been altered. Any sense of normalcy will be welcomed.
“After a year without travel, people are excited to get moving, but they are out of practice,” said Matt Schuyler, chief brand officer at Hilton. “Many will be seeking out ‘comfort travel,’ with a return to familiar places and brands.”
While independent hotels new to the scene may have a thing to say about that, there is something to be said for familiar touches like DoubleTree Hotels’ famous cookies.
Here are a few ways the hotel experience may change forever — or until new trends emerge.
Cleaning Will Be in Your Face
On one hand, hotel guests can expect to see fewer housekeepers in their rooms during a stay. But cleaning services often hidden from view will now be present for all to see as a reassurance that a property’s priorities are in the right place. “At its core, I think hospitality is about welcoming guests and anticipating their needs, cleanliness being one of those most important factors,” noted Phil Cordell, Hilton’s senior vice president of brand development.
Look for seals on doors to signal thorough cleanings and for cleaning crews to be more visible. As part of Hilton CleanStay and other company’s programs, guests will be in control when, if and how they interact with cleaning.
The Lobby Illusion
Hotel designers face the task of allowing for more space without making it so obvious that guests feel additional nerves regarding coronavirus. Look for new, subtle ways that the lines between outdoor and indoor space are blurred. Attractive decorations and informational screens will act as dividers, while seating designs at bars and restaurants will be more customizable. “Everyone traveling today has a heightened sense of awareness of their own personal space,” predicted Larry Traxler, senior vice president of global design.
Little did Hilton know when it launched its Honors app in 2015 that features like a digital key and the ability to use your phone as a remote control for TVs, thermometers and lights would take on such importance. Digital keys are now available in 80% of Hilton hotels, allowing the company to focus on improving its offerings rather than start from scratch. “Fortunately, we are way ahead of the industry,” said Mike Gathright, Hilton’s senior vice president of customer experience.
Events, in particular, will be dining differently. Conrad DC has replaced buffet sets with individually portioned food presented more artfully than an attendee piling scoops on a plate. Look for virtual wine tastings and other Zoom-inspired experiences to evolve into to-go cocktail pouches and high-end grab-and-go meal sets. Luxury will remain, but like everything, it will look a little different.