The hospitality industry has always been a dog-eat-dog world with major hotel chains doing whatever possible to lure customers to their rooms. COVID-19 created a number of challenges for both hotel chains and independent hotels around the globe, increasing competition for customers. Those challenges have not ended in spite of the pandemic being nearly one-year-old.
Although there are some differences in terms of the issues hotel chains and independent hotels have experienced, the pandemic has provided enough similarities in the problems faced by both parties. Compared to major chains, independent hotels had to face the downturn in tourism first and many did not have the financial ability to weather the storm. Those that have weathered the issues are now looking for a way to rebound.
Hotel owners big and small have the ability to reshape the hospitality sector, which could leave customers benefiting the most. Customers' interests have changed due to the pandemic with travelers now seeking a safe, secure place to stay on their holiday.
For most people, travel ground to a halt in March 2020 when the pandemic began hitting Europe and North America in waves. Most travelers likely have little idea of what changes hotels, both chain and independent, have taken since COVID-19 became a part of our everyday lexicon as they have not booked a stay.
There has been a fear that hotels are breeding grounds for COVID-19. Regardless of whether or not a fellow traveler has the virus, worries linger over the room being rife with bacteria left by a previous guest or hotel staff.
The first thing that should be noted is that coronavirus is known to primarily spread through person-to-person contact. It is more likely a traveler will contract the virus from another guest at a hotel, as these are gathering places, rather than from the remote control or pillow.
Travelers should keep in mind that most people who carry coronavirus have no symptoms at all. It can take up to six days to develop symptoms, therefore, a hotel client could actually have the virus without knowing it. So, what are the steps both hotel chains and independent hotels are taking to stop the spread of infection?
For many people, confidence in hotels is low and many travelers no longer trust the cleanliness of hotels. But hotels big and small are working to keep customers safe. Measures such as leaving rooms vacant for up to 72 hours after a guest checks out, having staff wear masks, reception workers stand behind plexiglass partitions and removing minibars from hotel rooms are all some of the ways hotels are working to keep travelers safe.
Add in one-way systems, temperature checks, and other the season's measures, and hotels are trying to get travelers back into their rooms. Customer confidence is likely to return as cases around the world decrease. However, not all hotels have implemented the same measures around the globe.
Marriott, one of the world’s largest hotel chains, offers guests the chance to learn about most of their hotels through the “What to expect” page on its website. Potential guests can search for their Marriott location and find out what amenities such as the swimming pool, fitness room, and restaurant and bar are open. This gives travelers just a little more knowledge about accommodation before booking.
Hilton Hotels are dedicated to cleanliness through the Lysol Protection Program. The hotel chain has implemented procedures such as app-based check-ins for Hilton Honors members, spacious seating in communal areas to keep guests apart, and rooms closed with CleanStay seals after being cleaned and disinfected.
Fellow hotel chain Wyndham has implemented more frequent cleaning of high-touch/high-traffic areas along with social distancing measures to keep guests from coming into contact. Hygiene training for staff has also been implemented and healthcare essentials are available on site. Hyatt updated its COVID-19 policies making face masks and facial coverings mandatory at indoor and outdoor public areas of hotels. The chain has also introduced a new cancellation procedure allowing guests to cancel their booking up to 24 hours before arrival.
In all, major hotel chains have worked hard to not only update their procedures but to alert potential guests to the precautions they have taken.
Hotel chains are likely to be the big winners when the COVID-19 pandemic ends. According to GlobalData, a company that collects and analyzes data on various industries, independent hotels are likely to struggle post-COVID-19 – if they are not already. Their struggle will enable hotel chains to expand at a faster rate due to a lack of competition in the marketplace.
Global Data claims that independent hotels are decreasing and have been over the last few decades. Some of the independent hotels that do exist have partnered with hotel chains, and that trend could continue.
Major hotel chains have the financial ability to invest heavily into various areas. One of those areas is cleanliness as travelers seek to stay in a hotel that is deemed safe. Technology is another prime area in which hotel chains can invest as younger generations of travelers want accommodation providing the latest tech trends.
The choice of which hotel to choose from is down to the traveler. However, it doesn’t take much to understand that independent hotels will be hit hard once the COVID-19 pandemic ends and travel ramps back up. Hotel chains have the infrastructure to market and advertise the changes they made due to the pandemic. Customers will be able to hear and see the hygiene changes that have been implemented by the biggest hotels around the globe through advertising.
Independent hotels do not have the same financial ability to market or implement changes. Struggling to outline new protocol through marketing could see independent hotels fail to attract customers. But that doesn’t mean the independently owned brands are not worthy of your money.
Right now, the travel and tourism industry is a buyer’s market. This means you are likely to get a good deal on a holiday. Of course, travel restrictions may prevent you from flying off to a vacation destination. A simple search of Oyo Rooms, a hospitality chain based in India, offers very competitively priced stays in major cities around the world. The prices on offer are just begging for customers to book a stay. To relax travelers’ minds, Oyo Rooms has used the tagline: “India’s best online hotel booking site for sanitized rooms.” The marketing is likely to ease worries for some travelers.
Hotel chains are more likely to offer deals and packages to customers. Chains offer more bang for a customer’s buck compared to an independent group, who is fighting to stay in business.
Choosing whether to stay at a hotel chain or an independent hotel is truly down to your preference. If you prefer to help keep independent brands in the business, then you should book accommodation with an independent hotel. The cleanliness protocols and deals are likely to be similar to hotel chains. In some cases, the offers could be better.
Hotel chains and major brands will be able to put their financial might behind marketing and ensuring high standards are kept in terms of cleanliness. They are also likely to heavily market deals and offers on stays. In the end, the choice of choosing the right hotel is down to your preferences and confidence in cleanliness.
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