City Lodge Hotel Group says the Covid-19 pandemic has caused significant changes in the environment for consumers and businesses and will continue to impact hotel business strategies long after the threat of the virus has receded.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has changed life as we know it, probably forever,” he said.
The hotel chain, which has 63 hotels under management and more than 8,000 rooms, said recent changes in consumer behavior and travel habits include large-scale digital adoption.
A consumer survey for Skift and Oracle’s 2020 Hospitality Recovery report found that more than 68% of travelers expected “self-service, contactless check-in options” for their future stays at the hotel. “Technology can enhance a guest’s luxury and convenience experience while unlocking efficiencies for the hotel,” he said.
He noted that average occupancy rates have fluctuated between 26% and 28% in 2021 to date.
The way hotels operate and serve customers has also changed, the group said. Many travelers only book accommodation if they are satisfied that health and hygiene policies are in place, often favoring accommodation with strict disinfection and monitoring procedures.
Consumers’ work and leisure habits have also changed. In November 2020, a McKinsey & Company analysis estimated that up to 20% of the global workforce could continue to work from home even after the pandemic.
“This indicates a significant adjustment in the way these employees plan their vacations and business trips and how they will select their accommodation. People may be looking to book longer trips that combine business with pleasure, more than they have ever done before. “
He said the trend is also towards localized travel, which is easier, safer and often more sustainable for the customer. CLHG said it had evidence of both of these trends.
“In particular, the group welcomes a growing number of customers living 5 km from their CLHG destination and simply looking for a change of scenery. Durban has grown in popularity as it is easily accessible by road from much of South Africa. Air travel is perceived to carry a higher risk of infection than travel by car.
Aware of the environment
In line with pre-Covid-19 trends, the group said it expects to see a more environmentally conscious mindset in 2021 and beyond.
“The pandemic has made people aware of their impact on the environment and local communities. These changes in attitude are reflected in the way travelers choose their hotel, customers favor environmentally friendly construction, energy savings and good waste management practices.
In response, CLHG said it continues to move forward on its sustainability journey by exploring both minor and major methods of reducing its carbon footprint while improving operational efficiency to save resources. “The new hydration stations and the brand new range of equipment in our hotels limit the landfill of single-use plastic waste. “
The chain launched a new line of single-use plastic-free equipment and introduced hydration stations for free magnesium-enriched filtered water, reducing the need to purchase bottled water.
Group CEO Andrew Widegger said: “We have taken advantage of the quieter time to implement several innovations in improved health and safety protocols, exciting new food offerings, digitization, eco-friendly solutions. environment and a range of special offers that allow customers to access our top-of-the-range premium services for less.
CLHG introduced a range of in-place and take-out dining options, as well as contactless solutions such as online check-in, QR codes for menus and WhatsApp communication with staff.
“When operations slowed, we took the opportunity to explore and implement improvements to CLHG’s business model, operations, messaging and pricing methodology,” he said. “In our new Courtyard Hotel Waterfall City, bedroom doors, air conditioners and televisions are now cell-phone controllable. “
“We are currently operating in an exceptionally low occupancy environment which shifts competition towards pricing and promotions. Coupled with discounts already prevalent in the hospitality industry, the price cuts are putting downward pressure on the group’s revenues and profitability, ”said Widegger.
“By far the most significant efficiency introduced during this period has been our new revenue management model, which flexibly adapts room rates to demand. Data from CLHG’s new AI feeds into our BAR methodology, enabling each hotel to respond to market trends.
CLHG said Covid-19 has accelerated the infusion of new technologies and applications into hotel operations. Technological features that could have been introduced as novelties or additional conveniences are becoming necessities in an age when some people are hesitant to even step out of their doors.
“As we enter the ‘new normal’ and hotels reopen their doors, customer experience expectations are higher than ever. One of the biggest highlights of the year was the launch of our AI-driven predictive demand analysis tool to help general managers understand demand trends and determine the best available room rates for customers, ”he said.
Poor service delivery
Poor service delivery, limited investments in infrastructure and funding problems have crippled the ability of South African municipalities to provide water and electricity to taxpayers. “The inconsistent water supply and unreliable electricity supply affects hotel operations and guest relations,” he said.
Shareholder returns are also compromised by increases in rates and additional property taxes in conjunction with above-inflation growth in the cost of water and electricity, he said. As a result, the group decided to adopt the following:
- Reduce dependence on the national energy grid with solar installations in 25 hotels.
- Installation of emergency diesel generators in hotels.
- Research of alternative water and energy supply options.
- Maintain sustainable energy management programs in each hotel that focus on operational and technical efficiency.
- Use of borehole water for property maintenance in some South African hotels.
For arriving customers, they can expect the following procedures:
- Health checks for guests and staff at the entrance to buildings, which includes hand sanitization, temperature control and a questionnaire.
- Social distancing signaling and application of best practices by hotel management.
- Specialized deep cleaning using a leading polycidic chemical.
- Strict room cleaning policies to eliminate cross contamination between rooms.
- Individually wrapped catering service to ensure you receive a tasty meal with limited risk.
- Continuous training to keep staff informed and up to date with best practices.
- Periodic independent risk assessment audits related to Covid-19 by FCS, a reputable third party.
- Personal protective equipment, such as face masks, gloves and aprons, must be worn by staff at all times. Guests should wear face masks in public areas at all times.
Read: Here’s a look at hotel occupancy rates in South Africa