Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

What’s next for hospitality?

By Victoria Buchanan, Executive Creative Director at Tribal Worldwide.

Compared to previous years, the hospitality industry of 2020 is almost unrecognisable. Although there are significant challenges that still need to be overcome, the industry is currently facing a unique opportunity to pilot new services and develop new offerings. As we head into the next iteration of hospitality, technology is leading the way – and there have been some fantastic examples of innovation already appearing as the industry adapts.

My recent UK holiday was really the perfect case study for the future of hospitality. In August 2020, my family and one dog escaped to Pembrokeshire. To start our holiday, I received a text, “Hello, can’t wait for you to join us today.” I checked myself in online and the keycode and address was sent to my phone.

Settled into our accommodation, I went to the bakery to pick up supplies. I had used their click and collect feature on their website. My order was ready and bagged when I arrived. For dinner, we booked online a table at the local pizza restaurant. We ordered food and drink on the restaurant’s website and paid online. I received a text message with my order confirmation and again when my pizzas were ready, so I walked to the counter to pick them up. My family and I enjoyed the experience, atmosphere and the food.

My holiday was smooth, easy, enjoyable and overall a totally great digitally connected experience. I didn’t intentionally hunt down non-contact digital experiences, but the businesses I dealt with were smart, up to date and ready to give me the best experience they could in COVID times. I did not touch a menu, sign a piece of paper, get handed a key, wait for service, queue in a foyer, feel hurried or disappointed.

These small, agile local businesses had thought through what I needed, what they needed and given it to me within legal government guidelines. Plus, my enjoyment and the overall experience had evidently been considered by all of them throughout my journeys.

Now is the perfect time for the hospitality industry to design or redesign their experiences around customers. We’ve already seen plenty of temporary solutions implemented and working in the middle of lockdown, but the companies that can transform these into a more permanent offering will be more successful at weathering the storms to come. We’re lucky to have the technology to help hospitality to transform as an industry.

This new hospitality world cannot be totally devoid of the human element. As well as providing the right offering at the right time in the right context, businesses need to make sure they’re providing a good quality experience. Everything from friendly language or kind words, to beautiful, delicious imagery and good stories all have a role to play in providing the best total experience. This should also be combined with the more technological aspects– pre-filled data, easy shortcuts and instinctive navigation all designed and built in.

So as COVID pushes this industry further into the future, we can be sure that the future of hospitality will likely revolve around two key elements – technology and experience. While now is the time for businesses to embrace new opportunities to transform, reinvent, and adjust, the customer experience must remain at the heart of any thinking. Those that fail to do so will be resigned to the history of hospitality, not the future.