Preparing for the Recovery
25 March, 2021
Is the Hospitality Industry Ready to Welcome Guests?
By Jason Sterns, Vice President, Transparent BPO
While a lot of people are waiting to exhale, business leaders are holding their breath. And they’re holding their breath for one reason – they don’t know if their business is ready for the post-pandemic world.
They know there is a future. They also know the future will be different.
Predictions abound about what the business world is going to look like once economies open up.
In its 2021 Global Economic Prospects, the World Bank reported that with successful pandemic control and a faster vaccination process, global growth could accelerate to nearly 5 percent. It also found the damage to the global economy has been slightly less severe than previously projected mainly due to shallower contractions in advanced economies. So, the upside conclusion is that as the fragile global recovery gains traction, it will set the foundation for robust growth.
Closer to home in the United States, economist Sean Snaith, the director of the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Economic Forecasting says pent-up demand will spur Americans to spend considerably more in 2021. In the institute’s first quarter projections for 2021, it predicts spending will accelerate at 5.4 percent this year.
“Consumers are powering this recovery, and as the effects of the pandemic fade, consumer confidence will rise in tow,” says Snaith.
Impact on Travel & Hospitality Industry
Hotel owners and operators are taking note. They’re expecting consumers to leave their pandemic hideaways and hit the road, at least domestically. The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) reports that it found that heading into 2021, consumers are optimistic about travel, with 56% of Americans saying they are likely to travel for leisure or vacations in 2021. That’s a lot of people occupying a lot of hotel rooms.
In the AHLA’s State of the Hotel Industry 2021 report, it found that hotels will add 200,000 jobs in 2021. While this number of jobs is short of the industry’s pre-pandemic levels, the underlying issue is recruiting employees who understand the business and know what consumers are expecting.
With a sudden surge of domestic bookings, consumers will be flocking online and calling their favorite brands to seek out the best deals for their families. Hotel operators may be hard-pressed to find knowledgeable employees who understand the industry and, more importantly, customer service.
We understand the importance of ramping up operations quickly and putting the right people in the right jobs and equipping them with the right training. As a leading customer care provider, Transparent BPO has a track record of ensuring travelers get the information they need when they need it.
And the indicators are strongly hinting that consumer spending will outpace business travel at our hotels and resorts in the near term. Scott McCartney, The Middle Seat columnist for the Wall Street Journal recently wrote that he expects big corporate hotels will find ways to diversify as leisure destinations until traditional business travel resumes.
“With more people taking vacations to nearby domestic destinations rather than venturing abroad post-pandemic, big hotels can fill rooms with leisure travelers,” he wrote.
While Scott sees sign of a resurgence in the travel industry, the main players in the industry are sitting up and taking notice what is happening. Executives at the largest airlines are seeing a path out of the pandemic as more travelers hit the road – or more specifically – walk down the aisle to their assigned seat.
Ed Bastian, CEO of Delta Air Lines, told industry analysts recently the airline began seeing an uptick in bookings in late February that continued well into March. He interprets it as a sign that passengers are now making plans for their summer vacations. Investors share this optimism with shares recently climbing for Delta, United Airlines and American Airlines.
With the number of new COVID-19 cases dropping and distribution of vaccines picking up, several States are relaxing restrictions to allow families to resume travel. And the venerable barometer of holiday travel, Walt Disney Company’s theme parks in Florida and California are priming the pump to welcome guests.
Hoteliers should be preparing today for the floodgates to open. It may only start as a slow trickle, but once travel opens up, the data may indicate that the pent-up desire will spread quickly. Hotel operators have to be ready. They should be sourcing experienced customer care agents today who have deep roots in hospitality or turn to a customer care operator who have these people already on staff or know how to train them quickly.
They need to have the experienced staff to ensure their guests have an experience that will keep them coming back. This is a critical time for hospitality brands. The impression they make when travelers return will stay with them long after the recovery is a distant memory.