Cheap hotel stays may be in short supply for travellers in a post-Covid-19 world.
That's because hotels could increase room rates to cover the rising costs associated with assuring hygiene levels.
"The cost of operating has gone up, team members have to be socially distanced and, looking at the entire supply chain, there are now additional costs," Amir Golbarg, vice president of hotel operations at Minor Hotels explained in a webinar at the Arabian Travel Market on Wednesday, June 3.
He said that price is no longer king when it comes to booking hotel stays. Instead, guests are now willing to spend more for safety and security.
"Price hasn't been the first priority," since the coronavirus pandemic started says the hotelier, who has brands such as Anantara and Tivoli under his remit.
“The first priority is that guests are assured that health and safety procedures are in place. Guests are calling and asking how we are meeting the standards, how we are going above and beyond, not what the price is.”
However, while some room rates will rise to cover increased hygiene costs, Golbarg also notes this will not be the case for every hotel. “The new norm is not necessarily a price increase, but it’s about how to operate in a new market.”
That's something that John Rogers, senior vice president of brands and franchise operations at Hilton agrees with.
“It’s not a given that all hotel prices will rise,” he said during the same webinar. While customers are prioritising safety over price, he points out that there is still a strong element of competition in the hotel industry. “I don’t think anyone should assume that prices will go up. It is a competitive market,” added Rogers.
But now it's the time for bargain stays
While costs may rise in the future, right now is a good time to book a hotel stay if you are looking for a bargain. That is because hotel rates have tumbled as the global pandemic has severely affected the industry.
In the Mena region, there's been an estimated 42 per cent drop in occupancy since March, according to the latest data from Colliers International.
This has resulted in several hotel groups ushering in cut-price room rates and staycation offers in a bid to get more customers through the door. With international travel currently on hold, domestic tourists have the upper hand when it comes to negotiating hotel rates right now.
Why will hygiene trump price?
Alp Aksoy, vice president at Diversey Africa, Middle East and Turkey, said that hygiene has always been important in the industry, but it's now likely to trump price, at least for a while.
“There is no way, even with the cheapest of prices, that you would knowingly go and stay in a dirty hotel," said Aksoy, whose company provides cleaning and hygiene products across the hospitality industry.
Travellers are looking for transparency and communication in a world beyond Covid-19 and will be willing to pay more for this sense of security.
“We already know that the riskiest items in a hotel room are the remote control, the doorknob or the light switches. At the elevator, it’s the buttons – all surfaces that are touched by individuals very frequently. Right now, on top of what’s always been done, what is really changing, is that we are sharing and confirming these procedures with customers," he explains.
Higher visibility when it comes to cleaning procedures and clear initiatives like having stickers on high-contact surfaces to assure guests they've just been cleaned, are key to building trust for future travellers.
A contactless future
Travellers are also more likely to prefer tech-driven services in the future over face-to-face interaction. But in the world of luxury travel, how can hotels balance physical distancing with the level of personalisation tourists have come to expect.
“The traditional way of operating was very physical, it all used to be face-to-face contact,” explains Golbarg. However, the industry has already been shifting to a new way of operating as it has had to adapt to attract younger, tech-savvy generations using increased technology.
“Now it’s all about curating experiences, and that doesn’t mean physical contact. It is about cleverly creating these from a contactless concierge service. “
Golbarg predicts that the hotel stays of tomorrow will see a tech-driven transformation where there is a noted increase in contactless experiences.
“Traditionally, classic luxury would have a butler or villa host staying with you, now guests don’t want that. If they want something, then the host is there [for that request], but otherwise they are not, and digital apps allow this to happen. I think that moving forward there is going to be a shift more and more into that space.”