In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, few industries have fallen as fast as the travel and tourism industry.
In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, few industries have fallen as fast as the travel and tourism industry. Thanks to technology, travel became affordable for many. Up to 1 billion trips were being taken per year. So, what happens when entire populations are told to shelter and how can hoteliers stand out during the pandemic?
The industry in three hotspots — past and present — are rebounding from shutdowns differently than predicted. The pandemic hit China, Italy, and the U.S. particularly hard. While private group tours are selling out within 10 seconds in China, the U.S. continues to surge with high rates of new cases daily. Nonetheless, the U.S. Travel Association remains optimistic, believing that over the long term it will be business as usual as people tend to have short memories pared with a pent-up desire to travel.
It goes without saying that those brands that prioritised cleanliness and then communicated it clearly, are at a distinct advantage. Leading the pack was Marriott International who launched their Global Cleanliness Council to promote even higher standards of cleanliness. Hilton Hotels & Resorts followed with their new CleanStay initiative, designed to redefine industry standards of cleanliness and reassure customers. They collaborated with the makers of Dettol as well as the Mayo Clinic to develop elevated processes from check-in to check-out.
Necessity is the mother of invention and nowhere has that been more succinctly displayed than at the W Abu Dhabi. Partnering with The Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi) and UFC, a COVID-free ‘Safe Zone’ was created to host UFC Fight Island over a period of five weeks. The hotel alongside Abu Dhabi received massive publicity through traditional channels like social media and more organically amongst fans and fighter’s social media. Above all, it showcased the ability to host a large gathering of people in a safe setting.
While many destinations fumbled in the dark awaiting flights to reopen, others shifted their focus to domestic travellers. Tourism Authorities in Ras Al Khaimah reported a spike in hotel bookings thanks to its Shortcation campaign. According to the Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA), the emirate currently boasts the highest RevPAR in the UAE. In fact, RAK was second in the GCC, beaten only by Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. In the Kingdom, local destinations have seen a huge flow of tourists thanks to the government’s ‘Saudi Summer’ campaign. When surveyed prior to the launch, 78% of locals said they were keen to explore the Kingdom and its historical, natural and cultural treasures.
Airbnb, who’s business model was shattered by the pandemic announced a partnership with Jony Ive and his new company LoveFrom. Apple’s former Chief Design Officer has been hired to develop new products and services for the platform. This clearly shows that they are putting the user experience at the heart of their business. Expect to see a more human-centered offering wrapped in technological innovation from the online rental company.
What is clear, is now isn’t the time to play it safe by doing what’s “normal”, because we will never know normal again. The ways in which we live, work and travel have been disrupted by new ways of being human, accelerated. Welcome to the New, Never Normal. An age that calls on brands to reconnect and reinvent on a community and societal scale. Brands must bring purpose into moments that empower, enable, comfort, and reassure their communities. Moving beyond into uncharted territories challenges us to be brighter, more resilient and braver.
With this in mind, we created four ‘territories’ to help brands best navigate this world.
EVOKE: people need reassurance, so brands need to evoke collective memories through the traditions they’ve shared with their customers.
ENRICH: brands should create continuously enriching experiences that tease curiosity, connect to community and help them escape through imagination.
EMPOWER: societal challenges can leave many with a sense of powerlessness. So brands need to become an empowering force in the world, by demonstrating authentic support for progress.
ENABLE: brands should enable people with the confidence to act in the new world, driving people towards bold new actions.
The unknown brings uncertainty, but this is no time for inaction. The industries best defence against crisis is creativity. To be resilient, your brand needs to become the beacon to a brighter future. Guiding people to new shores. Even when there is a vaccine, this pandemic has put trends in motion that cannot be stopped. It is my belief that the travel industry should be playing in the ‘Enrich’ space. That is to say that they should be creating continuously enriching experiences that tease curiosity, connect to community and help guests escape through imagination.
To begin exploring possibilities in the New, Never Normal, brands need to reframe their role in the world which in turn will help them to reconnect meaningfully to their guests and reignite belief in their employees. Asking your team the following questions to expand their perspectives on what’s important and what’s possible is a first step.
– How can you consistently thrive in a world that’s never normal?
– How can your team increase its ability to think creatively and act boldly?
– How can you break out of thinking and behaviours that have brought you this far but may not take you any further?
– How do you unite minds to overcome the new unknown?
Start here, and you would have begun the journey to thriving in the New, Never Normal.