In what way is the hospitality industry influenced by our guest’s expectations?
In my opinion, the hospitality industry is definitely influenced by guest expectations. This is due to the fact that the main purpose of this industry is to provide a service to our guests. I always like to look at it in a way that if you actually compare the hospitality industry to that of the human body, the guest is the heart of the industry and therefore, without the guests, the industry will not be able to function properly. In fact, it would not exist. So, with that being said, the industry prides itself on exceeding guest expectations and going above the norm in doing so. It is also noticeable that each establishment has taken pride in providing a memorable and lasting experience for its guests in an attempt to exceed these expectations. For this to be achieved, I think that success always lies in the smallest of efforts and at the end of the day, that's what makes the biggest difference.
However, on the other hand, we know the industry is always changing and there are always new things coming along. As people evolve, so does the industry, so I think that the industry will always somewhat be dependent on the expectations of our guests. An example I like to give is if you can think of when a guest is checking in to your property and you know that they are celebrating a birthday, either upon check-in or during their stay. You know you have the opportunity to create a wow factor for your guests. This can come from the smallest act such as filling their room with balloons. This will be a way of going beyond their expectations. Therefore, it is important to always know your guests.
Although this was a simple example, I do believe that this industry is heavily influenced by expectations as well as the latest trends which ultimately, would affect what guests are wanting. Like I said earlier, we need to go above and beyond for our guests.
How are guest expectations shaping the industry?
For me, if you had to compare the industry of today to what it was 100 years ago, even if you had to look at ten to five years ago, you will notice that there's a big difference in how the industry operates. This is due to the simple fact that we, as humans, are always evolving and therefore, so will the industry. If you look at today's generation, we are intrigued by the modernization of things and the advanced technology we have today. As a result of this, guests expect the industry to follow suit. A perfect example of how the industry is shaped by guest expectations is if you look at artificial intelligence that has been introduced and slowly implemented into the industry. For me, hospitality technology is already a rising movement and will inevitably change our industry forever.
Again, as we know, the world changes and so will guest expectations - so will our industry. If you look at today's situation or the predicament, we are in with COVID-19, guests will now expect different things from our industry as to what they expected a couple of months ago. As I mentioned earlier, the hospitality industry strives to exceed guest expectations. Therefore, we really have no choice but to change accordingly.
How, in your opinion, will COVID-19 cause a shift in guests’ expectations?
I find this question very interesting. With this whole pandemic, people have constantly been saying that they can't wait to go back to their normal lives and how things used to be a couple of months ago. However, we all know that in some way, coming out of this lockdown, there will be a new normal that awaits us. So, it is my opinion that when the industry reopens, there will be a window of uncertainty in which we need to figure out how guests will be treated. Our guests want to be able to interact and they want to be able to socialize without having the restriction of being away from their friends. That is what we have known, and we want the freedom to act without worry. However, I do believe that this virus will cause an inevitable shift, but this will be focused more on the hygiene and health and safety aspect of hospitality and ensuring you know the area is safe for the guests.
Looking at it this way, prior to the virus, guests’ expectations leaned more towards things of a tangible nature of materialistic value. When someone books a hotel room, they look at things like does the hotel have a pool, location, service rating, etc. It is my personal belief that there will now be more of a mental shift that will take place. Guests will put less focus on the materialistic aspects of a hotel and will look more at the hygiene rating and COVID policy of the establishment. These factors will now become paramount on booking platforms such as booking.com and Expedia.
It would be interesting to see how the industry responds and navigates this shift in mindset because, at the end of the day, we as humans are very unpredictable. We like what we like because that is what we know and that is what we are comfortable with. For example, going shopping has now changed. We can already see barriers forming through masks and gloves. Will this barrier have a significant impact on our industry? Because if you had to go to the restaurant, would you want to sit with a mirror in between you and your friend? We need suitable ways and means to ease this mental panic, especially as the industry has so much foot traffic.
Do you think hospitality establishments are well suited to meeting these expectations?
I don't know whether the hospitality establishments will be well suited to meeting guest expectations within the new norm. On one side, yes, they will be because you know there will be SOPs put in place to ensure the new standards are covered. In that sense, yes, the hospitality establishment will be well suited to combat corona. As I mentioned previously, there will be a mind shift that will take place that will put the focus on hygiene and safety. Yes, the establishment can get a certificate stating that they meet all requirements. This would then be advertised on all outlets, but at the end of the day, we could find it to be a challenge to convince the potential guest that it is worth staying at the property. As I said, I don’t know because humans are unpredictable. You can deep clean a place, but it comes down to “am I willing to risk going to a restaurant or staying at a hotel where the foot traffic is so large”. This holds huge potential for me to catch COVID. No matter what the certificate says, or the regulations put in place, guests will be affected by that mental barrier. On one hand, yes hospitality establishments will be well suited to handling COVID but on the other hand, will they be well suited to convincing guests to trust them and come back? Only time will tell.