By Colin Hannan, Co-Founder, Proven Partners
After a devastating 2020, the hotel industry is starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel as COVID-19 vaccination programs roll out around the world. Yet for most destinations, it’s unlikely that a return to pre-pandemic levels of occupancy will be achieved anytime soon. The borders of many countries remain closed, restrictions are still in place in many tourism hotspots, and the vaccine program will take many months before it takes effect. According to McKinsey, forecasts predict a return to 2019 occupancy levels won’t be achieved until 2023 or beyond. As a result, hotels are in a state of limbo with many businesses struggling to survive the ongoing financial shock of the pandemic.
Rather than waiting and hoping, many hotels are taking this as an opportunity to innovate—to reimagine hotel space for post-pandemic tourism or to capitalise on opportunities for revenue outside of their traditional channels. To help get your creative brainstorm going, here are some of the most interesting and innovative alternative uses for hotels.
#1 – Quarantine Centres
Not everyone can effectively quarantine—yet many people are required to by law or because they work in a high-risk environment and do not want to expose their families to the virus. Even as the vaccine becomes more widely available, people will still have to quarantine while restrictions remain in place—something that is likely for the next 6-12 months.
Hotels have the amenities, space and services to become effective quarantine centres for people who are travelling in and out of the country, who are working in high-risk environments, people who are essential workers who have not yet had the vaccine, or for even people with COVID-19 symptoms. In Thailand, you can choose to have your quarantine in some of the country’s most luxurious 5-hotels. In Brooklyn, The William Vale has allocated specific floors for quarantining guests and created customised room service menus and virtual workout classes to support guests self-isolating.
#2 – Co-Working Spaces
Office buildings, with their open-plan spaces and shared amenities, are high-risk for spreading COVID-19, which is why many businesses are operating with skeleton crews while the majority of employees work from home. However, many employees would prefer an office environment with the space, equipment and connectivity to help them perform their jobs without distraction. For employees with families at home, a co-working space offers a safe and quiet environment where they can focus on productivity.
As hotels already have high-speed internet, separated spaces, food services and hygiene protocols in place, they’re ideally positioned to deliver the quiet, clean spaces employees and businesses are looking to utilise in the short term. While many larger hotel chains are jumping on this opportunity, there’s also space for smaller boutique hotels to stake a claim in this area. Take a look at how the Hotel Schani Wien in Vienna is making full use of the area’s popular coffee culture to create a functional and appealing co-working space.
#3 – Safe Environments for Local Businesses
Similarly, hotels can provide spill-over office space for local businesses that don’t have the floorspace to meet social distancing and hygiene guidelines but want to keep operating at full capacity through the pandemic. Your hotel conference and meeting rooms can be rented out to local businesses, providing them with the floorspace and services their staff and departments need to keep working without being too far away.
Rented space, complete with hotel food services and amenities is also ideal for socially distant, hygienic client meetings, boardroom meetings, presentations and more. This focus offers the additional bonus of showcasing your support for your community, something that can win the goodwill of guests and stakeholders moving forward.
#4 – A Space to Showcase Your Community
COVID-19 has really put the spotlight on supporting local businesses, with communities coming together to do what it takes to help their local businesses stay open and profitable. In a recent survey, 82% of shoppers said they would be happy to pay more if it meant the money was going to a local business!
As a local business, your hotel can think creatively to find ways to boost your own revenue while also helping to support other local businesses in your community. Some examples include:
- Prioritising local food producers to supply your restaurants and cafes.
- Choosing local artisans and manufacturers to supply any materials and products needed if you are redesigning your space for quarantining travellers.
- Offering your coworking services at a reduced rate for businesses in your neighbourhood.
You could also partner with local businesses to create socially-distant events that are COVID-19 compliant, like this Swedish hotel that has re-imagined itself as a pop-up restaurant space, supporting restaurants in the area while drawing foodies and locals to get a quick, easy and safe dining experience.
Surviving COVID-19 2020 was one challenge, but now hotels have to innovate to tackle the next stage of the pandemic. By reimagining hotel space, being creative with alternative uses for hotels and marketing these new features strategically, hotels can best position themselves for this critical period. With some thoughtful planning, you might be able to win some goodwill and future custom along the way.