By Ritu Mehrotra, Regional Manager, South Asia at Booking.com
COVID-19 has widely disrupted the travel and tourism industry, impacting the way people travel. The pandemic has led to a shift in traveller priorities—from an increased focus on health, safety and flexibility, to the types of trips they prefer, such as road-trips and closer-to-home destinations. The stark difference pre- versus during-pandemic in terms of traveller priorities are quite distinguishable, and it would be beneficial for accommodation providers to offer simple yet impactful amenities to attract travellers, when it’s safe to do so. Here are some of the ways accommodations can win traveller hearts in 2021 and beyond.
1. Easy access to the ‘right’ information
In a world full of information, easy access to accurate and relevant information has become a valuable amenity. This is even more important during the pandemic where local regulations pertaining to a destination and travel seem to change by the hour. Having complete and updated insights into local guidelines will be pivotal in building traveller trust and support them in making the right choices during their stay. Additionally, real-time local updates on nearby tourist attractions, such as museums being open or the safety protocols of local attractions, are important. In addition to this, giving clear information on health and safety measures undertaken at their destination and accommodation of choice all help win traveller confidence.
2. The workcation setup: Going beyond Wi-Fi and workstations
Flexibility in one’s work set up today has become important for remote workers to break up the monotony of ‘work from home’. Be it travelling for a complete workcation or extending leisure trips to work remotely, the pandemic has given an opportunity for people to seamlessly manage business with travel. Contrary to popular belief, strong Wi-Fi may not be enough to cater to today’s digital nomads as they seek the comforts of home during their long workcation stays. In addition to a steady Wi-Fi connection and a dedicated workspace, offering value-added home amenities such as access to a kitchen where travellers can make their own coffee and breakfasts, or organising regular activities such as nature hikes that help them take a break from their screens, may go a long way.
3. Local food experiences
Travellers often look forward to enjoying local cuisines when they travel, and as a testament to this, close to 38% of Indian travellers surveyed by Booking.com recently are keen to taste and indulge in local cuisine while traveling. In this context, accommodation partners must go beyond the routine ‘bed and breakfast’ and offer well-thought through services such as creating food guides with recommendations on nearby restaurants/eateries, as well as information on delivery services or takeaways, to save guests the hassle of searching around. Additionally, having partnerships with local communities who serve authentic food and offering discounts for guests can be a sweet gesture.
4. The sustainable experience
Recent Booking.com research reveals that the pause in globetrotting has inspired 94% of Indian travellers to make sustainable travel a priority in the future, while 98% of Indian travellers are vying to stay in an eco-accommodation at least once going forward. With sustainable travel a clear priority for many Indian travellers, accommodations can indulge in sustainable practices to make the travellers feel even better about their accommodation choices.
One need not drive huge investments as they start to adopt sustainable practices, but take small steps towards a larger eco-conscious goal.
Initiatives such as the elimination of single use plastic for water bottles and toiletries can be undertaken to minimize the impact on the environment.
5. Smart-home technology
Smart home technology is on the rise, underpinned by an enhanced need for health and safety. It can be the difference between an average experience and an exceptional one. For example, voice assistants can provide a concierge-like experience, providing guests with curated and customised information while smart lighting enables guests to automate their light settings or control them remotely, eliminating the need for wall switches. Along with promoting traveller confidence, investing in smart tech also offers multiple benefits for property managers such as cost savings of up to 23% on heating and cooling, or keyless entries can reduce staffing costs.
6. Maintaining a personal touch in a ‘contactless’ era
At a time when social distancing is still top of mind and travellers may prefer their check-ins as contactless as possible, it is still important for property owners to not lose that personal touch, and ensure a warm, welcoming experience so travellers feel at home. For instance, a simple handwritten note, a complimentary treat welcoming guests or going the extra mile to help travellers make most of their trip by giving them local guidance as needed helps create a personalized experience while keeping safety top of mind.
7. Health & Fitness
The time spent during lockdown has turned many people into fitness enthusiasts, as they picked up basic fitness routines to remain healthy at home. Physical wellbeing can be a priority for many people as a result of their experiences from the pandemic—and many would look forward to continuing their fitness regimes during their travels. Facilitating in-room fitness by providing basic workout equipment such as yoga mats, jump ropes or small dumbbells can make a property stand out to more health-conscious travellers.
8. Supporting local communities
The pandemic has spurred a desire amongst travellers to support their local communities even more during these challenging times. Based on our research, 73% of Indian travellers want to see how their money is going back to local communities. As travellers often look for souvenirs that represent a destination, accommodations can partner with craftsmen and local artisans to offer guests samples and give them an opportunity to purchase the products they like.
COVID-19 has taught businesses many things—from resilience to empathy and agility. These lessons can become a guidepost for businesses when we gradually move towards a mask-free, prospering and healthy world. And in the meantime, as India fights the second wave of the pandemic with travel once again on a standstill, accommodation providers can take small yet impactful steps to enhance a traveller’s journey, for when they are ready to experience the world once again!