How COVID-19 Has Impacted Consumers’ Expectations & Demands for Hospitality & Travel

COVID-19 has destroyed consumer demand for hospitality and travel operators. Learn how to adapt to changing customer needs with IDC's Dorothy Creamer.
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Describing the impact of COVID-19 on hospitality is like a real-life simulation of the aftermath of Avengers’ villain Thanos snapping his fingers. In the penultimate installment of the Avengers saga, Thanos succeeds in wiping out half of the population and the surviving citizens and superheroes must learn to exist in a very different world. In our current real-life scenario, the global spread of COVID-19 has brought a stillness to many industries, but perhaps none so deafeningly quiet as the one in which hospitality and travel have been grappling with the erasure of demand for hotels, travel and dine-in restaurants.

COVID-19 and Hospitality/Travel

Airlines are running half-empty flights or shuttering; hotels that remain open are operating at 25% capacity – one global hotel CIO reports a location in Bangkok with a single guest; and restaurant dining rooms are closed and remain empty as brands shift to drive contactless delivery, takeout and drive-through options.

This quietude has been driven by government and state mandates requiring closures, bans on non-essential travel, and strict social distancing measures in an effort to slow the spread of the virus. The result is a worldwide lack of demand with an unclear timeframe for return.

For many industries, technology can bridge the gap and provide business continuity. This is true for hospitality and travel as well, but the gap is wider which means that even the most proactive and innovative responses might not be enough for companies with less capital. When travel and dining restrictions are lifted, digital solutions will still need to address consumers’ concerns, which will linger as the world adjusts to the post-COVID-19 reality.

IDC conducted a survey of 1500 U.S. consumers to gauge how the COVID-19 pandemic was influencing behavior across healthcare, retail, banking and hospitality and gain insight to what characteristics will define the new normal for brands dealing with a cautious public.

How Consumers' COVID-19 Concerns Impact Hospitality & Travel Infographic

Key findings from the report detail that the majority (86%) of consumers are concerned or very concerned about the virus; 82% say they will not travel during the outbreak; and about a quarter of respondents admit they cancelled travel due to their own concerns – primarily of contracting the virus themselves (65%).

Advice for Hospitality/Travel Operators

Based on the results of this survey, IDC has the following recommendations for hospitality and travel operators:

  • Consumers are seeking up-to-date and reliable information regarding COVID-19. Brands will need to have a coronavirus communication strategy to woo consumers back to their brands and win back loyalty that waned during the pandemic. The survey reveals that the majority of consumers will only book at hotels that have COVID-19 updates on their websites and 30% want to receive updates via email. Brands must seize the opportunity to provide updates and information to their guests as a way to assure them that protocols are being met.
  • With 65% of consumers being most concerned about contracting the virus, sanitation methods will be under a microscope. These consumers have also been reviewing recommendations put out by the CDC and WHO, so hospitality and travel brands must base updated COVID-19 protocols off of those government agencies’ recommendations. Increased room and surface cleanings will be necessary and need to be documented and communicated to guests in clear, consistent ways.
  • Consumers are going to demand contactless options and will want transparency on any lines of service. Brands must evaluate all service points that will require interaction with staff or self-service touchscreens and offer guests options to limit contact as much as possible.
  • In addition to offering visibility into cleaning/sanitizing practices and frequency, guests will require as much transparency as possible into delivery of goods – this is both for restaurant off-premises delivery as well as room service and in-flight service. Guests will need more assurances that food and products have not been tampered with and will appreciate insight to the supply chain – including country of origin of some products. Operators must make sure they have the right strategies and systems in place to execute on contact tracing where possible.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is impacting the global economy at nearly every level. Anticipate market challenges and keep business moving with IDC’s extensive COVID-19 research and advice.

Senior Research Analyst, Hospitality and Travel Digital Transformation Strategies