The economic fallout of the COVID-19 crisis has been a challenge for businesses of all types, but the hospitality industry has been hit especially hard. The American Hotel & Lodging Association reports as of May 20, 7 in 10 hotel rooms are empty — this on top of the rooms in hotels which are closed altogether due to the pandemic. Well over 7 million hotel job losses were reported in April alone.
That’s the bad news, and as a hospitality professional, you know firsthand how devasting the pandemic has been for the travel and leisure sector. The good news is people are slowly coming out of the lockdown mindset, region by region, as it’s safe to do so. This means it’s time to think about next steps. We’re not going back to the old normal, but a new normal — the next normal — is emerging.
Web activity at hotel sites is on the way up as regions ease lockdown restrictions. Will your property be ready to respond to new customer demands? The hospitality industry has traditionally been slow to embrace technology, but this economic pause is an opportunity to change that. The fastest way to get to the next normal is to use AI technology to gain insight into evolving customer profiles and trends.
Fast Access to Information Leads to Faster Decision Making
As a hospitality professional, you have many decisions to make to manage costs now and plan for the future. As you consider reopening scenarios, you’ll need to gauge potential demand, anticipate staffing needs and decide how teams might have to be reconfigured. Will guests want touchless services to check in and check out? What about meal service? Will guests require additional tech support?
The marketing plans you had in place before the pandemic struck are now obsolete, and guest personas may change dramatically under these new circumstances. In the pre-pandemic environment, the hotel industry catered to business travelers, but no one knows exactly what the economic recovery will bring on that score. Will guests be more concerned about safety or price?
These questions require data to answer, so you need access to timely, relevant information. Keep in mind the properties which respond fastest to changing customer profiles and industry trends will have the best chance to thrive in a post-pandemic economy. This is why it’s so important to get rapid access to the information you need; it will drive faster decision making so you stay ahead of the curve.
AI-Enabled Conversations with Data
Whether you’re still working from home or have returned to the office, an AI-enabled conversation with data can help you get answers to the questions you have about finding a path forward. AI as a business tool has evolved to the point where you can access a platform with intuitive search engine functionality that will pull data from multiple sources to answer your text or voice questions.
Technology like this is available now and easy to use without any special training. The right AI solution can understand hospitality industry terms and provide a personalized interface for hotel sector users based on their individual roles, access levels and preferences. It can be up and running in weeks rather than months and accessed from any device, including desktop, tablet and mobile.
With a business-focused AI assistant, you can start getting answers to the questions you have about costs, pricing strategies, marketing in a post-pandemic environment, changing customer profiles, emerging guest priorities and much more. An AI-enabled conversation with data can pull from your proprietary data as well as outside data sources to provide a more complete picture.
Exploring Paths Forward with Data and Technology
Some industry analysts believe business travel will be the last segment to return to hotels in pre-pandemic numbers — assuming meetings haven’t shifted to a virtual footing permanently. Data and technology can allow you to get insights into customer sentiment in your region and beyond, picking up signals in social media and other public sources to anticipate demand and identify concerns.
Leisure travelers may have different priorities in the wake of the pandemic. Some will be laser-focused on price. Others will want to know what measures the hotel has taken to mitigate the risk of catching the virus. Data and technology assets can help you build predictions on changing customer profiles to personalize offers and create training programs to prepare returning or new staff.
Data and technology can also help you predict the business outlook under a number of scenarios, such as the development of a vaccine, which would accelerate demand, or renewed outbreaks, which would inhibit travel. Armed with this information, you can create a strategy to scale up or down quickly to maximize revenue and minimize costs.
Maybe data and technology didn’t drive your 2019 business strategy, but this year provides an opportunity to step up your AI game so you can survive and thrive in the months and years ahead. The hotel industry is hurting right now, and many businesses are struggling. But amid all the uncertainty, AI can help you get back on track and prepare for the next normal.