With the pandemic wreaking havoc on the hotel industry, most operators are below the occupancy capacity threshold where they can break even financially. Operators that are scrambling to stay afloat must also look to the future when some resemblance of normal consumer travel returns. Occupants need to feel safe when coaxed back into leisure travel in an industry that may be one of the slowest to recover.

The future of hotel design and development

Allaying current fears and planning for future outbreaks is a must for hotel operators. Design will be impacted, and enhanced housekeeping measures will not only need to be undertaken but clearly demonstrated to occupants.

Technology to play a key role

Contactless measures like self-checkout and keyless entries will be in demand. Technology can go much further, with hotel apps allowing for users to control televisions, lighting and blinds.

Facilities where people gather, like restaurants and gyms will need to be re-thought. This means some amenities are being shifted to private experiences. Per The New York Times,

Gyms are also expanding their in-room presence beyond the yoga mat in the closet. The newly renovated Gansevoort Meatpacking hotel in New York City features a fitness-on-demand service called Mirror that broadcasts fitness classes on a full-length mirror. Weights are available on demand.

Food service offerings changing

Some hotels have dropped their food service offerings altogether. Those that have kept their kitchens open been forced to make some major changes due to social distancing requirements and lesser demand from guests.

“No more buffets, mostly packaged counter breakfast,” John Russell, CEO of Red Lion Inns, says in Restaurant Business. “Room service will look a lot different. Those that have restaurants, the way [they’re] seated and the way you order your food and get your food will be different.”

Developers cautious

With 2019 a banner year for the hotel market, this year appears to be the beginning of a major market shift. Per global industry consulting firm HVS’ U.S. Hotel Development Cost Survey 2020,

The impact of COVID-19 on the supply pipeline has been twofold. While projects under construction generally still remain under construction, developers are now much more cautious in undertaking future hotel projects. Additionally, some hotels have suspended operations (temporarily or permanently), causing a decrease in supply in many submarkets. Even as we approach the end of the year, travel demand remains subdued, and it is more evident that while a recovery is on the horizon, the new reality is that it will likely be one that is slow and steady until individuals are comfortable traveling again and economic conditions improve.