6 Hotel Trends to Watch in 2021

If you are wary of trend forecasts after the year we’ve had, no one would blame you. After all, 2020 reminded us that predictions are only as good as the relative stability of the markets they spring from. And that that stability isn’t a given. 

The good news is that, as markedly different as our new normal is, it is indeed now normal. Across industries, the dust has more or less settled. And while that doesn’t mean everything is in good shape, it does seem like it’s okay to pause, get our bearings, and hazard a look forward.  

While it made sense for trend forecasts from years past to ‘dare to dream’, the theme of 2021 is to ‘dare to rebuild.’ In the coming year, the trends to watch are less about bold proclamations, and more about the logical evolution of the major hospitality industry shifts from the past year. Read on for a few practical trend predictions for 2021.

1. Safety goes without saying

At this point, touting your hotel’s various safety protocols just won’t drive guests through your doors. Safety is assumed because the hotel industry has worked hard to make it so. Of course it’s still important to share your guidelines with your guests, just like it’s important to make sure they have all their other reservation information. But in 2021, a safe stay should be a given, not a selling point. 

But even though the “safety” aspect of your revamped procedures and new contactless technology will have a less prominent place in your marketing, their other benefits and features are still very compelling. Smart hoteliers are shifting their messaging to talk up the other perks of their contactless guest experience. Privacy, convenience, and seamless service – all delivered by your contactless technologies – are benefits that are sure to drive bookings and improve overall customer satisfaction well into the future. 

2. RevPAG is the new RevPAR

As a business metric, revenue per available guest (RevPAG) came to prominence out of necessity in 2020. It was simply too dismal to look only at RevPAR. But this shift in attention to RevPAG also revealed an adaptive revenue generation strategy behind the metric. Many hoteliers devoted more resources and focus to cross-selling and upselling than they ever had before. And it was a win-win: Hotels made the most of their revenue streams even with lower occupancy rates, and guests got a more personalized experience.  

For many hotels, it was their newly implemented tech that made this guest experience possible. Leading hospitality industry consultant Larry Mogelongsky noted, “In today’s hospitality landscape…the only realistic way to achieve this goal of generating more ancillary capture is through the deployment of integrated technologies so that the purchase of these amenities is made as easy and as frictionless as possible, all without burdening a hotel’s already overworked teams.”

As the industry rebuilds, the tech-enabled personalized guest experience – and the strong customer relationships that result – will sustain hotels. And a continued focus on RevPAG is how to make those relationships visible and measurable. 

3. The hotel app’s heyday is here

Last year’s proliferation of contactless technologies and guests’ desire for a more self-service experience dramatically accelerated consumer adoption of the hotel mobile app. Any lingering hesitation on guests’ part to download the app went out the window. 

In fact, a recent Metrova survey found that nearly 90% of respondents prefer that the hotel they stay at has a mobile app offering the ability to completely manage their stay without having to interact with a person. More than half of the respondents also stated that digital key access via mobile app (61%) and online concierge service via mobile app (55%) would bring the most value to a future hotel stay. 

Moving forward, the hotel app will mean the same thing that having a website meant two decades ago. It establishes legitimacy and is the best tool for a frictionless customer journey. And when integrated with your various hotel management software, your mobile app can help drive additional revenue and optimize operations. 

4. One more thing on your cleaning checklists: the air

The hospitality industry’s fast and thorough response to the need for heightened cleaning procedures was a big step toward re-establishing consumer confidence. To reach the new, higher-stakes standards, hoteliers kept pace with scientific findings on how to effectively mitigate the spread of Covid-19 and accordingly adopted new cleaning technologies. But as winter weather envelopes many of the industry’s hotel properties, one set of solutions is now garnering more attention: advanced air purifying systems. 

HVAC upgrades aren’t often featured in trend lists because they are unsexy projects with a long ROI. Often they are necessary by the time they get a line item in the year’s budget. This year, however, after a global event that’s put the air we breathe under such scrutiny, purified air is trending and changing hoteliers’ outlook on its ROI.. 

Even major hotel chains like Hilton are implementing innovative air purification technology. Solutions range from HVAC retrofits that install enhanced MERV-13 air filters or germicidal UV light in the ductwork to bipolar ionization systems that send charged ions into the air currents that are said to damage and inactivate the virus. Some of these technologies are proven but newly adapted, while others are simply very new. Either way, commercial HVAC tech is a space to watch.  

5. Staycationers are sticking around

Last year a new sort of leisure traveler emerged as cities slowly reopened: the staycationer. Born of travel restrictions and the desire to safely experience more spaces than our own homes, consumers turned to nearby destinations and hotels for a new guest experience. And hotels that were able to pivot and cater to this new group won a potentially valuable new market segment.

With the vaccine rollout, this year may see increased long-distance travel. Perhaps even the return of large-scale business travel. But you can count on the staycation segment – if they get a superlative experience – to not only stick around for the first part of the year, but also to expand their reach. This proximal domestic group has the potential to turn their new brand loyalty into both bookings for leisure travelers in their network and bookings for business groups they affiliate with.

This segment could also lead to different revenue streams that riff on the staycation model. Think wellness stays or yoga retreats, or day passes for pool/ fitness facilities or conference room reservations. This group could have legs, and it may pay dividends to creatively attract them and meet their needs while they are (largely) the only guests.  

6. New ways of doing business with businesses

Along the same lines as staycationers (who’ve introduced a newly prominent form of leisure travel out of necessity) are the new takes on business travel. With a large percentage of the workforce working from home, some businesses are partnering with hotels to help provide an alternative work space. 

Whether that means day passes for rooms equipped for business guests or a whole section reserved for a business retreat – the corporations in your backyard are still a valuable segment. And hotels can – with superior service and safety – provide the coworking spaces that either the local coworking space cannot achieve or local resources never provided for.

Ready to get started with Digital Keys? OpenKey is the leading provider of complete digital key solutions. Schedule a demo to see how easy it is to adopt Digital Keys and realize the benefits for your hotel guests and staff.