As UK hospitality managers consider what the future looks like for their businesses after an incredibly challenging year, Dr Clare Holt, Programme Leader at Learna, shares her thoughts on the trends that could support the sector.
The pandemic will have a lasting impact on the hospitality industry across the world but to what extent has this impact affected customer behaviour and expectations? With hospitality having to adapt amid changing regulations, we’ve seen a number of new and developing trends emerge, from innovations in outdoor dining, to how the sector uses technology. How long-lasting will these trends be, and how can the UK market successfully capitalise on them to accelerate recovery?
Cleanliness is obviously more important than ever before, with customers eager to know how businesses are protecting them within their premises. This will likely remain a key concern in the future, even as infection rates drop.
A 2020 survey conducted by OpenTable suggested that 77% of UK consumers prioritise safety, sanitation, and ventilation in their sense of safety when engaging with hospitality. Transparency around cleaning and social distancing practices should be the focus for businesses, using websites and social media to communicate this information and reassure visitors.
Sustainability may not have been at the forefront as the sector turned to single-use goods for sanitation purposes, but as we recover, it’s vital that industry leaders firmly turn their focus back to sustainability in all aspects of the business.
Lockdown saw us living smaller, hyper-local lives, drawing more attention to the spaces we occupy and our local environments. Covid aside, climate change really is the big global issue at hand, and consumers are increasingly looking for greener, carbon-neutral experiences to enjoy guilt-free.
The pandemic blurred boundaries between work and leisure, and with remote working rapidly becoming the norm we’ve seen a dramatic rise in ‘on the road’ workers – a key travel trend outlined by Condé Nast Traveller in their 2021 travel trends forecast.
Growth in demand for travel options that accommodate the needs of working travellers provides hotels in particular with an alternative to the shrinking corporate market and could provide opportunities for any hospitality venues that can act as a temporary ‘office’ for nomadic workers. Take for example the Vakkaru Maldives, which recently launched a long-stay Work Well package for remote working in paradise.
Major selling points include quiet rooms and strong Wi-Fi signals across hotel spaces, including leisure areas, and cafes and pubs that can double as working hubs.
The evolution of the hospitality environment continues to place pressure on staff, so it is important that they are supported with the skills to manage and oversee emergent trends. Industry recognised qualifications like an Executive MBA provides professionals with knowledge on strategic planning and contemporary hospitality management, enabling success in an ever-evolving industry.
Public opinion polls revealed increased consumer confidence in outdoor venues; however, reports suggest that just 40% of UK venues possess outdoor space. So any permanent move to facilitate more outdoor dining – which currently seems like a savvy move – would require investment, negotiation and a change in approach to long term planning in our towns and cities.
If the UK adopts approaches to maximise the use of outside space – opening up streets and repurposing outdoor spaces– we could see a quicker revival of hospitality at large. To help enable this the hospitality sector must utilise its networks to collaborate with local councils and planning departments and expedite the dynamic and vibrant outdoor hospitality hubs seen elsewhere in the world.