Developing a global set of transparent hospitality standards relating to health, safety and hygiene will be key to regain the trust of travellers in a post COVID-19 landscape, a panel of industry experts explained during the opening day of Arabian Travel Market’s inaugural virtual event, ATM Virtual.
‘The Hotel Landscape in a Post-COVID-19 World’ session which took place on Monday 1st June, discussed the importance of hotel brands providing both hospitality workers and consumers with confidence that their property, and indeed the wider destination, is safe and secure to visit.
The panel which was moderated by industry consultant Gemma Greenwood, also included Tim Cordon, Senior Area Vice President for Middle East & Africa, Radisson Hotel Group, Christopher Lund, Head of Hotels, Colliers International, Middle East & North Africa, Simon Casson, President of Hotel Operations, EMEA, Four Seasons and Raki Phillips, CEO, Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority.
“There has never been a global pandemic of this scale in modern times, building confidence will be key as we look ahead to the post-COVID-19 hospitality recovery. Not only is it important that our workers have confidence that their health and wellbeing is of prime importance, but for consumers too. They will need full reassurance that our properties are safe, secure and following the highest standards when it comes to hygiene and cleanliness,” said Cordon.
“Our properties rely predominantly on corporate and business travel. So, having a global standard will be essential before we start to see large organisations send their employees all over the world again. It is important that everyone can understand that what’s being offered is consistent and trustworthy.”
While the global pandemic has severely impacted the hospitality industry worldwide, the MENA region alone has witnessed an estimated 42% decrease in occupancy since March, according to the latest data from Colliers International, with many people forced to cancel or postpone their travel plans in the first half of the year.
Phillips said: “Our industry is very resilient and will recover and for this reason it’s important that hotels don’t drop their room rates. Tourists will come back, we are already seeing this in Ras Al Khaimah where we are lucky to have large, spacious resorts with some offering private villas, making the implementation of social distancing measures much easier. Hotels need to adapt to a new normal with increased sanitisation at the forefront, while being creative with their offerings and embracing innovative technologies which can help differentiate them from their competitors.”
Travellers still want to go on holiday, but safety has now become a top priority over price, location, facilities, and services. In preparation for the resurgence, it is crucial hospitality companies can provide consumers with peace of mind by implementing and virtually showcasing the stringent hygiene and deep cleaning procedures performed rigorously across their properties.
“One way of achieving this consumer trust, and I believe the hospitality industry in the UAE is leading the way in this respect, is by partnering with accreditation agencies such as the Bureau Veritas to ensure your property is following disinfectant and sanitisation protocols implemented by government bodies and abiding by the highest levels of hygiene. Passing these audits provides your property with a label that guests can view and take reassurance from,” said Lund.
“In addition, the implementation of immersive technologies that provide potential guests with virtual 3D tours of properties, as well as phone apps which allow you to enter your hotel room, change the temperature, call the elevator, book excursions and order room service are going to be vital in helping hotels recover and stand out from their competitors.”
Casson added: “At Four Seasons we have been spending a lot of time exploring how the new guest journey, from the moment they arrive to the moment they leave, will look. While we are doing everything we can to ensure the wellbeing and safety of our guests, it’s important that we continue to work with our local partners, such as airlines, airport transfer providers and activity and tour guides, to ensure they are abiding by the same level of santisation and hygiene. Consistency across the entire experience is key.”
The hospitality industry will be a recurring theme throughout the three-day virtual event and will include a series of roundtables including ‘Will hygiene surpass price, facilities and services, in the ‘new normal’ hotel experience’, ‘Effects that COVID-19 could have on food-driven travel’ and ‘The Changing Face of Luxury Family Travel’.
The third and final day of the debut ATM Virtual will feature an interview with Wizz Air CEO, Joszef Varadi, taking place from 10:00am – 10:45am GST (7.00am – 7.45am BST), while the International Travel Investment Conference summit, will discuss sustainable investment measures for the Middle East travel and tourism sector to restore travellers’ confidence post-pandemic.
A webinar titled ‘What are you doing to energise your operational performance?’, which will discuss the power of data analytics in helping to maximise performance and the responsible tourism session, ‘The Implications of Covid-19 for Responsible Hospitality’, will also take place on day three.
Concluding the event is the Influencers’ session titled ‘Make Your Connection: Influencers as a Key Part of the Marketing Mix – COVID-19 The Road to Recovery’. This session will feature a panel of prominent travel and lifestyle influencers discussing the importance of creating relevant, engaging, and impactful travel and lifestyle content in the current climate of best practices. A special networking event focusing on the Influencer Tourism market will follow.
There will also be a series of independently moderated, roundtables designed to discuss emerging hot topics such as domestic travel, luxury travel trends, corporate travel, food travel and tourism recovery plans. Day three will kick-off with the ‘Will Hygiene Surpass Price, Facilities and Services, in the ‘New Normal’ Hotel Experience?’ live webinar from 10am – 10.45am GST (7am – 7.45am BST), moderated by Hotelier Middle East editor Claudia de Brito.
The Ministry of Tourism Saudi Arabia and the Italian Tourist Board are both Gold sponsors of ATM Virtual.
ATM Virtual runs until Wednesday 3rd June 2020. To register for the event, please visit: atmvirtual.eventnetworking.com/register/