The hospitality industry depends heavily on tourism. Expenditure by foreigners makes up the majority of the hotel industry’s income. So when international travel was banned in the US due to the pandemic, the hospitality sector took a huge blow.
However, things are about to change—the US is slowly opening its doors to foreign travelers from specific countries, with plans to lift the ban completely.
For brands looking to target the South Asian audience that visits the country in 2022, it is going to be crucial to create a strong brand image that promises trust and safety. Adopting digital technologies, streamlining interactions, and innovative ways of addressing concerns are going to be some of the key avenues that need to be looked into.
In this article, we are going to dive deeper into these avenues and provide a checklist to gauge readiness for capitalizing on the travel surge.
Two years into the pandemic, the habits of consumers have undergone a drastic change. Everyone wants digital interactions and minimum-touch experiences that reduce turnaround time for service requests.
Even seasoned travelers who love the experience of personal interaction are ready to shift to a digital-first experience, where the human touch can be felt in areas that matter. Following are a few digital experiences that hospitality brands need to insert into their interaction funnel.
Virtual Tourist Guides
Millennium Hotels and Resorts, with locations in Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, and New York, were among the first to include virtual tours in their package. The experience includes a 360-degree walkthrough of the amenities—boutique-style rooms, skyline view, dining area, and event venues. For South Asians, this is a great selling point, as they often travel with their families, and want to create an itinerary that caters to everyone’s interests.
The Drake Chicago Hotel is a great example of a great Digi Valet experience. From check-in to check-out, the hotel provides a seamless experience through the Hilton Honors app.
When a guest enters the hotel, it is a straight-to-room process, minimum interaction, and express check-out. Tech-savvy South Asians who are already used to this experience in their hometowns (thanks to hotel chains like The Residency) make this feature a must-have in any hotel’s digital offerings.
The Mercantile Hotel in New Orleans is a front runner in the innovation race. Its state-of-the-art robot butler can deliver newspapers in the morning, mix preset drinks, and distribute welcome nibbles to arriving guests. It is extremely popular among hotel guests and staff as it reduces unnecessary waiting and the risk of getting infected with coronavirus while increasing the efficiency of the hotel.
Future Upgrades To Guest Experience
Showcasing that the establishment is undergoing upgrades for future offerings is also a great selling point to South Asians. The demographic is inclined to trust a brand that constantly upgrades its services. Touch-free check-ins, immersive walkthroughs, and personalization technology are some of the key features they are looking forward to.
Safety-First Communication & Practices
While vaccination drives have been carried out extensively, there still continues to be a risk of infection. Hospitality brands need to make it clear that their establishment follows safety protocols strictly in all of their communication.
Banners, moving strips, notifications on safety checks, clean-ups, upgrade to safety protocols—these are some of the areas that brands need to focus on in their communications.
South Asians are a community that takes health protocols very seriously. Since they also travel with their family most of their time, especially for vacation, they want assurance that the hotel has gone all out to adhere to the COVID protocols. For example, hotels like The Roundtree have earned a reputation for being safe and strict with their safety protocols, without hampering the staying experience.
Each room is also fitted with an Airthereal HEPA medical-grade air purifier, spread-out sitting arrangements for maximum social distancing, and a spaced-out room booking system that reduces interaction with unknown guests. They have also listed clear guidelines on their website that their staff and guests follow to ensure maximum safety.
The Marram, Montauk in New York, and The Auberge Mayflower Inn and Spa are other examples of hotels that, through their safety precautions, have become popular destinations for travelers—especially demographic groups like the South Asians, who are not averse to spending extra for a safe and enjoyable experience.
Well-thought-of hand-sanitizer stations, signage recommending guests to wear masks in open-air spaces, and zero-common space-sharing arrangements are some of the installations that make them popular.
The Road Ahead…
The upcoming years for the hospitality industry are going to be fast-moving and dynamic. Establishments looking to stay relevant and continue doing business will need to adapt fast and address demographic demands swiftly. To do so, business leaders will need a deep understanding of target demographics and consumer habits.
For brands looking to target the South Asian audience that is eyeing the United States for their travels, reaching out to them through their community is going to be essential.
For example, the top 1% of South Asians on FrontAd’s innovative digital platforms are more likely to trust brands that come through a platform they trust. Brands will need to capitalize fast on this and present their services according to the criteria discussed above.
Executives should also understand that consumer habits are going to continue evolving. At such a volatile time, having a platform where the cream of the target demographic as partners will be an added advantage.
Not only will it help in reaching the right audience, but it will also make sure that the right form of communication and messaging is used to convert them into happy customers.
Reports suggest that the hospitality industry is going to recover by 2022. Even if there are delays in bouncing back 2023 is going to be the deadline. For business executives, this means that the industry is at a watershed moment. Brands that build a strong following with their target audience during this transition phase are going to be well-positioned to expand their influence.