Results from two recent surveys show that people are hesitant to return to travel once the restrictions put in place in response to the COVID-19 pandemic have been lifted. The study results also highlight the importance of heightened health and safety standards across the travel industry to guest perception.
A new study from research consultancy Magid measured people’s trust in more than 60 travel, hospitality, and leisure brands. Conducted online among U.S. adults aged 18-74 in April, the study found that hotels were among the most trusted segments of the travel industry, as compared to airlines, airports, rental cars, cruise lines, etc. Still, 66 percent believe that COVID-19 is easily spread in hotel environments. What’s more, nearly one in four do not trust hotels to take the necessary steps to ensure their health and safety in a post-COVID world: 11 percent said they trust hotels and resorts completely, 31 percent have a “good amount of trust,” 34 percent have a “fair amount of trust,” 15 percent “have very little trust,” and 9 percent “do not trust at all.”
Magid’s survey also found that the crisis may be reshaping people’s travel and spending habits. One in five do not plan to return to their previous usage levels of air travel, hotels, and restaurants after the crisis has passed, and half of those who have canceled or pushed travel plans will reallocate their spending. Nearly one in three (32 percent) have stopped thinking about leisure travel for the foreseeable future, 29 percent expect to be spending less on travel-related activities a year from now, and 13 percent of business travelers do not intend to travel at the same rate ever again.
In addition to its findings, Magid identified nearly 70 actions that survey participants indicated will re-ignite their trust in travel brands, including visible hand washing stations, automatic doors, and personal cleaning kits.
A survey from data and analytics company GlobalData also highlighted the renewed focus on hygiene in hotels. According to the survey, 85 percent of global respondents are either “extremely” or “quite” concerned about the global outbreak of COVID-19. Ralph Hollister, travel and tourism analyst at GlobalData, said that in hotels, hygiene will become as important to guests as price and location. “Fears over contracting the virus will live on far after the pandemic is over,” Hollister explained. “Due to the large scale of many hotels, they naturally encourage gatherings of large amounts of people in relatively confined spaces. Guests will be hyperaware of this fact when hotels re-open.”
Hollister added that hotel owners and operators will need to implement hotel hygiene practices like adding hand sanitizer stations throughout the property and frequently cleaning high-touch areas. “Problems may occur for multinational hotel companies that franchise a high number of their hotels. If ongoing support and training to franchisees is not regular and concise to help them fully grasp new hygiene protocols and operations, standards may fluctuate between hotels, which will create a negative impact on a company’s image.”
In light of the new challenges presented by COVID-19, several hotel brands have launched initiatives to enhance their cleaning protocols and transparency around sanitation processes: Hilton will collaborate with RB, maker of Lysol and Dettol, and consult with Mayo Clinic to develop elevated processes and employee training; Marriott launched the Marriott Global Cleanliness Council and announced changes to its cleaning processes; and Accor joined forces with Bureau Veritas to certify that appropriate safety standards and cleaning protocols have been achieved to allow businesses to reopen. Additionally, the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) launched “Safe Stay,” an initiative to enhance industry-wide hotel cleaning standards.