2021: what was the point? 

We leave this year pretty much as we came into it: wondering what the virus holds in terms of our health and wondering what it means for our ability to plan anything other than a night in. 

Or do we? In the first lockdown there was a lot of pressure for us to learn and turn ourselves into better people through making sourdough bread or adding challenges on Duolingo. Once it became apparent restrictions were an ongoing state, it was enough of a battle just to stay sane. Leave the learning to those who could hear their own thoughts. 

This was a pattern much repeated in the hotel sector, where the first lockdown saw it leaping to help, offering itself up for key workers, the homeless, even, in some cases, as overflow for hospitals. After the initial frenzy, then came the fitful reopening, the trying to work with rapidly-changing border requirements and the moving – or not – target of business travel. 

Hotels tried to make Working From Hotel stick. There was lots of chat around digital nomads. Holidays where there was no phrasebook required ruled. Everyone tried to keep their spirits up and people coming through the doors. 

And that is where we are and where we go into 2022, with a significant number of people wishing that we could go back to 2019. 

So now for the hope. The one thing we know, even more than our attempts an amateur immunology, is that, when people can, they travel their absolute faces off. Back when we were wondering where out next loo roll was coming from, there was chat about how our newfound enthusiasm for not angering nature would mean that people would curtail their travel. Not so much. All those hoping for a kinder eye on travel will have to fall back on carrots and sticks, rather than a spontaneous behaviour shift. 

So with that in our back pocket, what else can we look forward to? The Quarter of Reckoning has yet to be felt, instead we have a trickle of small hotels coming to market where their owners have lost the appetite for the battle, while investors looking to deploy some of The Wall are looking almost exclusively at leisure. The operators are all sitting on immense war chests, held back while the outlook is uncertain. The exact minute reliable Covid treatment is widely available, expect movement on this. 

And what for those who would make their home in hotels? It has been an essential reset towards that most overlooked in the stack: the guest. Back in the glorious 2019, it wasn’t clear who the consumer was, particularly amongst the large brands. Was it the owner? Was it the brand itself? There was little thought about what the guest might want, with the theme being very much that they’d get what they were given and like it. 

The basic economics of supply and demand have helped to change this and the sector is all the better for it. Loyalty is now more about creating memorable experience rather than points. Reputation is key. With revenue under pressure, which areas of operations create income are getting the focus they want. With fewer company cards being used, the money coming into coffers is hard won and hard spent. Hotels have to earn it and, much like those paper rounds in the rain, they are much more aware of its value.

And for us? This time last year there was no NewDog. We’d like to think we’ve helped get our clients’ messages out there, past the noise. They’ve helped remind us of our love for the sector, for which we thank them. And the message is getting brighter every day hotels reconnect with their guests. 

We wish you all a relaxing break. See you in 2022. 

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