From checking on neighbors to supporting local businesses, the pandemic heightened the importance of community. Picking up on lessons learned during 2020, hotels are likely to become more integrated into their neighborhoods, offering locals space for exercise, entertaining, working, relaxing, and even business.
During a year when many small businesses were collapsing, some hotels stepped up, offering under-utilized spaces to local businesses displaced by the pandemic. Hyatt Hotels’ national Hyatt Loves Local initiative, for example, saw Hyatt Regency Baltimore Inner Harbor offer kitchen space to the city’s first female and Black-owned oyster bar The Urban Oyster, which had shuttered its brick-and-mortar location in July, enabling the restaurant to continue its delivery and pick-up business. Hyatt Regency Atlanta has been providing complimentary kitchen space to Anna Bell’s Kitchen Mac & Cheese shop, a minority-owned business that previously prepped in commercial kitchens and sold at farmers markets. And when California barred barbershops from opening during the pandemic, Andaz West Hollywood came to the rescue, loaning its outdoor terrace to Barcode, a popular barbershop, which generated summer business so brisk its owner began hiring again.
In addition to supporting the local community, these partnerships helped increase hotel foot traffic, opening up the possibility of increasing F&B revenues, while introducing neighbors to the potential of staycations.
In a think piece for the Gensler blog, Tom Ito, principal architect and founder of the company’s hospitality division noted, “In the immediate future as the country begins to reopen, hotels will be the hubs that welcome their communities with activities, events, and local hospitality.” Post-pandemic, he wrote, “We can expect hotels to embrace an even stronger sense of social responsibility as they engage and welcome back their communities.” Hotels should continue these meaningful partnerships, whether by providing retail or kitchen space, or using locally made products.
Such partnerships, along with a reinvigorated focus on local social issues, have led to the development of a different type of loyalty community made up largely of neighbors. The value of community loyalty is even being tied into traditional hotel frequent-stay programs to make up for the decline of travel in 2020, with forward-thinking companies extending loyalty rewards for use at properties close to home.
According to Amanda Elder, chief commercial officer for Kempinski, a recent survey revealed that members now want exclusive access on the road as well as at home. As a result, the company has doubled down on local benefits, offering the potential for client engagement during the 338 days a year (on average) that its loyalty members are not traveling. Rewards added to the Kempinski Discover Loyalty Programme include priority access to private spaces like pools, cabanas, and fitness centers, executive lounge passes, and surprise staycations. Elder also suggested hotel companies should consider sharing loyalty databases with aligned local businesses to show support.
Another change hotel-goers observed this past year? Mass adoption of touchless technologies.