How has Covid 19 affected new hotel guests behaviour in 2021?
05 Jul 2021
Unfortunately, we are not yet out of the woods when it comes to Covid 19 and its affects on the global tourism industry, among many others, are still resonating worldwide. With yet more cases in many countries, there are predictions of a dreaded third or fourth wave of the Corona virus with further restrictions and lockdowns in place. In Cyprus, thankfully due to the many efforts of our government, private industries and people, we are beginning to relax a little as the warm summer hits us and the gentle breeze lulls us into a false sense of complacency. Numbers of new cases are remarkably low and with many now vaccinated and only those with strict covid passes allowed to enter the island, life suddenly resembles the old ‘normal’.
However, for those of us in the tourism sector, we know that this is still quite far from the truth. Countries like the UK and Russia have yet again delayed opening up travel abroad and our feeder markets are still limited in their ability to visit us. Having a small island population, we do not have enough locals to support our hotels and with only a limited number of Russian’s flying in, occupancies across the island’s hotels are still nowhere near what we are used to.
So apart from dwindling numbers, how has the pandemic affected hotel guests? From 29th April 2021, St Raphael Resort and Marina reopened its hotel’s doors mainly to a select Russian market. Our guests, arriving after a long winter lockdown were extremely happy to be in Cyprus, albeit with limited hotel facilities due to stricter measures that have since been relaxed. So many were simply elated to be out of their homes, in a warm country and social environment, even with social distancing in place, just seeing people and feeling freedom.
With this however came the difficulty in persuading our guests to keep their masks on. Even now, I go to the supermarket and find people no longer ‘bothering’ with their masks even though it is still against protocols not to wear one. Something however that has become the new ‘norm’ is the obsession all guests have with hand sanitizers. Even toddlers enter the hotel and immediately look for where to sanitize their hands.
So, what else have we noticed specific to our industry and in our guests’ behaviour?
Guests are looking for outdoor spaces, luckily in abundance at our resort. The reason is twofold: firstly, they are fed up of being indoors and secondly they are literally looking for clean air. They want outdoor dining, relaxing by the pool or sea and to be outside as much as possible. Exercise such as yoga and stretching was envisaged to be on high demand for outdoor or in-room whereas in actualisation guests are actually preferring to be out of their rooms and enjoying exercise like swimming, aqua aerobics or walking. Gyms, which were anticipated to be in less demand, we found to be highly popular with guests booking in advance their slots since the restrictions cannot allow for multiple use by different households at once.
Technology in all areas of life has been hugely boosted by the pandemic, with most people getting more acquainted with various apps and devices. The hotel is now virtually paperless with tablets at reception, given instead of menus, QR codes in every outlet, room service applications, even our hotel annual magazine has gone online, yet despite the ease that technology brings, guests are still requesting hard copies where possible, for example in the hotel’s spa.
In room dining, again expected to be more popular than ever, has seen no increase as again, guests are craving to be with people and be ‘out’. What has seen an increase however if the number of clients browsing our photo gallery and what we call the ‘dreamers and planners’. Furthermore, our new website page and blog detailing updated Covid 19 regulations and news has been frequently visited by all our guests.
The ‘Dreamers and Planners’, those who have had the time to really think and envisage their holiday or trip to us, have also booked more luxurious accommodation. More and more guests are looking for something better, a treat and to enjoy something special. This has also materialised into a more demanding client. They know what they want, and have little tolerance for error or fault. Wearing masks all the time has meant that our staff has had to learn to smile with their eyes and indeed make their voices and tones more empathic. Body language has had to play a big part in the new way that guests and staff interact, but neither are adept to this by nature. As a result, guests who are more demanding have also become less personal with staff and more abrupt in their manners and communication, not always, but often. On the other hand, there are many guests who are so elated to be in a luxury resort, that they are very much looking for staff and others to chat to and feel a human connection.
So, the real shift in guest behaviour has been seen in the connection between technology and personal care, in expectations to reality and ultimately in marrying the gap between a new ‘sterile and clean’ environment to a homely and welcoming one. The future is bright. It may still be a way for us to go before a new ‘norm’ emerges post pandemic, but it is an exciting time with fascinating changes and definitely a ‘new’ type of hotel guest will be on the other side.
Farah Shammas, Managing Director