As 2020 draws to a close, we look at the five key trends that will shape the lodging industry in 2021, including longer stays, increased privacy, improved hygiene procedures, more no-touch technology and enhanced flexibility.

Longer stays

Various traveller types such as business travellers, digital nomads, and students are now seeking out longer stays in times of profound uncertainty, caused by the pandemic. Major players such as have addressed this emerging trend. The company has introduced two new rate plans to satisfy the need for longer stays. The weekly rate plan requires a minimum length of stay of seven nights, and for the monthly rate plan, a length of stay of 28 nights is the minimum requirement. As the impact of Covid-19 looks likely to drag in to 2021, travellers will be looking to travel less frequently, but stay for longer, meaning that lodging providers need to now be creating rate plans for extended stays in order to offer increased value.

Increased privacy

According to GlobalData*, 79% of global respondents are either ‘quite’ or ‘extremely’ concerned about the global outbreak of Covid-19. Due to this high level of concern, the need for more private forms of accommodation has surged during the pandemic, which has been positive for Airbnb’s recovery, with the company posting a surprise profit for Q3 2020. However, many traditional hotels, which naturally can’t offer the same levels of privacy have not witnessed similar growth. The likes of Vrbo and Airbnb can offer an abundance of accommodation types away from busy city centers in secluded areas, whilst many major hotels have been stuck with properties in city centers, which is where most travellers have not wanted to be during the pandemic. Demand for city breaks will slowly return to pre-pandemic levels in the coming years, whilst demand for close-proximity domestic breaks in rural locations will return at a much quicker rate, meaning this trend will continue in 2021.

Improved hygiene procedures

Improved levels of hygiene and sanitation will continue to be required by guests in the coming years. According to GlobalData*, 59% of global respondents are either ‘quite’ or ‘extremely’ concerned about their physical fitness and health. This significant level of concern has meant that lodging providers have had to dramatically improve hygiene and sanitation procedures and also effectively market these changes to engender customer confidence. All major players in the lodging industry have done this. For example, Hilton launched ‘Hilton CleanStay’ to ensure cleanliness and disinfection in partnership with RB and in consultation with Mayo Clinic. Partnering with professionals specialising in health such as Mayo Clinic will help to increase confidence, thus accelerating recovery for Hilton.

More no-touch technology

In the current situation, 60% of global respondents are ‘somewhat’ ‘often’ or ‘always’ influenced by how digitally advanced or ‘smart’ a service is*. Technology in lodging that reduces customer contact with frequently touched surfaces and other humans will be positively received. In 2021, hotels will increase their adoption of technology that reduces the number of touchpoints. Online check-ins and check-outs, mobile keys and room settings controlled by IoT technology will become more commonplace. Using IoT for the control of room settings also allows hotels to gather more data on guests, creating a more personalised experience when they next return.

Enhanced flexibility

According to GlobalData*, 56% of global respondents are ‘quite’ or ‘extremely’ concerned regarding domestic travel restrictions and 52% echo the same sentiment for international travel restrictions. This concern has caused significant uncertainty for travelers and has deterred them from booking accommodation in case they cannot get the money back. Consequently, most major players in the lodging industry have made booking policies more flexible. Having a flexible cancellation policy on a hotel website will be vital in ensuring direct bookings and these relaxed policies will continue in 2021. For example, Marriott International has just extended its 24-hour global cancellation policy through March 31 2021. This extension in to next year will be emulated by its rivals in order to remain competitive.