A virus crisis has turned around lives at dizzying speed globally. The blow of COVID-19 halted travel as schools, stores, restaurants, and entertainment venues shut down. Sports leagues were suspended as hotels were emptied.
And in a world facing ongoing economic pressures, many of these behavioural changes are likely to endure. While it is normal for people to adjust spending in times of social or economic uncertainty, this was something else, it has gone on forever. One year later, the country is still facing the same challenges.
However, it is important to note that COVID-19 lock downs saw Kenyans work, shop, socialize, and entertain themselves online more than ever, some for the very first time. This has served to not only increase their comfort with digital technologies and experiences, but their appetite for them as well.
With some Counties still locked down, many will be open to new experiences like touchless payments, app-based services, augmented or virtual reality among others. For the hospitality industry, this should be seen as an invitation to innovate and invest in digital technology.
Trust will be crucial. Despite travel restrictions easing in parts of the world, it could still take time for the travel and tourism sector to regain its former strength. Domestic tourists are expected to spend much less time on holiday. This will require many hospitality establishments to redirect their efforts to understand and engage with this new domestic, short-trip traveler.
Trust will play a pivotal role in enabling organizations to recover and rebuild in the near term, and thrive in the long term. Allowing businesses to reopen may represent a return to some degree of normalcy but local travelers need to be able to trust that hospitality establishments are taking sufficient actions to protect their health.
Every hospitality-sector business will need to actively engage with consumers and communicate the steps they’re taking to keep customers and employees safe—and demonstrate how they’re living up to those commitments at every point of interaction.
Companies that adapt their offerings to reflect changing preferences and behaviours demonstrate their desire to listen, understand, and respond to their customers. In the short term, this can help deepen consumer trust in the organization, fostering the kind of bond that can drive future growth and success. Consumers will remember the brands that paid attention and “took care” of them during these tough times.
Maintaining and building trust will be essential for businesses of all sizes, but larger hospitality organisations are likely to have an advantage given their greater capability not only to invest in trust building improvements but also to ensure consumers know about the measures taken. Impact of the pandemic on customer experience in the hospitality sector is can not be gainsaid.
Its impact on operational realities can’t be under stated either, and with the road to recovery likely to be a bumpy one as the world deals with the virus, organisations that can maintain operational agility will stand out and emerge better and ready to navigate the uncertainties ahead.