2021 Hospitality Trends

2021 is expected to set a reassuring pace for hospitality recovery. Find out what's in store and be ready to serve your customers in the year ahead.


  • Digital transformation of services moved forward by five years in response to COVID-19.
  • Hotel industry’s regulated services at competitive advantage over the sharing economy.
  • Could working-from-hotels be the new working-from-home?

A year ago, amid the busiest and merriest season, no one working in the hospitality sector could have predicted the turn of events soon to follow in the face of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. However, according to industry forecasts, 2021 is expected to set a reassuring pace for hospitality recovery.

Let’s take a look at what this could look like.

The rise of staycations 


Whilst there will be many keen to travel abroad as soon as restrictions and quarantine laws are lifted, the response to COVID-19 has seen an increasing number of holidaymakers opt to travel within their own country.

A global survey carried out by American consultancy firm Oliver Wyman, revealed 56% of travellers believe the health crisis will affect their choice of destination even after two or more years have passed. Over a third of those who plan to travel more domestically post-pandemic believe that the situation is more severe internationally, while over a quarter want to support their country’s tourism industry.

Unsurprisingly, respondents worldwide expect to travel slightly more by car post-pandemic, which could place venues with car parking facilities at a competitive advantage.

Ultimately, the rise in staycations will see the hospitality industry turn its attention to driving occupancy and sales through more locally-targeted efforts.

Contactless guest engagement


This year has seen contactless solutions become a priority for the hospitality industry. Whilst previously heralded for convenience, contactless has become a means of keeping customers and staff safe. This has encouraged hotels, restaurants, coffee shops and entertainment venues to adapt to contactless technology much quicker than future trends’ forecasts could have ever predicted. In fact, the COVID-19 crisis has reportedly moved consumer and business digital adoption forward by five years.

In the last few months, the wi-Q team has been extremely busy helping hospitality clients in more than 20 countries re-open for business with touchless ordering and payment solutions. Thanks to our partnerships with leading ePOS, Property Management Systems and payment providers, we have been able to rapidly deploy a fully integrated mobile ordering solution to multinational brands.

In an effort to deliver innovative guest solutions, own device ordering has now become commonplace for socially-distanced guest engagement and track and trace.

Graham Cornhill, CEO of wi-Q, explains how the pandemic has affected the roll-out of mobile ordering technology:

Hotel chains reclaiming business from the sharing economy

Despite the rise of the sharing economy, with the likes of Airbnb leading the market to an estimated $335 billion by 2025, the aftermath of COVID-19 could see more hygiene-conscious tourists favour large hotel chains for more than just their level of service and personalised guest experience.

Initiatives such as Hilton’s CleanStay including deep-cleaning of high touch-points and the option of a contactless hotel stay, Marriott’s use of electrostatic sprayers, and the InterContinental Houston – Medical Center becoming the first hotel to use innovative Integrated Viral Protection (IVP) Bio Defense Indoor Air Protection Filtration System, have helped to boost confidence in the cleanliness and safety of hotels.

With such stringent, highly regulated health and safety measures being rolled out, more consumers may choose to stay with established hotel brands over peer-to-peer based accommodation services in 2021.

Work from hotel offers – #WFH

For many, the novelty of working from home, which has even earned its own trending hashtag – #WFH – will be wearing off. Giving office workers a change of scenery and peace and quiet away from the children, a growing number of hotels are offering their rooms as daytime offices. Whether its for a few hours or the whole day, guests are being enticed to ‘work from hotel’ by special day rates that include a desk and chair, complimentary Wi-Fi, safe and convenient f&b mobile ordering to room, air conditioning and access to the hotels’ private amenities.

Hyatt, Marriott and Hilton are some of the major hospitality brands that have introduced work-from-hotel programs, with loyalty incentives that could see this trend continue into 2021. Furthermore, with initiatives such as the Hard Rock International’s Meet SAFE + SOUND, teaming with public health and sanitisation specialists to reintroduce conferences and events, there will be more demand for remote office working whilst away from home.


A new generation of guests

Millennials have long been a target customer group for hospitality venues, however, many are now in their mid-to-late 30s, passing the “young person” baton to Generation Z; anyone born from 1997 onwards. Gen Z have very different perspectives, behaviours and attitudes, including their response to COVID-19.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) chief recently stated that “The data we have show that less than 10% of reported cases and less than 0.2% of deaths are in people under the age of 20.” This understanding has certainly encouraged younger generations to continue ‘living’ their lives, with many in their late-teens and early 20s likely to continue eating out and booking holidays as normal once restrictions are lifted.

With Baby Boomers, Generation X and Millennials more likely to air on the side of caution, 2021 could see Gen Z begin to dominate the hospitality market with a new set of demands, not least one that requires digitalisation. What’s more, a study by UNiDAYS and Ad Age revealed Gen Z students prefer staying at hotels than booking Airbnbs.

Government support


There is no denying that hospitality is a high contributing sector to the global economy. As an industry it has experienced dramatic growth thanks to international arrivals increasing from 900 million to more than 1.3 billion over the last decade. According to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, this is expected to reach 1.8 billion by 2030. As a result, in the UK alone, hospitality is the 4th biggest employer, not just directly but also the supply and delivery industry.

Will a Minister of Hospitality be introduced in 2021?

Whilst hospitality lockdown has seen the industry take a massive hit, once the world begins to recover it will be turning to this vital sector within travel and tourism to get the economy back on track. Along with continuing furlough schemes and calls for the UK Parliament to appoint a Minister of Hospitality, further government strategies and programs are anticipated throughout 2021, not least to minimise the risk of new pandemics to protect the future of the industry.

Empathy and community support

2020 has seen communities come together like never before, including national gestures of appreciation for those identified as key workers, such as the UK’s weekly “Clap for our Carers”. These moments of solidarity will not be forgotten – instead, they have paved the way for consumers to make morally-driven decisions based on efforts to support people worse off than them. With that said, guests are more likely to use hotels that have shown support to key workers, frontline staff, charities, and local suppliers throughout the pandemic.

The NH Hotel Group has been praised for making various resources available to authorities and social organisations in Spain to help manage the crisis, including medicalising some of its hotels. The first to convert was the NH Parla Hotel in Madrid transforming its 88 rooms to accommodate the recovery of patients affected by Coronavirus, who required medical monitoring without the need to be admitted to a hospital. Meanwhile prestigious hotels like the Four Seasons in New York became one of many to offer its thousand-dollar rooms for free to doctors, nurses and other medical personnel.

Green conscience


The hospitality industry has been making an effort to turn ‘green’ for a few years now with practices in place to recycle, re-use grey water, reduce waste, reduce energy consumption, and lower carbon footprint. However, it is likely more will need to be done to meet the growing environmentally aware expectations of future guests.

According to Nature Climate Change, with the closure of international borders and populations placed in lockdown, responses to COVID-19 meant daily global CO2 emissions decreased by -17% by early April 2020 when compared to 2019 levels. At their peak, emissions in individual countries decreased by -26% on average.

Along with this knowledge, lockdown has given the general public plenty of time to catch up on the increasing number of television programmes on climate change, notably Sir David Attenborough’s Netflix documentary: ‘A Life on Our Planet’, which offers a stark and impactful warning.

While 2020 has by no means been a reset button, it has encouraged reflection on how much more can be done by the world’s population to protect the future of our planet.

At wi-Q, we are proud to support our clients in their efforts to cut out wasteful and unhygienic paper-based menus in exchange for an intuitive mobile ordering platform with menus and scheduling functions that can be updated in real-time.

Let’s be ready to serve in 2021!

With the roll out of the new vaccine underway, there is greater hope for the year albeit with a degree of uncertainty. One thing is for sure, there will be plenty of people ready to see the back of 2020.

Now is the time to adapt to a new way of operating.

For more information on wi-Q and how an integrated digital guest engagement tool could become a crucial part of your hospitality recovery plan for 2021, get in touch with a member of our friendly team.

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