Much has been said regarding the many ways the coronavirus pandemic has changed how we live our lives, and run our businesses. Ask yourself – when was the last time you caught a plane or stayed at a hotel?
And, if you work in the hospitality sector, when was the last time your hotel was at full occupancy capacity? If you reside in the UK&I, the answer is likely to be months if not close to a year.
What’s next for Hotels in the UK?
According to PWC’s UK hotels forecast, hotel occupancy rates in 2021 are expected to be around 55% across the UK. PWC predicts it could be four years before this returns to pre–COVID-19 levels.
However, the forecast also maintains that 2021 will prove a better year for hotel occupancy rates compared to 2020, a conclusion which may be based on the expected results of a successful vaccine roll-out and the consequent easing of the government’s social and travel restrictions. The combination of these two factors could bring some consumer confidence to travel, especially for local ‘stay-cations’.
However, as far as the hospitality sector is concerned, we can expect to wait some time longer before the industry returns to business as usual.
At the time of writing, the UK and Ireland are going through their third lockdown, and most hotels are closed. The law allows some hotels to remain open solely for specific reasons, meaning many of those that are open are highly likely to be operating at low occupancy capacity.
Throughout 2020, we saw hotels sporadically opening and closing their doors as restrictions eased or tightened. We will, perhaps, see a continuation of similar behaviours in 2021, therefore hotels and hoteliers will need to adapt their operations to fit these ongoing changes.
Adapting hotels to maintain efficiency
So, how can hoteliers adapt in 2021 to maintain hotel efficiency? In our Checklist to Optimize Hotel Energy Consumption During Low Occupancy, we listed 15 basic tips to drive hotel efficiency during periods of low occupancy.
Monitoring a hotel’s environmental, power and safety conditions to understand how the building responds when operating at such deep levels of efficiencies or low-occupancy settings is key to avoid unknowingly running into moisture problems, hotspots, and other issues.
We also considered other ways to increase performance such as maintenance that could cause downtime at moments of full operation. Hotels are highly complex, energy-intensive environments, where maintenance is difficult and often reactive, so now (while many hotels are shut) could be the perfect time to carry out such maintenance, ensuring the building is ready to go when hotels start opening their doors again.
Prior to re-opening, hoteliers should also consider the addition of hands-free technology to ensure a healthier and safer experience for hotel guests and employees. On top of these short-term solutions, hoteliers should also begin to consider longer-term strategies to create the new healthy hotel of the future.
Our technology can help hoteliers investigate those long-term solutions. Schneider Electric, in collaboration with Danfoss and Somfy, created the Connectivity Ecosystem 2 years ago.
The Ecosystem was initially thought to be a driver of innovative collaboration to accelerate digitization, but it is now tackling the challenges unleashed by COVID-19, by producing new and creative ways to adapt to the current situation.
With our Connectivity Ecosystem, we can help hoteliers provide a safer environment to their guests and colleagues by offering innovative solutions that can be readily deployed, including the following:
- Enabling mobile check-in via a smartphone app to ensure guests can avoid physical contact with surfaces outside of their room
- Voice control of heating, cooling, lighting, and window shades
- Specifying that all room-control switches be made from anti-bacterial material
- Optimizing HVAC control to:
- Deliver optimal humidity levels and meet recommended healthy building ranges prescribed by CIBSE and BSRIA
- Confirm adequate air circulation throughout building and monitor CO2 and VoC levels
- Ensure adequate cleaning through indirect VoC monitoring
- In addition to existing cleaning and disinfecting programs, employing UV lighting for on-demand sterilisation of guest rooms, elevators, restrooms, break rooms, and other high-traffic, high-touch areas
- Sanitising HVAC coils with ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) to kill algae, mould, pathogens, and biofilm
- Using the property management system (PMS) to only let rooms that have had sufficient time between guests to benefit from full cleaning and fresh air ventilation.
Looking ahead to 2021, hoteliers should contemplate a careful reopening strategy for their facilities to ensure that this is a gradual opening (e.g., one floor at a time) and have a backup plan in case hotel buildings are required to go back into a deep level of low occupancy.
To learn more about how digitisation can help hoteliers achieve hotel efficiency, visit our hotels solution page.