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The Pandemic is driving changes to customer behaviour

November 19th, 2020  /  #hospitality, #PostCOVID, #PostCovid, ConsumerBehaviour, COVID-19, Global Hospitality, Hotel industry, Industry Insights, Mental Health  /  Turned off

The Global   hospitality sector has been hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis.

Restaurants, hotels, casinos, and sporting venues have stood empty for months as governments and public health authorities acted to contain the spread of the coronavirus. These organizations moved swiftly to mitigate the impact on their business, furloughing staff, reducing costs, pivoting online, and more, until given the green light to reopen.

Now that time has come. Authorities across Australia and other parts of the world have begun to reopen their economies, and the hospitality sector is gearing up to open their doors once again. Yet the world in which the industry now finds itself has changed.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting Global  lockdown have dramatically affected consumer behaviour. Some behavioural changes in motion before the outbreak have accelerated; others have slowed or stopped. New habits and expectations have arisen. Discretionary spending has suffered, and spending patterns have changed.

Understanding and responding to consumers’ changing behaviours will be essential to the recovery of the hospitality sector. Organizations will need to re imagine the customer experience and re-engage with customers to build and maintain their trust. At the same time, they will need to improve their operational agility and financial resilience to navigate the uncertainties of doing business in a world wracked by pandemic.

Months of self-isolation and, in many cases, significant spending constraints quickly and dramatically changed how consumers behave. And in the absence of a vaccine for the novel coronavirus and in a world facing ongoing economic pressures—the Organization for

Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) forecasts that the global economy will contract 6 percent this year—many of these behavioural changes are likely to endure.

Consumers reduce and redirect discretionary spending

It’s normal for people to reduce discretionary spending in times of social or economic uncertainty. The COVID-19 crisis also seems to have prompted consumers to re-evaluate their overall spending priorities: many pre-pandemic must-haves are now seen as nice-to- haves—at best.

Consumers’ embrace of digital accelerates

COVID-19 lockdowns have seen Australians  work, shop, socialize, and entertain themselves online more than ever; some for the very first time. This is likely to not only increase their comfort with digital technologies and experiences, but their appetite for them as well. As provinces ease restrictions, many Australians will remain concerned about exposure to the coronavirus and will be open to new technologies such as self-check-ins and check-outs, touch less payments, app-based services, augmented or virtual reality, and more. For hospitality organizations, this should be seen as an invitation to innovate and invest in digital technology.

Consumers may be slow to return to old habits and crowds

Australians are undoubtedly pleased to see governments take the first steps toward reopening the economy in the “new normal.” But the hospitality sector shouldn’t expect a swift return to full houses.

Rules on venue capacity physical distancing, and more in an effort to ensure that reopening doesn’t spark a new wave of viral infections. But consumers themselves may be reluctant to return to their old habits.

Nearly half (47 percent) of Australians are concerned about their own physical wellbeing, and 58 percent are concerned about the health of their family.

To persuade consumers to return, the hospitality sector must ensure it delivers a clean, safe experience and effectively communicate this to consumers.

As authorities begin to lift public-health restrictions and reopen the economy, the hospitality sector can turn its attention to recovering from the shock of lockdown. However, the recovery process will be challenging. Businesses in the sector will need to adhere to authorities’ guidance to help prevent outbreaks of coronavirus infection. They will need to respond and adapt to consumers’ changed behaviours and expectations. And they will need to manage the operational and financial implications of doing business in the new normal. Those that do so effectively will be well positioned to overcome the challenges and seize the opportunities that are emerging in a changing business environment.

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