Digital tools don’t change the fact that people can’t travel or eat in a restaurant. However, those hospitality businesses that use the crisis to prepare for what comes after are well-positioned to benefit once travel bounces back.

3 hours of debate: Liechtenstein’s hospitality association (Liechtensteiner Hotel- und Gastronomieverband, LHGV) discussed the industry’s challenges in a video cofnerence. Together with 20 representatives of different German-speaking hospitality associations, LHGV joined an invitation of Hotellerie Suisse to address the challenges the industry faces in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and Liechtenstein.

Needless to say, that the COVID pandemic was the dominating theme during the virtual meetup. Key agenda points were the government support for the industry and an efficient exit strategy from the lockdowns to reinstall travel across Europe. The reality on the ground looks different. In Germany, politicians have agreed on another round of lockdown measures.

Hospitality goes digital

According to the LHGV, the event participants also discussed digitization strategies for the industry. COVID is just one reason why that’s necessary. Another is the increasing demand for sustainability and connectivity. The demand for digital solutions has surged during the pandemic, also in tourism, and that’s a trend that is likely to continue.

From researching destinations to booking hotels, flights, and even restaurant visits, clients want to plan their trips online. That does not only include the large and well-known booking sites such as Expedia, but smaller hotel and tour operators also need to speed up their online presence.

They can do that in two ways: First, they need to get listed on the major booking sites – which most of them already do. But second, they also need to create their own online offerings. A well-rounded website, informative social media channels, and online chat or email service facilitate bookings and make it easy to ask questions.

Small business need to digitize, too

In the future, local travel offices will see fewer customers coming through the door, as most information sharing and booking will happen online. That means local travel offices also need to move online. Their edge is the customer consulting, ease of booking, and ability to find better prices and provide all-in-one package solutions. There will still be demand for these services in an increasingly digital world, but that demand will move to the digital space.

Travel consultants could start using video chat through their website or social media. They would still provide the same services as so far, but customers don’t have to commute to their offices anymore. Call in, fill in a form, press the button, and there you go, your holiday is booked.

The same goes for restaurants: Why not offering table bookings, food delivery – or even online cooking classes. Digitization will help restaurants expand their reach and develop their business models, offering more than food and dining experience.

The participants of the virtual conference admit that it will take time for the industry to bounce back. Digital solutions will not help much in the current situation, as people still can’t travel. However, the future is coming fast, and those hospitality companies who use the crisis to improve and digitize their systems will be all set to benefit once travel comes back.

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