10 Hospitality Trends for Hoteliers to Watch in 2021

10 Hospitality Trends for Hoteliers to Watch in 2021
February 23, 2021 Levi Olmstead

2020 started with high hopes for the hospitality industry and quickly became a year-to-forget, as the COVID-19 pandemic shut down all sectors of the economy – with the hospitality industry being one of the hardest hit sectors.

COVID-19 dominated the economic outlook for hotels in 2020 – and will be the dominant trends influencing the industry again this year. However, there is finally some hope as we start to see the light at the end of the tunnel. COVID-19 brought many new advances and trends to the hospitality industry, with many of them here to stay even after we reach the end of the pandemic.

To get you inspired and excited for when travel and trips are allowed again, we’ve collected some of the most important trends in the hospitality industry impacting 2021.

10 Major Hospitality Trends to Watch in 2021

    1. COVID-19’s Continued Impact
    2. Lack of Corporate Business Travel
    3. A Safer Guest Experience with Contactless Services
    4. Digital Transformation of the Hospitality Industry
    5. Profitable Food & Beverage with Virtual Kitchens
    6. Smart Hotel Rooms
    7. Alternative Lodging
    8. Rise of Voice Search
    9. Robots in Hotels
    10. Going Green & Sustainability

1. COVID-19’s Continued Impact

COVID-19 will continue to be the star of the show when it comes to impacting the US and global travel this year – impacting everyone in the hospitality industry. As vaccinations have begun across the world, everyone is waiting how quickly this will steer us back to ‘normal’. In the meantime, governments are considering holding up travel restrictions for people who want to come into their country without a vaccination. 

The only great travel COVID-19 allowed was a journey back in time: according to the latest numbers, international arrivals declined by 70% to 75% for the whole of 2020. These are numbers that we haven’t seen in 30 years.


So, what’s to come in 2021? While the pandemic has shown us that nothing can be predicted with certainty, there are some careful scenario predictions. We’re now expecting a rebound in international tourism by the second half of 2021. But returning to the levels from before the pandemic could take anywhere from 2-4 years for a complete recovery in international travel to the US.

2. Lack of Corporate Business Travel

As tourists stay closer to home, business travelers will most likely continue to meet their partners, clients, and colleagues from behind a screen. Business travelers pivoted quickly and adapted to Zoom, which could indicate that even when regular tourism gets started again, corporate business travel might take longer to catch up — simply because the need doesn’t seem as high anymore. 

As soon as the business world gets a green light again, companies will most likely return to sending their employees on trips in phases. Who gets to go first will be determined by the length and purpose of the trip, as well as the sector in which the travelers are working – but be certain: bleisure travel will return.


Image via McKinsey

3. Contactless Guest Experiences

Hospitality businesses that have reopened are adapting to contactless service. This goes further than contactless payments or ordering in restaurants — think contactless check-ins at hotels. Tablets, robots, QR-codes, virtual room service: keep an eye out for how hotels and restaurants adapt to this new — slightly forced — trend. Contactless operations and self-service are here to stay, even after COVID-19.

4. Digital Transformation in the Hospitality Industry

We’re expecting to see a complete digital transformation of the hospitality industry. For many businesses, it’s time to move on from traditional operations and processes. There are new technology and software available that will streamline their work and make it more efficient.

These technologies help both customers and employees and businesses. From a mobile check-in that minimizes physical contact and saves time, to Artificial Intelligence doing its part in hotel management, here are some trends to look out for:

Live chat and chatbots help customers faster, and take on a part of the workload from hospitality, leaving them with only the most urgent requests and questions that require more time and dedication. 

Hotel reservations will benefit from AI-based pricing and AI-booking engines, ensuring the best possible price and keeping a clear view of the capacity (and possibilities or promotions) for hotels, spas and bed and breakfasts.

5. Profitable Food & Beverage & Virtual Kitchens

For quite some time, F&B in the hotel industry has been unprofitable, as well as an unsatisfactory guest experience overall. 2021 brings new F&B disruptions to hotels in the form of virtual kitchens that power hotel in-room dining experiences, without the need for an onsite kitchen.

With 2ndKitchen, hotels can offer virtual room service, to-go continental breakfast, and other F&B experiences to guests – all completely free for hotels, without the operating costs of an onsite kitchen. Plus, hotels earn income on each guest order.

Hotels are connected to nearby restaurants with underutilized kitchens. These restaurants turn into virtual kitchens, preparing your guests’ orders with a white-labeled food menu. Guests scan QR codes in their rooms and order via an online, contactless ordering portal. 2ndKitchen uses its courier network to deliver orders generally in under 30 mins.

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6. Smart Hotel Rooms

That exciting feeling when first opening your hotel room is about to become even more intense: what if you’re entering a smart room? More and more hotels are upgrading their rooms and adding the latest technologies to them. And it’s all about the details:

Smart lighting and temperature control, based on the time of day or mood you want to set. That’s right: No more sudden and harsh bathroom lights when you go to the bathroom and your partner is still sleeping or coming back from dinner to a freezing cold room. 

No more mindlessly changing channels on the TV until you find something that’s somewhat similar to what you usually watch, just in a strange language. Hotels are increasingly welcoming all the popular streaming services to their room TVs, or at least allowing you to cast from your own device, in the case of Smart TVs. Imagine the luxury of just putting your phone down on the nightstand, and it starts charging. With wireless charging, it’s possible. As more phones offer this possibility, so do more and more hotels. 

Voice assistants are making their way into the bedroom, even in hotels. Control music, light, set alarms, and more, all without lifting a finger. Last but not least, smart mirrors give you a great start to the day. Get an immediate overview of the weather forecast and the latest news, all while brushing your teeth and getting ready for another day of exploring.

For new hotels and those who are renovating, these technologies are reshaping the looks of their hotel rooms and accommodation, playing around with the possibilities in interior design software. What technology would you like to see in your next hotel room?

7. Alternative Lodging

Large groups of people in one space, or a lot of people passing through the same room: COVID-19 put an end to much of that. New cleaning protocols and social distancing makes many hotels unsuitable for groups of travelers.

This means that more travelers will look for alternative accommodation and avoid traditional hotels. We’re expecting to see a rise in bookings in alternative vacation rentals. Think campings in the fresh air, Airbnbs with a lot of privacy, but also tiny homes and RVs. After sitting at home for so long, we’ll be happy to get out and explore.

8. Rise of Voice Search

Hey Google, is my website ready for voice search? Chances are, not yet. But it’s not too late to jump on board. Voice Search is on the rise, and this is the year in which you want to take every chance you can get.

Make sure you’re not missing out on extra bookings by not being prepared for the new way that people perform Google searches. Get your website optimized for voice searches. How do you do that? By realizing we, humans, type differently than we talk.

When we speak to Siri, Alexa, or our Google Assistant, we sound a lot more conversational than when we type into the search bar. So, present your content in a similar way: take another look at your copy and how it answers questions.

Let an SEO specialist take another look at your content, and make sure everything can be easily found by your future guests. It’s all about making the booking process as easy and smooth as possible.

9. Robots in Hotels

We’ve touched on this earlier, but be prepared to be greeted by a robot when you enter your next hotel, or when you’ve ordered a bottle of wine from room service. For simple tasks, robots are becoming increasingly popular. They’re hygienic, work even at odd times and hey, let’s be honest: they’re a very cool unique selling point for hotels.


We’ve touched on this earlier, but be prepared to be greeted by a robot when you enter your next hotel, or when you’ve ordered a bottle of wine from room service. For simple tasks, robots are becoming increasingly popular. They’re hygienic, work even at odd times and hey, let’s be honest: they’re a very cool unique selling point for hotels.

10. Going Green & Sustainability

2021 is the year to take sustainable practices to the next level in the hospitality sector. if you haven’t started yet, it’s going to be hard to catch up. We’re expecting to see hotels and restaurants installing solar panels, creating systems for waste disposal and water conservation.

Opportunities for your business to enter the circular economy (like partnering with local organizations who may be able to reuse old furniture and e-waste) can not only reduce the waste you send to landfills, but also save your business money in the long term. 


Above: Example of how the circular economy works via Rheaply.

Reuse and recycling also double as a great marketing tool – patrons want to know the businesses they deal with are doing more to help the environment than hurt it.

Guests might not notice all those attempts at a more sustainable business, but something you might see more and more as an end consumer, are meat alternatives. Because ultimately, a more sustainable planet and industry takes efforts from both sides, so don’t be surprised when there are more veggie options than steaks once we get back out again.

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