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Change to adapt: How businesses respond to post-pandemic travels

The vaccination rate is climbing steadily. On February 27, a third vaccine requiring just one shot was also authorized by FDA.  

Hospitality and tourism companies are ready for the long-waited travel recovery in 2021. Many have begun hiring. The hospitality sector alone added 355,000 new jobs in February, making up most of the nonfarm payroll gains in the market. Airlines, too, are preparing for recovery; they have resumed hiring and training and planned to buy new airplanes.  

Post-pandemic travels, however, will very likely look different from what we knew about travel. COVID-19 pandemic’s devastating impact on the hospitality and tourism industry could have changed the ways how businesses are operated forever. 

Businesses must change to adapt to the new norms to remain competitive. By now, what changes have we seen? More importantly, what other changes can be anticipated? 

The lodging industry is making rooms for the work-from-home and “bleisure” travelers


The immediate response that hotels and Airbnb took was to enhance their cleaning standards, aiming to ease travelers’ hygiene concerns of getting the wide-spread coronavirus. Nevertheless, with lockdowns, work-from-home orders, and companies cutting budgets for business trips, there is no real sense of recovery unless business travel picks up.    


One type of lodging product seemed to be more resilient to the pandemic’s negative impact. That is --- the lodging facilities that give travelers the home-away-from-home experience, including extended-stay hotels and home-sharing services. These lodging products offer extra space for people traveling with families and the flexibility of cooking home-style meals. They are also ideal for the work-from-home groups who want to stay in a second “home” without worrying about a daily commute. Continuous growth can be expected for extended-stay hotels and home-sharing facilities.  


Meanwhile, “bleisure” re-emerged as a new buzzword among hoteliers and travelers. More travelers will mix business with pleasure during a trip in the foreseeable future. Then, what does “bleisure” mean to hotels? For a minimum, hotels may consider to: 


  • Redesign or update the guestrooms with comfortable working desks. 
  • Maintain or upgrade a stable, fast, and secured internet network. 
  • Rethink the use of public areas, turning them into small and flexible spaces for remote work. 
  • Allow guests to add one or two foldable tables to the guestroom upon request, similar to meeting the demands for baby cribs or rollaway beds. 
  • Promote the hotel as an excellent alternative for work and small team meetings.
  • Highlight the neighborhood’s local experience during off-work hours.    


Restaurants must remain flexible to survive


Lockdowns and strict social distancing orders often mean no dine-in services for restaurants. The restaurant industry reacted to the pandemic immediately with a push for contactless self-service and delivery services. 


A large number of quick-service and quick-casual restaurants had also introduced new store designs to embrace the digital trends in the third or fourth quarter of 2020. We have seen new restaurants with more drive-thru lanes, dedicated space for curbside pickup and mobile orders, conveyer bells for food delivery, expanded outdoor dining areas, and more. A restaurant chain also tested a new concept without a dining room, focusing on pickup and delivery services solely. 


The pandemic challenges the restaurant industry to adapt to the new changes quickly. Being able to remain flexible is the key to survival. For example, restaurants must: 


  • Continue focusing on mobile ordering, contactless self-service, curbside pickup, and delivery services. 
  • Redesign the entrance to promote easy pickup and delivery services. 
  • Allow for more flexibility in changing the dining room layout (e.g., moving tables and chairs around or removing some tables/chairs away to leave more space in-between groups).
  • If conditions allow, use retractable walls and an operable roof, a design that can maximize the use of natural lights and easily switch between indoor and outdoor dining. 


Airlines may need more than the “vaccine passports” 


Airlines and airports have begun utilizing facial recognition technology for contactless self-service even before the pandemic hit the global economy. After the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic in March, airlines also introduced enhanced cleaning programs and added new air travel restrictions.   


There is a discussion about whether “vaccine passports” will enable people to travel abroad in 2021. Besides the new seating arrangements and enhanced cleaning procedures, will airplanes with bacteria-resistant fabrics/materials be a solution (although very costly at the same time)? 


As we are getting ready for post-pandemic travel, what recommendations will you make to businesses? Who is doing well in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and stays ahead of the competitors? 


Note: This post was also published on The picture was downloaded from


  1. Timothy Lam (HRT 3020.01)April 17, 2021 at 10:24 PM

    It is devastating for business travelers within the hospitality industry that this pandemic has caused. According to this recent Wall Street article I read that relates to this one, for starters, big U.S. airlines typically generate their profit from the higher fares paid by business travelers, who account for less than one-fifth of their seats pre-pandemic. I have personally been to conventions before, a notable one being CES (Consumer Electronics Show), which is the world’s largest electronics convention. Due to this pandemic, the article states that one of these convention centers had seventy percent of their workers laid off or had hours cut, which is extremely hard to hear. Also, what I found interesting is that because so many companies find that so much work can be done remotely, businesses are now able to lower their spending costs and therefore not require their employees to travel as much in the future. My opinion is that even though this all may seem bad, companies have now been more flexible than ever, and because of that, they have more opportunities to save and manage money by not having their employees traveling or having such big budgets on expenses. I believe that restaurants are already making a huge comeback since they are also allowed to have outside dining options while maintaining more and more indoor dining. However, outside of the restaurant industry, it will definitely take some time to have a comeback.

  2. Covid has caused the influx of delivery and contactless order become a necessity for a business instead of an additional feature. Businesses have been forced to create more open spaces and be logistical about patron occupancy. I believe, especially in the hotel industry, there will be a shift into contactless check ins for high end hotels. It might work similarly to how an Apple or Google pay works today, a simple phone tap on a kiosk or hotel door sensor would make it safe and simple to check into hotels. This also plays into hotels ever evolving use of technology
    HRT 3020 Section 01. (1pm)

  3. The COVID-19 pandemic has left devastating effects on thousands of businesses and hospitality organizations all around the world. As the industry prepares for the upcoming recovery in 2021, there will be new changes implemented that will reshape the way hospitality and tourism companies run their businesses. The hospitality sector, such as airline companies, works to add new jobs, and resume hiring and training processes to plan for the travel recovery. Along with the new additions, businesses will have to adapt to the new needs and demand of the consumers following these difficult times. Businesses must adapt new practices in order to remain competitive in the industry. The most immediate response that most businesses implemented was to improve their cleaning standards in order to ease hygiene concerns of spreading the Coronavirus. A new lodging product that has proven to be a successful service, during this pandemic, is facilities that offer travelers home-away-from-home experience. This lodging option includes extended-stay hotels and home-sharing services that provide extra comfort for travelers to want the flexibility to work from home and cook their own meals. The restaurant industry reacted to the pandemic with the implementation of contactless self-service and delivery services that give customers an option to place their orders without having to come in contact with other people. (Vienna Tan, HRT 3020 Section 03)


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