Every week we comb through the news to find employment trends affecting the hospitality industry so  you don’t have to. This week’s topic: what hotels can expect in 2021.  

As we approach one year living with COVID-19, experts are looking ahead to the rest of 2021 to understand what the most-impacted businesses can expect, especially in the hospitality industry.  

For hotels, the impact on travel had a huge effect on their occupancy levels. Based off TSA checkpoint numbers, we can understand the following:  

  • There was a 72% decrease in flyers between 2019 and 2020 (from March 1 to December 31). 
  • The holidays likely led to an uptick in traveling, with a 63% decrease in TSA check-ins for the last 3 months of the year (2019 vs 2020).  
  • For the first 10 days of 2021, travelers are down 57% compared to the first 10 days of 2020.  

Looking at these numbers, we can see that consumer confidence in air travel has begun to slowly increase as people become more comfortable with traveling. When looking at hotel occupancy numbers, we can see a similar trend(Via STR) 

The most recent update to the report (above) shows a 40% occupancy across hotels in the U.S., a 17% decrease compared to the same time period last year. Whereas travel increased during the holidays, hotel stays decreased, likely because most people opted to stay with their families for holiday gatherings. As the occupancy rates tick back up, hoteliers are hoping they can reach pre-pandemic numbers, especially with travel increasing.  

As we look ahead to the rest of 2021, it’s important to set proper expectations so hotel operates know how to prepare for what’s likely another challenging year. Here are some things you can expect:  

Improvement in contactless technologies
No matter what, safety is the first priority, which is why contactless technology will be key in the return of hotels. Providing a check-in option (amongst other services) that may remove some of the human interaction might seem counterintuitive to the hospitality aspect of staying in a hotel, but it’s a safety measure that could make guests feel more comfortable.  

Flexibility a main focus
As we continue living during a pandemic, offering guests flexibility will likely be a driving factor in them choosing you over a competitor. Last minute cancellations should be a mainstay in your offerings (at least during the pandemic) that way guests won’t feel pressured to visit if they’re experiencing symptoms or have interacted with someone who has. There are other ways to be flexible, such as offering deals for last minute bookings, which is a great way to draw in new or return guests for a weekend away.  

Emphasis on cleanliness
Relating to safety, guests will be looking for hotels to go above and beyond to keep their venues clean and hygienic. As it stands, most (if not all) of the larger chains have their own health and safety programs, such as Marriott’s “Commitment to Clean” initiative or Hilton’s CleanStay Experience.” Throughout the rest of 2021, we can expect hotels big and small to continue improving on their programs.  

Included in this is having the right housekeeping team to help implement cleanliness initiatives. Because of the pandemic, there’s higher risk of staff shortages, so be sure you have enough team members in place to accommodate call offs and surges in business. Consider partnering with a third-party staffing provider, like LGC, to ensure you won’t be left short-handed. (Learn more about LGC’s offerings here.) 

Return of group business in late 2021
A big part of a hotel’s revenue comes from group business, like meetings, conventions, or booking for travelers. With thousands of people working from home in 2020 (and into 2021), group business has been virtually non-existent for most companies. Experts suggest that by the second half of the year, group business will pick back up because the coronavirus vaccine will be more readily available to the public. 

Nothing in the past year has been easy for the hospitality industry, and unfortunately, we’re not out of the woods yet. But by understanding what you can expect this year, you can be as prepared as possible for when guests are comfortable returning.  


LGC partners with hotels across the country to offer customized staffing solutions. Contact us today to learn how we can help provide support during COVID-19.