10 big hotel trends 2021

2020 has been a different and challenging year for all in hospitality. The effect of Covid-19 on the industry has been profound and we are all adjusting to the ‘new normal’.

Whilst we act in the now, we have to look ahead and put some of our collection energy into positive ideas. This is why we are bringing you 10 hotel trends for 2021 with expert views included.

We have given each trend a score out of 10 (10 being the highest) to label how significant we think the trend is for hotels. These hotel trends 2021 are all labelled either fresh or continued. Fresh means it’s new and continued is because it’s something that is sticking around.

Fresh. We score it 10 out of 10.

1. Communicating cleanliness and safety

Safety is a ‘new luxury’. Hotels and hosts around the world adjusted to a changed way of operating. One where guest and staff safety is a priority. Measures to give cleanliness and safety vary per country, and include: distribution of hand-gels in all areas and in-room, increased frequency and documentation of cleaning, using a different approved grade of cleaning products, policies for guests to wear masks or other protective equipment, adhering to social distancing rules, gaps in-between stays such as three days to allow time for virus on surfaces to die, businesses looking at options such as automatic opening doors and keyless entry.

How are hotels communicating these to guests?

  • Use of floor stickers to help encourage social distancing
  • Use of stickers to say when or how often disinfectant was or is used on entry doors to rooms or lifts / elevators and on items in communal areas that come into contact with people
  • Providing doormats at entrances to encourage guests to dry their shoes, which should be regularly disinfected, and reduces spread
  • Provide guests with rubbish or garbage bags to put packages and suitcases in while not being used. Also asking guests to disinfect them and providing cleaning products to do so
  • Making disposable masks available to guests with designated bin disposals
  • Timing increased between lift / elevator rides and limits on the number of people on each ride
  • Updating websites to communicate measures transparently

People want to know what covid measures are in place before they book. A recent analysis by GlobalWebIndex shows that 58% of people will resume travelling when they feel it is right to do so, and 87% appreciate companies providing informative information as part of their marketing and communication.

Hotels should communicate measures and how they meet government directives to guests at the different stages of a guest’s stay, from the moment they book to when they depart. Guests will also want to know that the staff are being considered and looked after, so ethical and socially responsible companies as well as guests will be at the forefront here. Thinking through how to learn, respond and communicate is key. Travel Media group have some good insights on this. Our often overlooked pick is using social media to communicate generally what you are doing, as you never know which guests or potential bookers and looking right now.

Continued. We score it 9 out of 10.

2. Guest experience pre-stay & in-stay

Customer experience is becoming the new differentiator. It is considered to now be having more of an impact than product or price differentiators. 86% of guests according to PWC will pay more for a good customer experience. Put that with 67% of travel being planned on mobile, and over 50% booked on mobile, then you know technology matters in delivering a high amount of this brilliant experience.

Pre-stay, before the guest arrives, there will be more hotels looking for self-check-in service apps or web apps, making sure they have automated contact through email and SMS and starting to use chatboxes. Deloitte highlights that front-desk staff who are more attentive can improve guest experience on arrival. Self-check-in tech can facilitate this and when hotels provide high care of attention to guests they are 29% more likely to leave a positive review.

The very first thing guest do when they arrive is connect their mobiles to the Wi-Fi! The landing page that guests see after connecting to the internet is valuable. What are you telling people on that page? It is a great opportunity to use this space to provide something meaningful. Make it welcoming, helpful and informative. If you offer in-stay extras, this is the place to feature them. Want guests to know something important, like how to recycle. At that moment you’ve got their attention, and words are being read carefully, because they really want to get onto the internet.

In-stay then includes using tech, such as in-room digital assistants, either tablets or voice activated like Echo, or Google Home. This way guests can bring their home experience with them. Making use of app or browser based in stay extras and chatboxes, which give the guest a focal point for their communication.

What this means in practical terms for your hotel, is that if you can implement some of the tech, you can make gains in revenue and saving time, which when communicated upfront, or via reviews will lead to a customer experience differentiator. Does the guest booking pick the hotel with a slightly bigger room, or the one where guests can be informed where is best to go to satisfy their craving for fish and chips locally? A great wat to see hotel trends 2021 developing!

 Continued. We score it 9 out of 10

3. Personalisation

Personalising a guest’s stay is another customer experience differentiator and alongside convenience, is one of the biggest disruptor trends at play in all industries currently.

Luxury guests value customisation to their stay 33% more than other guests, so the higher your average daily rate, the more it matters. Being able to know and recognise guests likes and dislikes to and create a customised experience through service and communication, will give a wow experience.

Personalisation starts with learning about someone in a non-invasive way, so with permission, or with what is openly available. Facebook, Netflix, Amazon, are all personalising your user experience, based on what they know about you. The question then is how is this introduced in a scalable way in 2021 for hotels?

We predict there will be more use of communication tools to interact with guests from when they have booked and there will be hotels looking to see how they store and use that information, feeding it to the team when it matters.

Personalisation, can start small, from finding using someones first name, whether they are business or leisure traveler, then moving to knowing about their interests, preferences on their room (temperature, pillow type) or what they need information on during their stay. This information can be collected by asking people, or by researching. Both to be scalable require technology to help and people to execute the actions.

This trend will see hotels that get this right delivering really wow experiences and increasing their chance of positive reviews, social media shares and return guests.

Travel daily news predicts that if hoteliers get this right, it will be a trigger to a return to loyalty to those brands and that makes sense. OTAs have been better at personalisation in the last 5 or 10 years. 

 Continued. We score it 8 out of 10.

4. Direct bookings

There will be a push back against big OTAs as a result of ‘guest first, supply second’ treatment of hotels during covid-19. Whilst that is understandable from OTAs perspective, it re-opens the subject about how OTAs are not supply friendly. A reminder that hotels need to protect their brand and innovate.

Naturally, hotels will give a little more focus to direct bookings. Guests are more likely to seek confirmation that what they see on a 3rd party website is correct, as they worry about safety, cleanliness and other matters, so your direct website may see it’s best ever traffic as we come out of this pandemic.

Implementing things that OTAs have been good at for some time is a good starting point. Our own Commercial Director, Duncan Chappell, wrote this article which covers how to introduce concepts: social proof and urgency, the power of the deal on direct, and of course, getting the basics right.

This is a reminder that when demand goes down users cannot rely on OTAs, you need to have a strong secure brand and a direct sales channel. A study found 2019 69% of hotels are totally or very committed to a book direct strategy. We predict Covid-19 will raise that percentage even higher. Hotels put a lot of effort into ensuring the content on their websites are driving direct bookings. Having ‘’best price guarantee’’ on websites helps stimulate direct bookings by 71% followed by 70% of upselling or discount codes for repeat bookings.

 Continued. We score it 7 out of 10.

5. AI chatbots

A well discussed topic each year is AI chatbots. Trying into guest experience partially, Hotels continue to desire to communicate instantly with their guests to provide an excellent experience.

Hyatt, Marriott, Accor, Four Seasons and some independents are all hotel groups using AI chatbots, mostly to deal faster with commonly asked questions, and also with common booking requests.

There are endless AI capabilities that expand and strengthen functionality e.g. more ‘’human-sounding’’ natural use of conversations. Chatbots will give your front desk a break, as they go far beyond taking care of thousands of inquiries in real-time your guests might have. It also helps act as a translator for international guests if the chatbot is programmed to speak several languages. Upsell or cross-sell services where the chatbot can send recommendations to the guest about your spa package after their long flight journey. 57% of consumers are interested in chatbots for their instantaneity, according to SocialTables. Other benefits include custom-tailored experiences, boost pre-booking experience, instant notifications, and 24/7 presence and availability.

Our favorite tip here, from Robert Reitknecht, article in Hospitality Net on the rise of chatbots, is to start with a single focus. Pick one problem you want to solve. This is likely why the chains have rolled it out. There big problem to solve, was faster responses to commonly asked questions. They have succeeded in this!

 Fresh. We score it 7 out of 10.

6. Smart menus

A majority of places to eat now offer people to scan QR codes on their smartphones where the menu will pop up. In the coming year, viewing menus online would lead onto smart menus where hospitality sectors/restaurants will offer recommendations and provide customers with their own dining experiences.

From their rooms, guests can scan QR codes to access room service menus. The room number can be integrated into the QR code for that room - no need to fill out additional details. Restaurants will replace physical menus, as it will be easy to access a PDF menu via a smartphone. Installing an ordering system can help with quicker table service e.g. the UK Nandos current system is accessing menus and ordering via their smartphones. 

 Continued. We score it 6 out of 10.

7. The smart room

Hotel chains, like Hilton, are embracing the concept of smart room technology. This provides guests with greater control and convenience for controlling settings e.g. lights, door locks, smart TVs, curtains, and temperature. Most smart room tech are in place such as key card integrations. Igor-Tech news state one of the main benefits is that it increases guest comfort which is key.

Reduced costs associated with running a hotel has also been linked with this solution. Hotels have the opportunity to enhance guests experience by including devices in room such as smart lighting, where they can control the settings with an app on their phones for maximum comfort during their stay. Increased safety and security can be implemented to hotel rooms. Instead of using a key that could get lost or stolen, with smart rooms the door lock enabled to an IoT solution can be unlocked with a secure app via smartphone.

Our favorite item is remote room controls, such as controlling your room temperature before you arrive, or whilst you are out. Revfine highlight this point in their article on smart rooms. 

More of our homes are becoming smart, so it makes sense this is generally happening to all accommodation. It’ll be a continued gradual shift as hotels renovate for the majority, whilst the minority push ahead with using smart rooms as a differentiator. Some devices, like smart TVs, will be common, but without fully connected devices, hotels are just starting their smart room journey.

 Fresh. We score it 6 out of 10.

8. Working holidays

People are working from home more, or spending less time in the office. As travel restrictions loosen, we could see a surge in people taking trips and working from other destinations, because they are not tied to being in an office. Plus, it’s easier than ever for people to let their home via AirBnB to fund their trip. As the pandemic eases off the barriers to working from a resort for 4 weeks will have never been lower.

This makes it important for hotels make living, relaxation and work space areas available, unless they are surrounded by these facilities. So for destination hotels, they may have some planning to do. More co-living, great work spaces, incredible Wi-Fi and the same fantastic pool, spa, beach and room for downtime.

If limitations are placed on mixing, or movement, but one can be at a hotel or resort, then it will become desirable to travel and work and holiday. It seems feasible we will see this trend happen. This can also mean considering longer stay rate discounts for hotels, or resorts.

More people are self-employed and the catalyst of Covid-19, makes co-working holidays more likely. The Guardian saw this possibility 5 years ago. Maybe this pandemic will be the trigger to make this a larger proportion of stays. 

 Continued. We score it 5 out of 10.

9. Facial recognition

Facial recognition is still in the test or early adoption phase and whilst some are capturing it now during the check-in process, it is a question of how it is used during the stay.

Facial recognition has the possibility to make a seamless check-in or room access. The tech can be used to automate verification or authorisation processes to improve guest journeys and can be deployed for security purposes.

Marriot are testing in China, using integrated technologies at a hotel called FlyZoo, built by Alibaba. This indicates it is a long way off mainstream currently, especially in European countries without central databases. This part is one of the more moonshot big hotel trends 2021. 

We believe the most practical use for hotels and the main hotel trend 2021 will be collecting a image of the persons face to verify against their ID, to confirm it is them, who is staying and to reduce fraud.

 Fresh. We score it 5 out of 10.


In today’s smartphones most of them offer some forms of augmented reality (AR), in order to help people to virtually see. Augmented Reality helps enhance the real-world environment and make it more convenient for users to view elements, where you are able to visualise you being welcomed in hotels and restaurants. One way AR can be implemented is by offering interactive hotel environments to create an enjoyable experience.

Best Western experimented AR with Disney stars allowing children to see themselves alongside Disney characters. Other hotels have used AR apps to let guests to virtually redecorate their rooms. Premier Inn in the UK has trialed using AR to make their maps give relevant information on the local area when the phone is pointed at them, which is brilliant. This is where we see the first implementations going, making it more fun and interesting to get useful information. Revfine highlights a few ways augmented reality could start to feature in trend-setting hotels in 2021.