Industry Update
Opinion Article25 November 2020

2021 hotel trends and concepts in ‘a new normal’

As the hotel industry pushes forward through the pandemic, there are a few trends that started this year and will likely continue into the next year.

By Bob Rauch, President of RAR Hospitality and Sarah Andersen, Business Development Manager at RAR Hospitality

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Bob  RauchBob Rauch
Sarah  AndersenSarah Andersen

The hospitality industry has endured tremendous shifts and disruptions over the past year, forcing businesses to rapidly implement innovative trends that will reshape the future of hospitality.


From developments in decision-making and purchasing power, one of the main keys to success is to consciously prepare and adapt. The new 2021 top hotel trends are considered more evolutionary than revolutionary. Here are three major trends we will see in 2021:

A new flat organization

Keeping track of the pulse of expenses has been critical for hoteliers in 2020, and this will continue to be the case in 2021. By delving deeper into utility, maintenance and property costs, as well as labor costs by department, we can see where money is currently flowing—unfortunately, we are still in rocky waters.

Driven by unprecedented revenue per available room declines in 2020, hoteliers have condensed their corporate and operations teams. Since February, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 4.8 million hospitality and leisure jobs have been lost. A new operational structure of multiple managerial positions being condensed into fewer jobs has left hoteliers to cross utilize their staff so employees can fulfill multiple positional responsibilities during a single shift. A switch from job class-oriented staffing to task-oriented staffing isn't simple, but it will be the new standard for hospitality.

A new focus on cash

The COVID-19 pandemic has and will continue to have economic and financial ramifications that will affect the hospitality industry for years. With a full recovery lagging due to the lasting difficulties of the virus and the presidential election, managing cash flow will be more important than ever in 2021.

Hoteliers will be highly focused on cash management. In these circumstances, it cannot be assumed that financing options previously available will continue to be available. By focusing on the cash-to-cash conversion cycle and shifting focus from the income statement to the cash flow report, hoteliers will realize what is essential in the short-term. Minimizing working capital and revisiting variable costs will be a requirement over the next year. After all, cash is king.

A new type of hospitality

As days go by in which hotels sit vacant, money is being burned. This unfortunate byproduct of COVID-19 has required savvy hoteliers to discover creative ways to repurpose these now underused spaces.

During the earlier months of the pandemic, some hotels in densely populated areas may have been converted to quarantine centers or homeless shelters. Many hotels provided housing for first responders and essential workers. As the general public has continued to adjust to this new way of living, we are seeing less of this need. Hoteliers are now focused on gaining extra revenue from guests who want month-to-month apartment-like units. Because hotels are set up with high-speed internet and a work-friendly desk, they have also made a fairly easy transition to co-working spaces and business offices.

We expect hoteliers to continue this alternative use trend in 2021 if it fits into their broader business and performance strategies. We also anticipate that the hotels with restaurants will continue to implement dramatic changes in the way they serve their customers. In addition to being a "contactless" food and beverage service facility, drinks and foods will be available in three distinctly different ways: outdoor dining, indoor dining with distancing and "grab and go."

Final words

It is safe to imagine that today's hotel business models look entirely different from their predecessors. COVID-19 is just one earthquake that has jolted and continues to shake up the landscape. The hotel industry must evolve and reinvent itself to exploit the opportunities and cope with the challenges it faces. After all, this industry is no stranger to disruptions, and it will continue to adapt in even the most uncertain of times.

Bob Rauch

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Sarah Andersen

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