Learnings from the Sensor Flow Hospitality & Tourism Webinar

Keeping a “finger on the pulse” of a key sector at a critical time, Irina Dimitriade (senior research manager at Mustard) earlier attended the Hospitality & Tourism’s Current State of Recovery Across the World webinar, organised by Sensor Flow. It was proven to be interesting and inspiring, and worthy of a short blog post to summarise the highlights and learnings.


Earlier today I listened to some really amazing, insightful and inspiring talks given by Bernard Kee, Regional Manager South East Asia at STR, Andrew Stothert, CEO at Brand Vista, David Salcfas, Consultant at iYou Hospitality Consulting and Dr Martin Berlin, Global Real Estate Leader at PwC.

The growth (and improvement) of webinars has been significant in 2020. Ignoring for a moment the catalyst for this, the Hospitality and Tourism webinar I attended earlier today was excellent, and probably the best yet.

Mustard is already very familiar with the excellent strategic consultative services offered by Brand Vista, with whom we have formed a fantastic collaborative partnership over the last 10 years. Yet again, I felt Andrew’s presentation captured perfectly the state-of-the-nation, but with a timely reminder of how brands have to have the emotional needs and motivations of the consumer “front and centre” in their planning.

All of the presentations delivered within the webinar complemented each other well, so also huge credit to the organisers for coordinating that. Having absorbed what these thought-leaders had to say, here are the three key themes from my perspective:

  1. Obvious, but it needs saying – the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on leisure and tourism has been unprecedented, and there’s a long road ahead to recovery!
  • The tourism sector has been the worst hit by the COVID-19 pandemic from the entirety of the GDP sector, and it’s not expected to recover any time soon.
  • 55% of Europeans think international travel is getting worse, and 63% think domestic travel is getting worse. European cities are not expected to reach 2019 levels again until 2024, while domestic visitor arrivals are not expected to reach 2019 levels by 2023!
  • Hotels are not expected to get back to pre-Covid occupancy rates until 2023!
  • With many hotels having been closed during lockdown restrictions, the short-term road to recovery will most likely focus on preserving cash flow and cutting costs.
  1. The demand for travel and leisure hasn’t gone away, on the contrary!
  • There is a latent demand for leisure travel – 54% of Europeans intend to take a trip in the next 6 months (41% locally and 39% domestically), with Poland, Italy, Spain, Germany and Austria the top 5 markets likely to travel.
  • Personal connection has been missing, so there is a deep emotional drive to reunite with friends and family and experience things together.
  • Consumers are more likely to be hungry for the “experiences and trips of a lifetime”. They’ve had so much time to plan their dream trips, so they’ll come back with better bucket lists to tick through.
  • There is a hope amongst both consumers and brands that a COVID-19 vaccine will help restore consumer confidence and speed up the recovery process.
  1. The COVID-19 pandemic has created plenty of NEW opportunities for the leisure and tourism space.
  • Immediate opportunity exists in “late minute” trips and bookings. The ever-changing restrictions implemented by governments have led to a significant increase in the number of trips that have been planned on a shorter notice than before.
  • Staycations are here to stay. There has been a recent interest in staycations amongst consumers that is expected to continue. In fact, the geographical recovery pattern is expected to start with domestic travel, continue with regional travel and finally emerge into international travel.
  • There is an opportunity for brands to reinvent the services they offer to attract more visitors.
    • In the short term there will be a particular focus on hygiene protocols and implementing measures that protect staff and visitors. Communicating those clearly will be key in attracting visitors.
    • In the medium-to-long term though, brands are expected to focus more on new offerings – long-term stays, monthly rates, day rate promotions, accommodations for bigger family trips (including multi-generational), and improving and innovating technology integration (online check-in / check-out, contactless dining, offering services with mobile apps, delivering room service in a fast-casual or pantry type pick up model)
    • To really rebound and adapt to a complete market shift, Brand Vista’s Andrew Stothert emphasized that it will be crucial for brands to connect emotionally with consumers and deliver on the 4 key drivers of leisure – escapism, togetherness, betterment and belonging.

So there is hope for leisure and tourism after all, and I found David Salcfas’s message to be particularly optimistic – the way to recovery needs to centre around a glass half full approach, staying optimistic and resilient by creating opportunities through pivoting across industries, helping each other, rebounding and working together.

Thank you again to Sensor Flow and to the four speakers for the significant time and enthusiasm you have obviously put into delivering this session. It has been a tough year, but I, for one, have been left feeling optimistic and am looking forward to seeing what the future holds!