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Opinion: Purpose-led , connected experiences will define travel in 2022

A lot has been said and written about the challenges that the hospitality and tourism industries have faced over the past two years as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Rather than dwell on these challenges, I’d like to focus on the positive developments in our sector over this time and look ahead at what 2022 holds.

What has been extremely interesting is the way that the industry has broadly pulled together and continues to do so. I think that shows that collectively as hoteliers, or travel professionals, we share a kindred spirit of being “people” people – enjoying people, working with people and being able to develop ourselves and others. That spirit has been a great asset and has helped us in looking after the most important people in our businesses: our guests and team members. 

As with any crisis, there have been lessons learnt and opportunities to take. As travel increased from mid-2021, there are a few noticeable differences to the hospitality industry that will continue to make waves well beyond 2022.

Purpose before profit

At Radisson Hotel Group, we are of the firm belief that our purpose must guide every decision we make, and so too with the pandemic. In 2020, many hotels faced closures, furloughs and decreased occupancy. In fact, predictions were that tourism would not recover for at least three years. We knew our reaction to the pandemic would define us – both during and after the crisis. We didn’t know what lay ahead. One thing we did know, however, was that we did not want to actively close hotels or retrench staff. Instead, we focused on our purpose of making every moment matter – for our guests, our hotel owners and our staff.

This has not been for naught. In fact, while profit is often seen as secondary to their purpose, purpose-driven businesses outperform their competitors by 42% while 52% of consumers prefer supporting brands that have a well-defined purpose. In 2022, these figures will only increase as people seek meaningful, engaging experiences and interactions, both at home and when they travel.

Sustainable travel is less a fad and more a requirement

The trend towards more sustainable travel is nothing new and was initiated and spurred by travellers. In recent years, more travel and tourism operators have realised that sustainability is not only great for the environment, but that it makes good business sense too.

In November, the World Travel and Tourism Council, the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance and leading hotel groups such as Jin Jiang International (Holdings) Co., which owns Radisson Hotel Group, amongst others, introduced the Basic Sustainability framework that will be officially launched in March 2022 and will be accessible to all hotel actors across the world. The framework reinforces and is complementary to the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance’s Pathway to Net Positive Hospitality, which assists hotels to improve their impact on our planet. This not only shows the industry’s move toward best practice but also a move towards a more sustainable future that will ensure our guests can enjoy travel for many years to come. At Radisson Hotel Group, we’ve already embraced sustainability with our carbon-negative meetings and events that offset double the CO2 emissions from meetings and events free of charge.

Technology will take precedence

During the pandemic, technology helped businesses stay in touch with their audiences but in 2022, it will become even more of an essential component of travel. Already, many countries have implemented digital vaccine passports while hospitality and tour operators have embraced contactless check-in and boarding. 

The world has become accustomed to using apps for everything from booking accommodation, ordering takeout and hailing a cab, and travel and hospitality companies will soon introduce the ability to order food or services via an app, just as the Radisson Hotels app does. Additionally, I predict that concierge services and virtual reality/augmented reality (VR/AR) capabilities will allow guests to access support via messaging applications and take virtual tours of their hotels and attractions before they even step out of their home or onto an airplane. Already, Radisson+ allows our guests access to these types of services for a flexible, efficient and a personalised experience. This builds on the Radisson RED hotels’ smartphone keyless entry and now allows guests at all Radisson hotels the ability to check-in online, check-in and head straight to their rooms on arrival in the lobby without waiting in line and use our e-concierge and live chat functions to request in-room and other concierge services and make requests during their stay.

Health and safety remains important

Safety is a priority for everyone and we can all accept that travellers across the globe will continue to be much more aware and careful, even as more countries open up and more people are vaccinated. At Radisson Hotel Group, we’ve implemented the highest possible safety and hygiene protocols across our hotels in partnership with SGS, one of the world’s leading auditing and commissioning companies.

While many establishments will be looking to increase face-to-face events, ensuring your hotel has defined health and safety measures in place and that these are visible to your guests will provide them with assurance throughout their experience and will remain a large factor for many in the sector to get back to business.