For those in the hosting industry, the last 16 months have been spent evolving as these companies have struggled to recreate themselves and recreate their offerings in the era of COVID-19 and all the restrictions. and the consumer anxiety it has generated.
But evolution has been a constant over the two decades that have A&O Hotels and Inns has been in business as the company has expanded its offering and presence around the world.
According to the founder and CEO of A&O Olivier Winter in its Connected Economy chat with PYMNTS, the hotel company is currently developing a âhybrid modeâ which offers consumers the choice between offers closer to a hostel with rooms for four to six people all sharing a common bathroom or a private bathroom. more hotel offer with a private bedroom and bathroom. A&O currently operates 35 locations in 21 cities and seven countries (Germany, Austria, Netherlands, Hungary, Czech Republic, Italy and Denmark). The goal is growth.
âWe’re going on in a lot of other cities,â Winter said. âSo, for example, Barcelona, ââFlorence and Heidelberg. We are also very, very happy to come to the UK in Edinburgh. Our goal is always from Istanbul to Rome to Copenhagen. We want to cover all major cities.
But even as the company continued to open locations, noted Winter, the year 2020 was one of the changes for the A&O brand, including a focus on safer, more accessible and more connected buildings. than ever.
The new A&O
2020 was the year in which the A&O business evolved to meet the needs of the times, Winter said.
The company created the post of Social Distancing Specialists to help guide customers to the best places to eat or the best activities where customers could rely on strong social distancing or to ensure their requirements for social distancing. hygiene were compliant.
Business operated mainly as usual during the summer, when the number of cases declined and consumers began to travel again. But when the second, third and fourth cycles of COVID-19 started sweeping across Europe in the fall and lockdowns started again, A&O worked with municipalities to provide housing for local homeless people and workers. medical professionals needing a place to stay.
The company has learned an important lesson about consumers and their willingness to get back on the road, Winter said.
âWhat we are seeing is that people in general are not afraid to travel; they’re ready to travel, âsaid Winter, as long as they can be offered the right conditions to do so and they feel safe while they do it.
To create that feeling, investing in connectivity is essential, he said.
Today, Winter said, around 50% of bookings are made online through the website, app, social media, etc. The goal is to increase this percentage to 70% by the end of this year. Digital is streamlining customers’ journeys, from reservation to check-in, including using their phones to collect their room keys, without any contact upon arrival. That’s if they need a key; in seven of the locations, users can use their mobile device as a passkey via Bluetooth.
Connectivity “is key to optimizing this contactless customer journey” that customers are increasingly looking for, he said.
A&O enters the summer with optimism about what will happen next, and hopes that at the end of the season or early fall more normalcy will return to the European market as vaccine distribution continues. regularizes and that the grand reopening can begin more completely. The company now serves a clientele of business travelers, which it hadn’t seen much before the pandemic and which it will continue to try to grow after the pandemic.
Additionally, Winter noted, the hope he has for 2021 and beyond is that hotels, hostels and other accommodation players, having seen how much they have been able to change and improve their properties and experiences in 2020, will adopt this innovative attitude to solve the problem. next big problem for the industry once the pandemic has passed.
âI would be happy to see this effort end with a recovery in trying to create sustainability,â he said. âHygiene measures are always at the center of everyone’s concerns. But I always say after contactless we’re going to have to start talking about less emissions and how we can create a very small footprint when we travel over the next decade. “