I struggled to sleep on the Thursday before Easter weekend. My mind was working overtime going through all the things that might go wrong — Would we get lost on our way to the hotel? Would they cater to vegetarians? Would we arrive and discover a mistake with our booking? Had I packed everything that I would need? By the time my alarm chirped to life, I was exhausted. Not a great way to start a weekend away.
I’m hardly alone in my anxieties. In fact, Skift dedicated an entire annual magazine to what they call “permanxiety” and how it affects travellers in this day and age, particularly travellers who have far more reason to be concerned than little, old me. Every guest, young and old, whether travelling for business or leisure, will have anxieties that you can help them with, with very little effort on your part.
What is permanxiety?
“Every decade birthed some new technology, social transformation or global turmoil that left people feeling as though they lived in a world-historical peak of tension and noise. Faced with that, what kind of person wouldn’t be anxious?” — New York Times
The term permanxiety, coined by Skift, goes beyond travelling and hospitality and refers to the state of permanent anxiety that the world finds itself in. While they may have coined the phrase, they are hardly the first to notice the trend. From W.H. Auden’s 100-page poem entitled “The Age of Anxiety”, to Freud’s diagnosis of anxiety neurosis, people have been noticing a tendency towards anxiety for decades. And yet, according to the New York Times, what was once referred to as the Prozac Nation (the USA) is now the United States of Xanax, with anxiety disorders becoming more prominent than depression.
What could be to blame? According to them: “Push notifications. Apocalyptic headlines. Rancorous tweets. Countless studies have found links between online culture and anxiety.” But, since anxiety has been around for a lot longer than online culture, it could be a symptom rather than the cause itself. Those push notifications, those harrowing headlines and tasteless tweets, they’re all making people so anxious because there is so much uncertainty surrounding them.
“What might make human beings less anxious, it seems, is having a firmer sense of what in the world is happening and what’s likely to happen next.” — New York Times
And while anxiety may be permeating throughout our daily activities, from work-lives to home-lives and everything in between, Skift is particularly concerned about how it affects the travel industry, and how accommodation providers and other hospitality professionals can help travellers by addressing anxieties before they even set in.
Where do accommodation providers fit in?
With flights to catch and time constraints, on top of concerns about accessibility, security and connectivity, there are a lot of potential anxiety-traps for travellers to be wary of. But, no matter who the guests are, or the reason for their visit, accommodation providers have the opportunity to turn what could be a stressful, anxiety-filled situation into a pleasant one.
Some may opt to do so by offering guests an escape from the anxiety-inducing atmosphere that they are used to, providing an opportunity for a digital detox. Wellness tourism is on the rise as a popular trend, and offering guests alternatives to their technology-reliant routines could be seen as a welcome break.
On the other hand, some providers may opt for the opposite approach, providing guests with excellent connectivity to ensure that business travellers or those who find relief from their FOMO (fear of missing out) online are able to do so without barriers like slow speeds, intermittent signal or exorbitant data charges.
And while some guests may appreciate a digital detox, and others may relish the great WiFi, there is an option that accommodation providers can offer which will give any guest respite from their anxiety: simply being well prepared, and letting their guests know what to expect.
“It’s hospitality that’s genuine, intuitive, and accommodating that really sets travelers’ nerves at ease when they walk in the door — and that’s sometimes much harder to find than a fancy hotel spa.” — Skift
One of the biggest causes of anxiety is uncertainty, and that is something that hospitality professionals can easily address at every stage of a guest’s journey, from booking to staying with you.
From the very beginning, you can make sure that your website gives potential guests as much information as it can. Some ideas include:
- Providing details about accessibility
- Listing your menu so that people with allergies or special diets can be reassured or make alternate arrangements
- Showing travellers your hotel’s amenities
- Highlighting popular activities in your area
- Providing information about shuttles, taxis, hiking trails, and other ways of getting around your area
- Being transparent about policies and pricing
These will all mean that when a traveller decides to book, they know exactly what to expect from their stay, and their minds can already be set at ease.
Once a guest has booked, there are even more opportunities for stopping anxiety before it starts! A confirmation email can go a long way to easing anxieties by listing details such as:
- The particulars of the reservation
- Check-in and check-out times
- Details of the room that has been booked
- The services that you provide
- Directions to the property
- The options that a guest has for getting to you
- Where your guests can find you on social media
- The bill for the reservation, and details of other charges that might be incurred
From there, you could send them pre-stay questionnaires to make sure that their stays are as personal as possible, or you can let them know the best ways to contact you if there is anything that they need.
Finally, making sure that your guests have as little to be anxious about as possible will often mean training your staff to be as accommodating as they can, particularly to those with disabilities or who have religious beliefs or cultures that they’re not familiar with.
“It’s a constant challenge for hoteliers to ease the concerns and anxieties of their guests. The process, however, starts with strong training and compassion for others.” — Deanna Ting
Travelling in the age of permanxiety can be stressful for any guest from any background — there are so many opportunities for things to go wrong! But, as accommodation providers, you can ease that anxiety without hiring a yoga instructor or investing in the fastest WiFi. Easing anxiety can be as easy as updating your website, keeping in touch with your soon-to-be-guests, and making sure that staff are compassionate and accommodating as far as possible.
To help you keep track of the tips that we've mentioned and to add some ideas to help guests with their anxieties, we've put together this useful checklist.
[Click the checklist to open it in a new window]
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