This is by far the most significant crisis ever to impact the travel and lodging sector. As lockdown measures ease across several countries, hotels are now faced with the challenge of reopening safely and are already planning changes in response to Covid-19 concerns. Indeed, many hotels are wondering what steps to take to make their properties safe while complying with government regulations and their stringent corporate guidance. The race is to regain the trust of reluctant travelers, because ultimately, people will always want to “get away” and enjoy that delayed holiday.
Perhaps one of the biggest changes in adjusting to the new normal is in the cleaning and hygiene services. In order to demonstrate that to guests, hotels have more visual cleaning staff; housekeepers have moved from the back of house to the front of house.
Major hotel brands have worked hard to communicate a clear message about what they are doing to fight Covid-19 in terms of cleaning and safety. Marriott introduced the “Global Cleaning Council” to develop new standards, while Hilton announced its “Clean Stay program.” IHG’s “Way of Clean” program aims to elevate the cleaning standards in guest rooms and public spaces.
Newly implemented procedures can start from the reservation stage, with the guest being asked how often they would like room cleaning, to being briefed on major highlights of the cleaning protocol, such as a 48-hour time lapse between reselling the same room.
The airport transportation experience has also been affected. Hotels are multiplying their airport pick-ups and drop-offs to accommodate fewer guests in each vehicle. Some have put up a shield between the driver’s seat and back passenger seats, limiting the use of air conditioning and prohibiting the use of the passenger’s
The arrival experience has shifted to a somewhat clinical welcome with guests being directed to a doormat at the entrance to disinfect their shoes, entering the hotel through automated doors and having the unavoidable thermal temperature scan. Social distancing signage and floor markers are all too visible; floors are marked to encourage one-way pedestrian flow between entrance and exits. Some hotel chains have gone as far as setting up 24/7 medical-care corners for their guests.
Gone are the in-person greetings and welcome drinks upon arrival, now replaced with a welcome PPE kit. And customized concierge services are moving to text messaging services.
Luggage carts are being sanitized after each use. Luggage that enters the property is disinfected using UV technology or electrostatic sprayers.
Inside the hotel, aesthetics are taking a backseat. The focus is now on safety and social distancing signage, hand sanitizing stations in high traffic and high touch-point areas and less furniture to avoid congestion.
Checking in and out of a hotel room is shifting towards a contactless experience with digital keys and bill payments done via a mobile phone. This means less contact with front-office staff, less sanitizing efforts of magnetic keys and less waiting time at the front desk.
During Covid-19, less is more; a cleaner hotel means seeing fewer items in your room, such as decorative pillows, pads and pens, pamphlets, or a fully stocked minibar.