- Safety first
Arguably the key factor in instilling trust among consumers is ensuring strict safety standards are met. This pertains not only to the safety of patrons, but also of hotel staff. Guests want to spend time in an environment in which they feel everyone is looked after – including those tending to their needs. To this end, hotels are drafting policies: “CleanStay” by Hilton and “Venetian Clean” by The Venetian in Vegas, for instance. In some instances, national policies provide industry-specific guidance on what these should entail, as is the case for Singapore’s “SG Clean”.
- Cleanliness is next to godliness
Top of list in meeting health and safety standards: hygiene and cleanliness. Providing staff with personal protective equipment in the form of masks and gloves is just the first step. The use of anti-viral cleaning agents, disinfectants and UV light is set to become commonplace. Marriott International is opting for electrostatic sprayers, which uniformly mist disinfectant throughout spaces. Sophisticated air filtration systems could become a differentiator. Wall-mounted hand-sanitizer dispensers may well feature in high-touch areas, while rooms may be equipped with multi-purpose disinfectant wipes.
- Technology for a low-touch experience
Contactless payments and deliveries have long since assumed a starring role in curbing contamination during the pandemic. The hospitality industry will be no different, likely offering especially packaged contactless room service. A low-touch guest experience will be embraced in all its facets, with mobile check-in encouraged even once guests have arrived in the lobby. Room keys may also become a thing of the past, with virtual rooms keys on smartphones being a possible way forward.
Technological innovation of all kinds will be drawn upon to facilitate smooth operations with the least possible dependence on members of staff. As is to be the case at The Venetian, thermal cameras can perform inobtrusive temperature checks as a risk gauge upon entry. Any existing IT infrastructure will be leveraged to its best potential, with websites or apps utilized to provide real-time updates on housekeeping visits, for example.
- Design adaptations & adjusted service offerings
With social distancing a must at present, we have become accustomed to floor markings and barriers. In the same vein, dining tables and loungers will be more spaced out and the number of guests in an elevator at any one time defined. For the foreseeable future, hotel staff may need to work from every other workstation in order to satisfy the two-meter distancing requirement. In the longer term, hotel design may evolve to accommodate more health-oriented guest behavior. As Monika Moser, Regional Managing Director at Wilson Associates, specialists in innovating hospitality architecture and design, told EHL Insights, guests may give preference to hotels able to provide larger rooms, enabling them to pursue work, leisure and enjoy meals in their own private space.
- Cleanliness & safety integral to brand identity
Implementing cleanliness and safety measures will be crucial in winning over guests. However, they can only exert pulling power if potential patrons are aware of them. This raises the stakes in corporate communication and puts a considerable onus on employees to ensure visibility. In essence, the virtues of cleanliness and safety must become part of hotels’ brand identity. A step in this direction could be adding a description of hygiene procedures to each hotel room’s information pack. Giving an overview handout placed on guests’ beds may raise the profile of cleanliness further still.
- Thinking outside of the box
The present circumstances may require hoteliers to think beyond the realms of their specialism to incorporate lessons learnt from the medical arena. Incorporating an “incident command centre” into hotel organigrams best enables teams to deal proactively with any health and safety concerns, while also reacting to and incorporating any new governmental guidelines or medical developments.
In what is perhaps an opportunity for more far-reaching change, hospitality businesses may choose to unlock the potential for sustainable strategic renewal. A reinvigorated appreciation of the importance of service excellence may see the hospitality industry refocus on changes in the customer experience, customer perceptions and consumption patterns and even reassess their asset management. Entire business models and value propositions may be up for debate in the quest to realign with the new reality. Buckle up, hoteliers, be ready for the long haul.