Hotels are seeing some positive signs as the economy begins to recover from COVID-19. In the United States, around the end of May is typically a peak travel time. Hotels had an average 37% occupancy rate, up from the dismally low rate of 22% in April, 2020. Within Europe, properties likewise reported improved performance in July when compared to May while the Asia-Pacific region recently experienced a return to profitability with a +225% growth in GOPPAR during the same month. Such results provide ongoing evidence that intermittent lockdowns and stay-at-home orders have made many people itchy to start traveling again.
For other consumers, however, the thought of traveling in the near future comes with an incalculable risk to health and safety. Consumers who are undecided about travel may need additional reassurance that staying at a hotel won’t put their health at risk.
“Consumers are actively looking for safety measures when deciding where to shop in-store, such as enhanced cleaning, masks, and barriers,” reported McKinsey. Their research found that 25% of consumers believe that a company’s treatment of its employees, for instance, has an increased impact on a person’s purchasing decisions since the pandemic started.
How you are keeping your on-site team safe is just one element that your guest is considering as they weigh booking a future stay. Put yourself in a guest’s shoes: these are the key questions that a person is considering before their next hotel stay.
1. Does the hotel clearly document safety protocols?
The more proactive your property can be to outline the safety and sanitation measures you’ve put in place, the better. Add a page to your website that talks about new cleaning protocols you’ve put in place across the property. Talk about the cleaning schedule, products you’re using, and any additional measures you’ve put in place: transparent shields, abundant hand sanitizers, reminders about distancing, lobbies reconfigured to create more space, etc.
This information should also go in pre-arrival outreach, marketing promotions, and any re-targeting campaigns you’re running. Be as explicit as possible about what you’re doing to make sure that your hotel is a safe space.
Looking for some inspiration? Here are some ways hotels are being proactive about their safety protocols:
Marriott Global Cleanliness Council: Marriott Bonvoy established this body in April to focus on communicating how the hotel chain is managing COVID-19 risks.
“Among its areas of focus are those high-touch surface areas, which now must be treated with hospital-grade disinfectants with greater frequency. Marriott will also offer disinfecting wipes in each room for guests' use,”
- reported Business Insider.
Four Seasons’ Lead With Care program: Four Seasons is partnering with experts at Johns Hopkins Medicine International to design a health and safety program that incorporates the chain’s bars and restaurants.
HRS and SGS: Within Europe, Germany’s corporate lodging platform, HRS, together with Geneva-based SGS have partnered to develop the Safe & Clean protocol to provide hotels with standards that are well-defined and that offer valuable guidance in meeting new industry expectations.
American Hotel & Lodging Association: For the US, the AH&LA industry trade group likewise released a checklist for guests who plan to stay in hotels, one which your property could review and customize for your own specific offering.
The more specific and transparent you can be about your safety protocols, the more likely a prospective guest will click “book”.
2. Can the hotel tell you what steps they’ve taken to ensure safety?
For some customers, written documentation of your safety procedures might be enough. Others, however, will want verbal reassurance as well as answers to more specific questions. Train your front desk team, booking management team, and concierge to be able to speak to:
Housekeeping protocols: how are you protecting the guest, as well as your housekeeping staff, from the spread of COVID-19?
Employee testing: how often and by what method are you testing your employees for potential signs of COVID-19? What is the response if someone has symptoms?
Guest and staff distancing: are masks are required? Are there sanitation stations? How are different parts of the property (e.g., the gym, the restaurant, the lobby) adhering to social distancing? Newer technologies such as the HID Location Services for Workplace Safety can significantly now enhance hotel abilities to maintain effective distancing with the use of personally equipped fobs that alert wearers when they become within too close of physical proximity to each other.
You should also brief your team to speak to how you’re meeting not only international or national safety standards, but any other local regulations pertinent to your property.
3. What is the flow and capacity of the hotel?
Potential guests will be looking at your hotel website to try to understand how many other guests they risk coming into contact with.
Many hotels, pre-coronavirus, were emphasizing the lobby as a common social space. Microhotels emphasized shared public spaces to supplement smaller rooms. Marriott’s Moxy brand, for instance, had guests check-in at the bar rather than the front desk. Now, however, low-contact check-in makes that less of a feature, and more of a risk factor.
Emphasize how your hotel is adapting the flow of the on-site guest experience to be safer. Talk about how you’re using outdoor space more creatively, getting rid of high-contact items like in-room directories or menus, taking out the in-room minibar, or spacing out workout equipment in the gym. Your pre-arrival email can take guests through what to expect at check-in.
4. What will I do when I get there?
Guests are looking to get away – and not just sit in a hotel room. But, many understand that lots of attractions and restaurants will still be closed.
Here’s where a concierge, real or virtual, can really help your hotel stand out. Have your concierge compile a selection of what to do in the area based on what is open and what can be safely experienced. Give that list to your front desk staff and integrate some of their suggestions into pre-arrival emails and promotional marketing.
Some guests will want to stay in their room. Make sure that your property has great in-room entertainment set up so these guests can safely relax and enjoy room service. Add Crave AppLess throughout your property to promote on-site amenities – contactless browsing and pay through the app can improve the guest experience at low cost to your hotel.
If there isn’t so much to do in the area, be upfront with your guests: some will still book, and simply bring their own entertainment (like a video game console or beach read). Others will delay their stay until things reopen – either way, you won’t suffer from disappointed guests giving you a bad, if preventable, review.
5. Does the hotel have the right tech in place to deliver the services I expect?
There’s still an expectation of great service no matter how many adjustments you make to your property: hotels provide an experience, and guests still want to be treated exceptionally. As you try to control contact points to lessen the risk of transmission, technology can fill in for hotel properties that are running with a smaller team in place.
Messaging software or in-room tablets can provide a good substitute for using the phone or meeting with an employee face-to-face. Room service will need to be delivered outside the room, with convenient ordering through a service like Crave AppLess.
Keyless entry and self-check-in are also now available hotel technologies that are possible for virtually any type of hotel and is not just for big names like Marriott. ASSA ABLOY Global Solutions with our Mobile Access solution for example, is enabling hotels of all sizes to add digital check-in solutions. Mobile pay solutions can also contribute to great, low-contact guest service. Before the pandemic, McKinsey expected “mobile commerce” to reach 70% by 2022, meaning that expectations to use mobile payment will certainly infiltrate the hospitality industry. This number has only increased with the advent of social distancing.
As you assess how your property can begin to welcome customers back safely, take these questions into account. Speaking directly to your guests’ fears can help you demonstrate expertise and mitigate any lingering concerns about traveling again.