The hospitality industry has continued to experience an overload of what COVID-19 means for the market and how it will impact business moving forward. Understandably top of mind for hoteliers is how to resume their operations and services in a way that addresses new market realities and that ensures their ability to recover as much lost revenue as possible. However, with so much information being circulated that provides hoteliers with a seemingly endless array of steps that they should take in order to reopen, it can be a challenge to determine what factors are essential in being able to regain a sense of trust from guests and ensure that they return with their business.
At the center of the many guidelines, articles and advisories are three main recurring themes that should form the backbone of any hotel reopening strategy. These are the ability to ensure and articulate full transparency with guests, updating services/protocols to address guest health concerns, and identifying the best opportunities to pursue to ensure that a hotel’s reopening efforts are successful.
Keeping Guests in the Know
With their confidence shaken, consumers are keeping a close eye over how businesses are responding to ensure that any potential health risks are minimized while also seeking updates on how service offerings will change. Within the hospitality industry, guest reviews likewise continue to be posted online that stress the importance of transparency on what actions hoteliers are taking and how hotel stay experiences will be affected.
Key to ensuring a successful reopening therefore demands not only implementing enhanced cleanliness procedures such as the AHLA’s recently released Safe Stay guidelines to regain guest confidence that their wellbeing is a top priority. It also requires maintaining a consistent ability to directly communicate any changes to procedures and services as a result of shifting market or business conditions. Things to consider in order to achieve this goal include:
- Using hotel websites, email and live chat services to provide guests with updates on services and amenities that are currently open or unavailable. Details should also be shared on when unavailable offerings may be expected to be made available again whenever possible.
- Ensuring that guests are aware of up-to-date hotel cleanliness standards and other policies/procedures by posting details of any changes on hotel websites, within email communications and by posting visible signage throughout a property. Housekeeping checklists should further be made available to guests upon request so that they can fully understand and appreciate a hotel’s enhanced measures.
Maintaining a policy that ensures the ability to track and notify current and future guests swiftly of any onsite individuals displaying sickness systems. For such cases, hotels should also provide guests with clear direction on the ability to receive refunds or the ability for alternative lodging arrangements to be made.
Maximize Your Use of Technology to Accommodate New Expectations
As with the demand for enhanced hotel communication transparency, guests now increasingly expect the ability to visually see and interact with services/amenities in a way that consistently reminds them of their ability to mitigate any health safety concerns. Previously sought for the ability to streamline hotel operations and enhance guest convenience, smart technology is now proving to be an essential tool in a hotelier’s arsenal to assure and remind guests that they are being well looked after throughout every step of the hotel journey.
Examples of smart technology options include the implementing of in-room thermostat, lighting and television enhancements that allow for contactless control using either a guest-facing mobile app or in-room virtual assistant with voice-activated abilities. Such mobile apps and virtual assistants can also be used by guests to find out hotel information or to make service requests without having to come into close contact with hotel staff or needing to pick up a guestroom phone that has been touched by other guests.
The move towards contactless technology also includes the need to adopt safer alternative options for when a guest checks in or out. By providing advanced hotel mobile app features that can offer remote self check-in/out abilities, properties can supply another visible example to guests of how they can avoid potential germ exposure from the moment that they arrive to when they leave. Able to sidestep the front desk by using their smartphones to virtually check-in, guests can minimize coming into close proximity with staff or other guests while also using their devices as a digital key to gain instant access to guestrooms or other hotel areas. This second advantage also provides guests with yet another example of how they can reduce surface contact by eliminating the need for physical keys.
On the back-of-house side of hotel operations, hospitality professionals are also now able to further enhance their ability to maintain safe social distances with the growing availability of cloud-based remote compatible management platforms. With an access management solution that operates entirely in the cloud for instance, hotel staff can extend guest stays or perform guestroom reassignments without having to be in close proximity to other individuals or even physically onsite. They can further monitor for potential security threats and remotely cancel keycards when needed without first needing to physically relocate to a stationary terminal.
Similar benefits can also apply for other fully cloud-based systems such as a hotel’s PMS, maximizing the ability to provide contactless services while also equipping staff with the possibility of working remotely whenever needed.
While the industry was increasingly moving toward the mass adoption of smart, contactless and remote compatible technology prior to the onset of the pandemic, the arrival of COVID-19 and its implications on guest behavior has meant that now is the time for all hoteliers to seriously consider such implementations wherever possible.
Identify Any and All Reopening Business Opportunities
The rush to resume business without putting much thought into how a hotel’s business strategy needs to evolve can understandably be a tempting prospect as bills continue to mount and hoteliers wish to see revenues quickly return. However, by taking time to carefully study current market conditions and opportunities while adapting their offerings accordingly, hoteliers can maximize their ability to earn vital revenue that will ensure ongoing business survival and that will ultimately lead towards recovery.
While news reports continue to depict a travel industry that has been virtually grounded to a halt, each hotelier should consider their potential to look beyond their traditional guest demographics for alternate sources of revenue. While international travel bans may still be in place for example, hoteliers should investigate the possibility of attracting more local or regional guest booking sources that are not subject to travel restrictions. With consumers experiencing exhaustion over pandemic restrictions, many potential guests are increasingly considering brief getaways that are close to home so long as the necessary cleanliness and social distancing measures are in place. Instead of continuing to focus their efforts on travelers from afar, hoteliers should therefore make this rapidly rising and now crucial demographic a key priority in marketing and service tailoring efforts.
This thinking outside the box for new potential customers can lead to other potential revenue sources, such as colleges and universities seeking housing opportunities to reduce risk by increasing social distancing in existing dormitories. With the vast majority of hotels featuring onsite amenities in addition to simply serving as a place for travelers to spend the night, hoteliers should also consider promoting any opportunity to earn revenue that does not require the booking of a guestroom. This can include placing a greater emphasis on the availability of meeting rooms for local businesses that still require the use of such spaces. Onsite fitness centers and restaurants could also be promoted as locations that are open to local customers and that are able to provide enhanced cleanliness measures. Hotels can even consider offering offsite catering or meal delivery options due to their ability to provide food and beverage services for a substantial number of guests at any one time.
Certainly the ongoing health concerns of guests and customers in general is still a factor that needs to be addressed when attempting revise hotel offerings and promotional efforts. Yet by following the advice and other guidelines discussed in this blog, this potential situation is one that can be mitigated and overcome.
By therefore ensuring that guests are aware of and can experience for themselves the enhanced measures that have been adopted, hotels can demonstrate their full commitment to prioritizing guest health, and can ultimately be successful in their attempts to regain guest trust. When combining this approach with the right revenue opportunities, this will ensure a return of their business along with a hotel’s ability to begin on their path towards full recovery.