By Dennis Nessler
Providing a clean and safe environment has become a top priority for just about every hotel chain in the post COVID-19 world of hospitality, but for economy chain Budget Host and its 130 properties an emphasis on cleanliness is nothing new.
According to Lisa Sawyer, president, Budget Host, clean and comfortable rooms have long been part of the brand’s DNA as well as a differentiator within the economy segment since it’s inception in 1975.
“We’ve always promoted cleanliness as part of our brand identity. We have a strong quality assurance program with regular property inspections,” she said during a live threaded discussion on Hotel Community Forum last week. Sawyer further elaborated on the stringent process. “Good housekeeping and maintenance are very important to us. Properties are approved for affiliation with Budget Host based on a property inspection, and each property is inspected annually by a professional inspector,” she added.
Sawyer also emphasized a couple of the advantages of being positioned in the economy segment, particularly when it comes to older style, exterior corridor properties, which make up the vast majority of the company’s portfolio. “We are telling our properties, now is the time to promote the health and safety benefits. Guests won’t have to enter crowded lobbies or get in elevators. They can park in front of their rooms and go right inside from their cars,” she asserted.
Sawyer further touted the location of Budget Host properties. “Experts have been talking about it being safer to be outside. I think state and national parks, hiking trails, beaches and lakes will all be popular vacation spots this summer. Many economy properties are located near recreation areas, and I think it will benefit them,” she said.
Sawyer noted the company’s entire portfolio has been able to remain open during the COVID-19 crisis, but like most chains she acknowledged that many properties have been running at extremely low occupancy. She did note that a handful of owners are reporting an increase in summer bookings.
Many hotel brands and a wide array of travel companies are now going to great lengths to let guests know about the measures and steps they are taking to protect them, but Sawyer believes that will be more of a short-term effort.
“I think every business is communicating the extra steps it is taking to increase cleanliness. I think that will stop when the threat of COVID is reduced. In the long term, I don’t think people want to focus on the health risks of staying in hotels, eating at restaurants or flying. I think the messaging will return to all of the wonderful experiences travel offers,” she said.
Sawyer did point out that social media—networks such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter—is an effective way to communicate with guests about the condition of the property. “This a great opportunity for them [owners] to talk to their guests about the steps they are taking to keep guestrooms and public areas clean,” she noted.
Sawyer noted she remains confident about the overall lodging industry going forward. “I am very optimistic, people love to travel. And I think so many people are ready to get back out there. Over the past few years, I’ve heard friends and experts say they would rather give and receive experiences as gifts, and that often involves travel. I don’t think that sentiment has changed,” she concluded.