By Dennis Nessler
With the country now slowly beginning the reopening process and Memorial Day fast approaching it’s time for hoteliers to think about the upcoming summer season and just how they can make up for lost time, and more importantly, lost revenue.
To what level people start traveling and vacationing again is anyone’s guess and likely depends greatly on the location and the severity of the coronavirus in that region. Either way, some aggressive local marketing efforts and value-added promotions will certainly be part of attracting guests for the key summer season.
That said, one of the keys for the entire industry is clearly going to be convincing guests that hotels are, in fact, safe and will not be putting them in harm’s way in terms of potential exposure to the virus. To this end, nearly every hotel brand and a good portion of management companies—with help from the AHLA—have recently introduced new cleanliness standards for their hotels.
I have to confess my first reaction to these new standards was that they were akin to beefed up security at the airport after 9/11. In other words they were just as much about making their efforts visible and ensuring people feel better psychologically as they were about actually thwarting potential threats. As such, I thought the impact would be minimal.
However, according to this week’s HCF poll, as of this morning some 83 percent of you said that the new cleanliness standards will indeed make a significant difference in helping guests feel safe. That is good news for the industry for a number of reasons, particularly since plenty of you are guests as well as lodging executives. After all it’s reasonable to draw the conclusion from those numbers that many of you aren’t going to be opposed to traveling and staying at hotels in the not-too-distant future.
While all the standards differ slightly to some degree, not surprisingly there are many common elements within all of them. Some of the basics of many of these programs include deep cleaning; hospitality grade disinfectants; glass partitions at the front desk; added signage for social distancing; and staggering occupied guest rooms when possible. Personal protective equipment for hotel staff, additional hand sanitizers, and clean seal certifications on high-touch items and are also staples.
Of course, food & beverage programs will see wholesale changes, not the least of which is the suspension, and possible elimination, of any self-serve buffets. Repositioned floor plans to ensure social distancing, single-use condiment containers and disposable cups are also among the changes.
Meanwhile, expect mobile check-in—which has been slow to gain momentum with the majority of travelers—to be come more prevalent allowing guests to use their mobile device as a key and avoid the front desk altogether. This may just be the shot in the arm that technology innovation needs.
I thought Greg Winey of NorthPointe Hospitality Management put it perfectly in a recent interview with Hotel Interactive when he said “we’re not guaranteers of safety, we just want to make guests feel like it’s going to be ok.”
The reality is that only time and the ultimate eradication of this virus will make anyone feel truly ok, but as always hotels will be heavily counted on when they do.