How hotels are keeping travelers, employees safe
With the world adjusting and responding to the pandemic, major companies, such as Marriott and Hyatt, are working with top health experts to ensure the safety of their guests and employees. From changing how they handle cleaning, to food safety and check-in, the hospitality industry is taking extra steps and re-examining the way they operate in these times, as highlighted by USA Today.
A new way of cleaning
The hospitality industry has been among the hardest hit by the pandemic, due to reduced travel and a drop in occupancy rates. Hotels have updated cleaning protocols as a first step in helping guests feel safe enough to return.
Marriott, for example, has established the Global Cleanliness Council, which recently made hospital-grade disinfectants available in public spaces and rooms. Hyatt has taken steps as well with its Global Care & Cleanliness Commitment, which has introduced a new cleaning and infectious-disease-prevention accreditation program. Soon every Hyatt will have a trained hygiene manager, whose job is to monitor hotel cleanings, see to it that hand sanitizer remains full and available with housekeeping staff and others wearing masks. In addition, major hotel chains are now using electrostatic sprayers, the same cleaning technology used by airlines, and testing ultraviolet-light technology to keep high-touch surfaces, such as the front desk, virus free.
“We’ve heard this idea of housekeeping theater,” said Phil Cordell, the global head of Hilton’s brand development. “You go to a Benihana, and they’re cooking the meal right in front of you. So maybe it’s not that dramatic, but customers want to feel like they can sense what’s up. They walk through the commercial area of a hotel, and they see the frequent cleanings -- with a well-known product -- of high-touch areas in the lobby.”
One key way to make guests feel safer: Hilton’s housekeeping will leave seals on doors to show the room has been cleaned and vacated.
Private, non-chain hotels are also going the extra mile to keep guests healthy as the hospitality industry navigates the challenges of the coronavirus. The Saybrook Point Resort & Marina in Old Saybrook, Conn., is using electrostatic sprayer technology and according to USA Today, the resort is taking an eco-friendly approach to disinfection. Some New England properties in the Ocean House Management Collection are using Molekule plug-in virus zappers, nanotechnology that obliterates pollutants, such as bacteria, mold, and viruses.
Boutique Hotels are also showing an intense dedication to the health and safety of guests and employees, and are following hotel industry safety tips.
“Many boutique hotels are ensuring their guests understand that the property is following very specific guidelines as well as sanitation products,” Frances Kiradjian, Founder & CEO of Boutique Lifestyle Leaders Association told us. “They are training their entire staff on the guidelines and appropriate practices necessary to remain clean and disinfected in every part of the hotel. They are carefully and thoughtfully showing this on the homepage of their websites and in their email communications to guests. This is in addition to ensuring that the ethos of the boutique experience does not get lost in the mix.”
Frances and her co-founder and partner Ariela Kiradjian added everyone is “implementing social distancing, a mask and temperature check requirement for employees, hand sanitizer stations, more frequent cleaning of high-touch areas, employee training, and generally only having takeout/grab’n’go at restaurants for now.”
Taking safety measures
Gabriel Ibarra Macias, sales and marketing director for Mexico Grand Hotels, says the brand’s properties are following a program dubbed CASALIMPIA to ensure “advanced health and hygiene protocols in addition to strict existing standards at all resorts including common areas, all restaurants, kitchens and bars, guest rooms, activities, fitness centers, spas and all behind-the-scenes operations.”
All of the hotel’s employees must enter a sanitization cabin and pass a temperature check. Medical professionals are on hand as well for guests and employees. Guests are issued welcome kits at check-in containing gloves, face masks and sanitizing gel. All housekeeping staff wear protective gear including face masks and gloves, and the company has stepped up cleaning of door handles and other high-touch surfaces.
As hotels wait for travel activity to resume and do what they can to make guests feel safe, they must also navigate a challenging business landscape. As HLB points out, in cases of a significant business disruption, some insurance policies may kick in to help cover losses.
“Plan for varying lengths of reduced revenue flow by conserving cash and considering a line of credit for the short term” are among the group’s key recommendations.
Thinking about the future
Looking beyond cleaning protocols and hand sanitizer stations, technology may become a more prominent fixture in day-to-day hotel operations due to the pandemic. Even before the pandemic, most younger travelers wanted to check-in via mobile app and avoid lines, and now, this may become an expectation across-the-board.
Technology may also help hotels provide tailored offers to guests, a top priority amid a global travel slowdown.
“Automated upselling supports the front desk by creating and sending highly targeted offers pre-arrival to guests and letting them decide,” writes ROOMDEX CEO Jos Schaap for Hospitality Net.
In the future, as a result of the pandemic, we may see more touchless elevators. Gary Saunders, chairman of the Saunders Hotel Group, is already thinking about hotel operations after the pandemic.
"How do we have true touchless elevators?" Saunders told WBUR. "What kind of technology will be proven and tested that will let people talk to an elevator or wave a proximity card, and it'll take them right to their floor?"
In addition to touchless elevators, the Saunders Hotel Group is turning towards the HVAC system. Even in their restaurants, they’ll pump more fresh air in than they originally imagined, which will go through enhanced filtration. They see it as “five star ventilation,” a possible selling point for guests in the future.