As hoteliers look to reopen their doors or ramp operations in a new, post-coronavirus world, the No. 1 priority will be ensuring the health and safety of returning guests. Hotels, many operating with a skeleton crew today, are scrambling to adapt new operating standards across every facet of the property from the front desk to the back of the house.
Hilton’s CEO Chris Nassetta said recently during a Washington Post livestream that it will take years and a “new operational approach” for the industry to reach pre-coronavirus performance highs.
Returning guests should expect a different hotel experience, he said. The pandemic will accelerate a variety of planned operational changes, such as tech offerings like digital check-in and digital room keys.
Hotel operators across the industry will have specific guidelines and protocols to follow. Common areas will be stocked with hand sanitizer for guests and staff, employees will be required to wear masks, and the use of proper sanitization products will be required.
Here’s a look at common best practices hotels are implementing today.
At the Front Desk
Hotels can use state-issued guidelines and recommendations, and brands will have their protocols, but ultimately operators must determine what social-distancing procedures work best for them.
The main priority is to keep employees safe so that guests can also stay healthy.
Practice social distancing by ensuring your team members are appropriately distanced from one another. Make it easy for guests by providing signage and floor markers that are properly spaced. Provide face masks for all employees rather than relying on your staff to bring their own from home.
Because front desk transactions have traditionally been a close-range operation, consider installing a barrier at the desk to keep both employees and guests safe.
Employees should have access to disinfectant wipes to clean high-touch areas such as keycards and chip readers, in addition to readily available hand sanitizer for the team and guests. Make use of contactless check-in applications to ensure there is no physical contact between the guest and the front-desk agent.
Be Transparent with Guests
For hotels to begin capturing new demand, It’s critical for operators to give guests peace of mind by ensuring them that they're entering a thoroughly cleaned environment.
This can be done at any and all touchpoints, including pre-booking through post-stay follow-up. Use multiple types of content, including messaging on your website, across social channels, and anywhere the guest can book your hotel. Educate the traveler on what protocols you’re following to prepare rooms for the next guest, including a strong emphasis on disinfecting protocols.
Detailed cleanliness procedures and solutions can be written, imagery, video or a combination of the three. In your messaging, tell guests what products you use to clean and how they are used to ensure guests that you don’t take cleaning lightly.
Tech to the Rescue
Mobile check-in was gaining steam before the pandemic and has accelerated due to its ability to provide a contactless experience. However, many hotels are not equipped to overhaul their check-in process completely to implement a bypass-the-desk solution with mobile key.
There are plenty of options for operators that don’t have upgraded door locks on each guestroom door throughout the property. Hotels can start by eliminating any physical contact between the front-desk agent and the guest, and one option is to use a mobile solution through text message or e-mail.
This way, either prior to arrival or once the guest reaches a safe distance from the front desk, and a link with instructions to check-in is sent to the guest. Guests can ideally complete the entire check-in process digitally, including uploading a photo of their identification and form of payment.
As we enter a new normal for hotel operators post COVID-19, contactless check-in is just one way hotels can enhance their operating procedures to ensure we’re providing safe environments for our line-level employees and guests, each of which we could not operate without.