The challenges the hospitality industry has faced in the wake of COVID-19 reminds us how critical the housekeeping department’s role is to a hotel’s overall success. The urgency to prevent the spread of COVID-19 has accelerated change in our industry, including the need for new hygiene and cleaning processes.
Even before the virus, 78% of hotel guests believed cleanliness to be the most crucial factor affecting their choice of where to stay, with hotel cleaning protocols moving up to the #1 top-ranked category for travel with COVID-19.
As guests expect the highest standards of sanitation to feel at ease in a hotel and once again return to travel, operators worldwide need to work with their housekeeping teams to better prepare for the impacts of these new realities. By using this time to further analyze housekeeping practices, hotel leaders have an opportunity to take advantage of advancing technologies to more accurately plan for operational shifts that, at the end of the day, influence bottom-line results.
Here are a few ways hoteliers can prepare their housekeeping team for success in 2021.
1. Create a Structured Cleaning Program Using Industry Best Practices
To earn guest confidence, hotels will have to demonstrate that they provide a clean and safe environment and are following specific disinfecting protocols. As part of this new dynamic, the ability to develop and implement proven strategies to meet these new cleanliness standards will be critical to staying ahead of the competition.
This is a good opportunity to establish clear step-by-step standard operating procedures (SOPs) for the protocols needed to enhance cleaning regimens. Creating a distinct checklist for each area of the property, including the lobby, restrooms, common areas, fitness center, and guest rooms, will help to ensure nothing gets missed.
Hotels can look to their brand or management company for guidance on a structured program, or they can leverage one from trusted industry organizations like the AHLA’s Safe Stay program or Amadeus’ disinfecting housekeeping checklist, endorsed by the International Executive Housekeeping Association (IEHA).
2. Alter Schedules for Guest Room Cleaning Based on Need
Many hotels are shifting away from daily cleaning with automatic opt-out cleaning programs, leading to, in some cases, dirtier rooms upon departure. At the same time, the enforcement of new hygiene protocols, including the expansion of high touchpoints and frequency of cleaning, can increase the amount of time needed to spend in a room. Updated practices on the use of disinfectants and surface dwell times can additionally alter the flow in which rooms are serviced.
So, what does this mean for housekeeping and operational teams? The rise in guestroom cleaning times can make forecasting labor and servicing pop-up requests a more complex endeavor. Lack of planning for additional time can also cause strain on staff, while last minute modifications to departure room schedules can impact room readiness.
By tracking and analyzing the labor and resources needed to execute the tasks these rooms now require, hotels can adjust to new cleaning schedules, while identifying valuable areas for improvement that will ultimately increase both staff and guest satisfaction.
3. Monitor How Many Hours Guest Rooms are Vacant
As new guidance is issued for businesses to mitigate the risk of COVID-19, the procedures within hotels also need to adapt.
For instance, the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) recommends rooms be left vacant for 24-72 hours prior to or after cleaning if possible, while China requires hotels that host international guests to change linens and clean guestrooms and bathrooms daily.
Consumers are increasingly calculating risks associated with travel and want to have complete transparency when it comes to COVID-19-specific protocols before even booking a hotel room. The ability to promise, then track and report the number of hours a room is vacant is a must in today’s business environment.
4. Understand Which Rooms are Not Being Serviced and Why
Streamlining productivity may mean having to leave rooms not serviced for the day. Although a part of daily housekeeping, one of the biggest challenges is measuring why a room was not serviced, or “dropped”. Perhaps there is a need to alter opt-out programs. Perhaps there is a need for more staff.
Having the ability to identify, record, and flag rooms with a special service status like “dropped rooms” allows teams to truly understand why rooms are not being serviced. This process allows housekeeping managers to schedule staff effectively, as well as audit and reconcile room counts at the end of each day to optimize operations.
With today’s lack of time and budget, gaining important insights into dropped rooms is pivotal to every housekeeping team’s success.
5. Leverage Automation to Drive Productivity
As we evaluate new ways to face the challenges ahead, hotel leaders must consider how innovation can play a critical role in closing the gaps between team capabilities and achieving business goals. The right hotel technology can be a powerful tool in the decision-making process by reaching across the hotel’s ecosystem to orchestrate proactive tasks such as automating room assignments, schedule turnovers, and reprioritizing work. Gaining valuable insights from automation dashboards and reporting tools can also enable better decision making in a world of unknowns.
Whether it’s wiping down frequently used areas like elevator buttons, delivering guest requests like soap or chargers, or managing dropped or vacant rooms, modernizing processes with a housekeeping solution can help to maximize operational capabilities while ensuring the highest standards are met.
During times of unpredictability, the ability to intelligently automate the prioritization, communication, and dispatching of the entire housekeeping operation is more valuable than ever. This way, limited time and budget is spent where it is needed most.
Resetting for 2021 and Beyond
Moving forward, there will be no greater focus from a guest’s perspective than a hotel’s commitment to its cleaning initiatives. Resetting for success in 2021 and beyond means understanding how technology can significantly enhance our capabilities as individuals and designing new business procedures that support it. Reflecting this dynamic presents an opportunity to lead the way in delivering the processes needed to support both housekeeping teams and guest confidence in this new era of hospitality.