The consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic have rattled the tourism and hospitality industry. The cancellation of flights, conferences, events and hotel reservations have left the industry in sharp decline, with planned travel down 80-90% and global losses estimated at $300-450 billion. So how can hotels prepare, and step up their hygiene protocols to make their establishment safe and trustworthy? What can smaller hotels and lodging providers learn from the best practices of other hotels who are leading the way?
1. Set clear protocols
The first step is to be very clear about the safety guidelines and protocols for your establishment – including employees, guests as well as vendors and partners. Create protocols and clearly communicate your guidelines and recommendations to your employees and partners. For guests, consider creating information booklets, sending out an email prior to their arrival and/or putting up signage and information in and around the hotel premises. Be proactive in communicating how you’re handling the crisis and ensuring the safety of your guests, share your policies on your website so that current and future guests know exactly what to expect. Appoint a safety office in each establishment, responsible for implementing, training and controlling that the protocols and guidelines are respected.
2. Invest in training
All employees (from customer-facing staff to back-of house employees) should be involved in a safety, security and health awareness training program. Every department has a role to play when it comes to safeguarding the well-being of its guests. New measures need to be clearly communicated and enforced, so that all employees are following the protocols, including the disinfection of surfaces, washing of hands and wearing PPE equipment. Make sure to check that your employees are carefully following the guidelines and outline the consequences (or sanctions) for those who fail to do so.
3. Step up your cleaning program
Start with public spaces and rooms, but also throughout all the premises, including back-of-house facilities, restaurants, the spa and gym. Set up sanitizing stations in all public areas and disinfect high-touch surfaces (such as counters, door handles and elevator buttons) regularly – if not after every use, at least every few hours. Depending on government regulations, you may want to introduce PPE equipment for all staff members interacting with guests, including front-desk, concierge, bell-hop, restaurant, cleaning, spa and gym staff. When it comes to germs, you can never be too careful.
4. Install new hygiene equipment and facilities
Consider investing in hygiene equipment such as chemical sterilizers, germ-detecting UV lighting, ozone generators, sanitizers, thermometers and special air filters to help increase overall hygiene. To reduce the need for face-to-face interaction or touching of surfaces, you may also consider switching to contactless initiatives, such as mobile check-ins and digital room keys.
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Big hotel brands who are leading the way
Here’s how some of the world’s biggest hotel companies have taken the lead with the introduction of enhanced cleaning practices, workplace protocols and social interaction initiatives:
Hilton Hotels rolled out its Clean Stay program, in collaboration with RB (the maker of Lysol and Dettol) and Mayo Clinic. Among the program’s new initiatives are:
- Room seals informing guests that their room has not been accessed during their stay and has been thoroughly cleaned.
- Heightened cleaning and disinfection of the 10 most frequently-touched guest room areas.
- Improved guidelines for disinfecting hotel fitness centers and public areas.
- Reduced paper amenities (pen, paper and guest directory) which have been traded out for digital resources.
- Disinfection stations in high-traffic areas.
- Contactless check-in using digital key technology.
- The use of innovative disinfection technologies, such as electrostatic sprayers and UV light.
Similarly, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts introduced its Lead with Care program, a new health and safety program developed in collaboration with Johns Hopkins Medicine International that empowers employees to take safer care of its guests. The program equips property teams with enhanced safety measures, including sanitizers, masks, heightened cleaning and hygiene, and provides access to leading international experts and real-time COVID-19 information.
Accor introduced the ALLSAFE label representing elevated cleanliness protocols and standards, and providing assurance that these standards have been met in their hotels. The initiatives include:
- A dedicated guest hotline to answer questions and to best prepare their stay.
- Contactless check- in, check- out and payments carried out whenever possible, and social distancing enforced in all common areas.
- Sanitizer provided in key public areas (front desk, elevators, restaurants, etc.) and reinforced disinfection of all high-touch areas.
- Strengthened room cleaning protocols including extra disinfection of all high-touch room and bathroom areas.
- Comprehensive safety and hygiene training for all employees.
- Guest access to medical professionals and tele-medical support.
- Reinforced food safety standards and new protocols.
NH Hotel Group launched its ‘Feel Safe at NH’ initiative across its 364 hotels. The new hygiene and safety initiative called for nearly 700 adaptations to its operating standards, including:
- Online check-in and check-out to avoid physical interaction with front-desk staff.
- Mobile guest services, allowing guests to order room service, book a table, access the hotel’s information and services and chat live with a member of the guest services team.
- Upgraded cleaning and sanitizing protocols in high-traffic areas, and kitchens according to hospital protocols.
- Reorganization of the F&B areas from logistics to preparation, delivery, consumption and payment methods.
- Redesigned spaces with signage delineating areas to avoid crowds and ensure a minimum distance as required by local regulations.
- Special PPE equipment for employees, including masks, gloves, Plexiglas screens and hand-sanitizing gels.
- Increased control of water disinfection and purification systems.
- A city connection advisory service, which helps clients locate hospitals, medical centers and pharmacies.
- A dedicated health and safety manager in each hotel, responsible for introducing the new measures and training staff.