Hotels in the United States and around the world are seeing occupancy rise as travel slowly returns. But just because a hotel is open, does that mean it is really ready to safely host guests in a post COVID-19 world? And will guests implicitly trust hotels and the hospitality industry to take the necessary precautions to prevent COVID-19 transmission?
Hoteliers must prove to their guests and reassure them that their hotel is safe, clean, and prepared to deliver a contactless guest experience.
Proving your hotel is ready to welcome guests requires transparency and trust, which are the cornerstones of any good relationship. And the relationship between a hotel and its guests is no different. If a hotel can prove that it is ready to welcome guests, especially to frequent travelers, it will likely have a significant impact on occupancy rates, compared to hotels which don’t actively communicate with their guests.
There are many guidelines that have been put in place to help hotels operate safely to protect staff and guests from the transmission of COVID-19. We’ve created our own guidelines for reopening a hotel post COVID-19. The recommendations are similar to many of the other industry guidelines and suggestions such as AHLA’s Safe Stay Guidelines, World Health Organization’s Operational Considerations for Accommodations and the CDC Cleaning and Disinfection Guidelines. Large hotel chains have also created their own response plans, and made them public (Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt, Sandals, etc.).
There are different ways for hotels to prove to their guests - and reassure them - that they are ready. This can be done in advance, when guests are booking, but it can also be done during their stay.
Put Notices on Your Website to Publicize Your Response Protocol
Many hotels have COVID-19 related pop-ups or links on their websites to let guests know exactly what they’re doing to clean, sanitize, and prepare their property. Letting guests know exactly how you plan to maintain compliance with government regulations (local, state and federal) in advance of their booking, is a great way to show that you are being proactive, and instead reactive.
Communicate with Your Guests in Advance of Their Arrival
Once a guest confirms their reservation, have a front desk agent send them a message letting them know you’re thrilled they will be staying with you and to reach out in advance with any questions or concerns. Be sure to direct them to your protocols (whether they’re attached as a PDF or you provide a link to them). Tools like ALICE’s Guest Messaging enable a hotel to reach out via text message. Our previous blog has sample messaging for reassuring guests that your property is ready to welcome them safely.
Elect a Safety and Cleanliness Officer
A single employee at the hotel should be appointed as the Safety and Cleanliness Officer (SCO) and be responsible for oversight and compliance of a hotel’s COVID-19 response plan. Let guests know who your hotel’s SCO is (in an email or with their name and picture in your lobby). In many cases, this role will fall upon a General Manager. Giving guests one person for them to direct their questions to and get concrete answers from will be essential so there’s no misinformation or confusion about policies and procedures that are being followed on property.
Provide Your Staff with an Abundance of Proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Consumers care how a company treats their employees. Hotel guests are no different. They will care how you’re treating employees in light of COVID-19. Research shows that how you treat your employees reflects on the perception of your brand just as much as traditional marketing. Demonstrating that you respect, support, and protect the health of your employees by making sure that all departments have the proper PPE will provide a sense of security for guests. Knowing that staff are cared for also builds trust with guests that you will care for them as well.
Offer Options...For Everything
While science and facts should dictate a COVID-19 response plan, hotel owners must understand that guests will have different comfort levels surrounding your response to COVID-19. What may be overkill to some guests may not be enough for others who would like extreme precautions - beyond governmental guidelines - to be enacted. Whether a guest’s concerns are based on a specific condition or demographic, making them more susceptible to getting COVID-19, or simply a comfort level, it is important to recognize this and give guests options.
Would guests like the extra towels that were requested delivered directly inside their rooms or left outside? Would guests like room attendants to clean and sanitize their rooms daily, or stay out of the room as much as possible? ALICE Housekeeping and ALICE Service Delivery can help track guests’ preferences once they’ve been reported to the hotel.
Actively Communicate With Your Guests
If a tree falls in the wood, but nobody hears it, did it really fall? The same thing goes for sanitizing. If your housekeeping team sanitizes the hotel from top to bottom, but nobody sees them and you don’t tell anybody, did it really happen? Transparent, rapid and attentive two-way communication is the cornerstone of trust. Don’t be afraid to communicate or even over-communicate with your guests to keep them reassured that your hotel is doing everything it can to deliver hospitality in the most safe and clean way possible.