Hotels have changed – should guest expectations change as well?
A traveler’s expectations are mostly based on where they are traveling to – and the nature of their travel to that destination. Will it be strictly for business, is it for pleasure, or will it be a combination – part business with a short vacation appended to the trip?
In the current recovery period, travelers should reconfirm that the hotel has in-fact reopened, and also whether or not there are any local health restrictions or requirements of any sort. Some locations may require a period of self-quarantine, others may simply require registration for contact tracing requirements, etc.
As a general framework, all hotels will be working aggressively to assure a traveler that their COVID cleanliness standards will safeguard them throughout their stay. A hotel will be earnestly working to earn a traveler’s trust and confidence in their sanitation protocols. In doing so, the hotel wants to engender brand preference – and retain the traveler’s loyalty.
The reopening actions being undertaken within a hotel are to some extent – to quote Dickens, “a tale of two cities”.
By this I mean, there is what is going on in the front of house – or the public side of the hotel, and what is going on in the back of house – the employee side of the hotel.
Actions in the Front of the House
- Temperature testing of arriving guests – and a local protocol of what to do if an arriving guest is running an excessive body temperature (usually above 100.4).
- In some locations a preliminary sanitation screening/service of suitcases may occur prior to enabling them to be moved throughout the hotel.
- Modified front desk operations. There will likely be a visible change to a front-desk area, to include plastic shielding to protect the front-desk staff, as well as modified check-in protocols.
- Staff will be wearing face-coverings and likely be wearing disposable gloves as well.
- Where hotels can offer the service – advocacy for mobile check-in and direct to room check-in.
- Provision of hand-sanitizer stations and availability of masks for guests requesting them.
- Visible regular cleaning of high touch points in public areas, such as elevators, public restrooms, etc.
- Request for guests to use face-covering when in public areas.
Actions in the Back of the House
- Employee screening – temperature testing.
- A protocol for screening and handling of delivered goods.
- Enhanced sanitation protocols in kitchen areas and protocols for sanitization of equipment, heating trays, warming caddies, etc.
Travelers should take note of a hotel’s enhanced sanitation protocols
Different hotel chains have taken different approaches to enhanced sanitation measures. For example, a major chain has engaged the Global Biorisk Advisory Council to develop a sanitation protocol for all their hotels to follow called GBAC-Star Accreditation. Some hotel chains are using companies like Safe Hotels to accredit their sanitation protocols. For some hotels in the US – the industry trade group – the American Hotel Lodging Association, or AHLA, has established the Stay Safe Guidelines/protocol for Hotel Operators initiative which many hotels are following.
Guest rooms may look different, with fewer amenities and reduced furnishings in the room (to facilitate quicker cleaning and sanitation).
- The mini bar and other amenities may have been suspended or removed (so as not to require servicing).
- Hotels may have changed their bathroom amenities to include small vial of hand sanitizer and courtesy sanitation swipes (for example, to enable you to clean the tv remote to your own satisfaction).
- Hotels may have altered the frequency of linen and/or towel services per stay.
- A number of hotels are now offering guest-room slippers, to enable guests to remove their shoes and mitigate against potential room contamination.
Travelers may wish to carry their own travel kit – (masks, disposable gloves, hand sanitizer, and sanitation swipes) for use in traveling – but also for their hotel stay, — to personally cleanse high touch points like the guest-room door handle, toilet handle, TV remote control, etc.
In Public Areas of The Hotel
Various public areas will have implemented noticeable changes as well. These may include such actions as:
- In hotel bars – a travel should expect established social distancing and probably a seated service as opposed to self-selection seating.
- In hotel restaurants – a traveler can expect established social distancing and defined capacity limitations, which may necessitate the need to make reservations. A number of hotels will capitalize on outdoor seating arrangements and travelers would be well advised to remember to pack appropriately for outdoor dining – to include perhaps bringing along a small supply of insect repellent).
A number of hotels may have also temporarily shuttered formal dining services, having shifted to “grab and go” type pre-prepared food/beverage offerings. In this regard, hotels have geared up for greater use of in-room dining – as travelers opt to eat in their room to further mitigate their risk exposure in public areas.
A traveler should expect that hotels may no longer offer buffet dining, having switched to defined menu services, and this will likely have been extended to hotel club lounges. Lounges will likely no longer offer self-service, but rather butler service to bring you food and beverages.
Actions in Other Areas Of The Hotel
- Spa – very likely patrons will be required to wear face coverings. There will likely also be limited facilities and services such as no steam rooms, plunge pools, etc.
- Swimming pool – likely will be open, but social distancing will be required.
- Fitness centers – will be open, but require face-covering, social distancing and perhaps some tighter occupancy limitations that align to the social distancing requirements.
- Meeting rooms/business center services – will be open and available.
- Some services may be shuttered or not available or have restrictions due to local health requirements (such as off-shore water sports due to restricted boat capacities). If your travel includes vacationing or if the trip is purely for pleasure, check that you will be able to do all that you anticipate wanting to do at the destination. You want to avoid being unaware of local conditions or restrictions and be surprised or disappointed by them upon your arrival.
As quarantine restrictions begin to ease and the populace resumes traveling, hotel guests will be keen to understand what measures the hotel has undertaken to safeguard them from the COVID threat throughout their stay. Whilst hotels have taken unprecedented measures to ensure their sanitation and operational practices will moderate this risk, a traveler should acknowledge that they too play a key role in moderating the risk. Their personal behavior, particularly exercising a greater sense of risk awareness and mindfulness in applying personal hygiene safeguards while traveling is as important and necessary during their hotel stay as the measures and practices being implemented by hotels. Such mutual collaboration will help assure a pleasant guest stay.
Three Questions for Consideration
- Have you checked with the hotel you will be staying at regarding any restrictions or limitations to their services?
- Have you inquired whether there are any local health requirements that must be followed at the destination?
Have you inquired whether related travel services have been impacted by local conditions (e.g. travel times to/from the airport, the availability of cabs and/or public transport, etc.)?