Reopening Hotels During Coronavirus: 7 Tips to Navigate the Reopening of On-site Amenities
Over the last few months, we’ve all learned to navigate through the new normal of an ongoing-pandemic world.
Hoteliers have been significantly impacted by the changes, with most temporarily shutting down operations. Now, as we start to reopen hotels after Coronavirus guidelines have begun to change, we have new waters to navigate. How do you provide guests with the amenities and attractions that drew them to your hotel before? Here are what hotels are doing to protect customers (and encourage their return).
As we reopen room bookings, your hotel, bed & breakfast, spa, or casino might be facing a very different situation. A few months ago, when the world shut down to fight the spread of Coronavirus, many of us couldn’t envision how summer would look.
Even hotels with a strong emergency plan in place couldn’t have predicted how sheltering-in-place and social distancing would affect business and bookings. Now, as we reopen and start to explore what hospitality entails in this new world, it’s hard to know when you should extend the hospitality services that were previously part of your brand. How do you offer amenities like spa treatments, on-site gyms, dining, and pools while keeping customers and staff safe?
There are several resources to help guide you through the reopening process. ALICE has created a series of checklists for hotel owners. Hospitality Net has also provided several helpful resources for hotel reopening. The American Hotel & Lodging Association has recently updated its guidelines for reopening as well. You will find other useful guidance through your liability insurance provider, and of course, through the CDC.
For hotel owners, amenities are often a huge draw for guests. Many hotels relied on signature services as a major driver and differentiator. While it’s hard to know what the future may hold, we can take a cue from what hotels are doing around the world. How are hotels continuing to provide guests with standout service as they reopen after Coronavirus?
1. Limiting Face-to-Face Interactions
“Service with a smile” has become a challenge in our new reality amid a global pandemic. After all, it’s difficult to see smiling staff members beneath their masks. But these limited interactions are no reason to cut back on customer service; it’s time to think creatively.
Provide guests with virtual assistance by offering services like digital check-in and check-out. If possible, guests will appreciate disposable entry cards and any other options that help limit in-person interaction. Virtual concierge services are another contactless way to serve guests and offer the answers they need when visiting a new area.
You may also want to include social-distance guidelines throughout your hotel. For example, limiting the number of riders in an elevator, spacing your dining room tables (when you’re ready to reopen food service), or including pickup and in-room dining options. Do what you can to minimize person-to-person contact throughout your facility.
2. Leading by Example
Masks and other PPE are encouraged by the CDC, and in some areas may even be mandated by municipality. While many hotels are currently choosing to allow guests to decide on mask use, staff should follow the guidelines of the CDC, state, and local health officials. Staff and management should lead by example, and seeing your caution and care will put guests at ease.
Follow the 6-feet-apart guidelines as well. Help your staff understand the importance of maintaining a respectful distance from guests whenever possible. Staff should avoid congregating and should take care to show a professional approach to following the guidance of health officials and hotel policies.
Use signage around your establishment to help employees and guests remember how to wear, use, and dispose of PPE properly. Include signage and information for your guests detailing the extra measures you are taking and precautions that may go on behind the scenes (additional laundering and cleaning services, or air filtration systems, for example).
3. Providing the Necessities
Coronavirus has made all of us examine our priorities and necessities. For hotels, this means offering guests the items and services they truly need and temporarily pausing those that are less important. For example, many guests prefer to carry their own luggage right now rather than selecting bellhop services. Many hotels have paused valet services, realizing that guests prefer to drive their own cars at this time. This may mean adjusting your parking plan and providing additional resources to help guests figure out the surrounding area on foot.
On the other hand, guests still expect a clean, comfortable place to sleep. They want a hot shower with toiletries and a relaxing room. Technology like Wi-Fi is another necessity, especially if coffee shops and business areas are closed. While conferences might be on-pause, spacious meeting areas may be a welcome option for very small business gatherings.
Look at “nice to have” amenities and services like the business hub, exercise room, and minibar. These items might be a draw for some guests, but they likely aren’t the sole driver of your business. Whenever you pause an amenity, provide signage and an explanation for guests. Remind guests that these amenities are temporarily on hold, for their safety and wellbeing.
4. Including Sanitizer and PPE as an Amenity
Some hotels are including sanitizer, masks, hand wipes, and other safety items as part of the amenity package for each guest. Many larger chains have even started to brand these items with their logo and offer boutique brands of sanitizer as a luxury amenity.
Guests appreciate the extras you offer them, including the usual shampoo, soap, and hand lotion. While we figure out the nuances of the COVID-19 era reality, hand sanitizer has become as ubiquitous as soap and other toiletries.
Providing these items for guests will encourage their use, keeping your staff and guests extra safe. Select brands that help set you apart and align with the personality of your hotel. Amenities should add a little something “extra” to help safety feel less like a chore and more like an indulgence.
5. Increased Cleaning Protocol and Transparency
You should place hand sanitizer dispensers throughout your hotel, especially in high-traffic areas like the lobby, near elevators, and entrances. Include signage in all restrooms to remind guests (and staff) of proper handwashing protocol.
Many hotels are stepping up their cleaning routines in common areas like the elevators, restrooms, and check-in areas. Touchpoints, including railings, buttons, and door handles should be cleaned by staff very frequently. On a similar note, many hotels are limiting their daily housekeeping services. Realizing that many guests prefer housekeepers and staff limit entrance their room during their stay, many hotels are offering housekeeping by request and simply providing fresh towels and trash pickup.
In-between guests, rooms should be cleaned extra thoroughly. Some hotels are including a special “cleaned for your safety” cardboard cover on the remote (notoriously one of the germiest items in the room), on the phone handle, and other spots around the room. Other hotels are even providing a special card or seal on the door when the staff has thoroughly disinfected rooms. High-tech disinfecting options include ultra-violet cleaning and fine-mist sprayers and air filtration systems.
6. Sidelining “Extras” for Now
You may need to sideline extras like the pool, the spa, and your breakfast buffet for the time being. This can present a challenge to hotel owners who look at these services as differentiators and customer attractions. Weigh the risks and consult the guidelines of your local health department to help you navigate. The Global Wellness Institute has provided a comprehensive list of hotel service reopening guidelines from many different sources.
Foodservice may include packaged items “to-go” only. Spa services may be limited by-appointment-only or include extra safety precautions, like masks and distancing. You may want to take some time to roll out your full menu of services and amenities. As for your pool, it’s essential to assess the draw against the risks.
Would temporarily pausing pool or hot tub use be a significant issue for your guests? For a small waterpark or resort, possibly, but for many other hotels, the answer is probably not. Are you able to adequately clean and disinfect pool areas? No matter what you decide, include as much information for guests upfront to help avoid disappointments and negative reviews.
7. Focusing on Clear Communication
As we figure out what life looks like in the Coronavirus era, communication is the key. Keep your lines of communication open with guests, staff, and local health officials. If you’ve changed your guidelines to include social distancing, mask-wearing, or other safety steps like temperature scans, share them with your guests before they check-in. Not only does communication eliminate surprises, but it will help guests pick up on the feeling of “we’re all in this together.”
Showing guests that you care about their health, comfort, and wellbeing is an integral part of hospitality. When people book a room with your establishment, they’re seeking escape, safety, and a home-away-from-home. Tell guests that you care about their business and you want to keep them returning again and again. If you plan to take a phased approach to reopening, share it with guests, so they understand the plan and know exactly what to expect.
As we emerge from our lockdowns and start to reopen, no crystal ball tells us how business will look, but one thing’s for sure—after months of being at home, many travelers are experiencing wanderlust and the desire to get out and about. If your hotel can provide them with travel amenities and show them how you care about their safety, you will attract their business.
Reliable Water Services is Here for You
Hot water is critical to health, sanitation, and safety in general, but it’s especially vital to the industries we serve—and the majority of those industries are considered essential businesses. As our customers remain operational during these unprecedented times, so does Reliable Water Services.
Making sure our customers have hot water has always been our main priority, and now more than ever, we are here for you. We will continue to provide 24/7 water heater services to our customers, ensuring you have the hot water your business relies on. Our office team is practicing social distancing by working remotely or staying 6 feet apart while in the office. Meanwhile, our service technicians and installing contractors are following extra safety guidelines to ensure they can service your building safely without putting themselves or your staff members at risk.
Our team at RWS has always viewed the relationship with each of our customers as a partnership. Through this partnership, we will work together and get through these unique and challenging times. As always, should you need service contact us 24/7 at 1-800-356-1444. Stay safe, and be well!