A hotelier's guide for navigating the next normal

Housekeeping
It is important to let guests know that the hotel is listening to recommendations from health and wellness experts. Photo credit: iStock / Getty Images Plus

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, hotels are re-envisioning the lodging experience as consumer preferences and behaviors shift. 

Globally, hotels will need to work diligently to prepare for the “next normal” and instill confidence in guests. 

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Here are key areas for hotel leaders to keep in mind when reopening their doors in coming months. 

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Trust is Earned Through Effective Communication 

One of the biggest challenges hotels will face is ensuring the safety of guests and staff. It is critical to communicate the steps being taken to ensure a safe environment. Incorporating signage that reminds guests to social distance, capacity limits and leveraging mobile devices to communicate new cleaning protocols are essential in helping them feel comfortable. It’s also critical to establish a regular email or text communication schedule with guests so they can expect updates. Hotels will need to reconstruct communication protocols and implement dynamic wayfinding to allow guests and employees to easily access information with limited personal interaction. 

In fact, hotels are modeling safety procedures after healthcare leaders to help owners and operators continue to deliver on the promise of safe hospitality. It is important to let guests know that the hotel is listening to recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and local hospitals and health authorities to ensure cleaning and sanitizing practices are performed at the highest standard. 

New Layouts from the Front-of-House to the Back 

Expect new layouts with capacity limits, especially in lobbies, hotel restaurants and other public gathering areas. Modern hotels will be at the forefront of layouts, already capturing minimalistic designs with furniture layouts that enforce social distancing and less interaction with staff. 

Hotels are beginning to install sanitizer stations, replace public restroom faucets, flush valves and hand dryers with automatic, touchless ones. If guests must communicate with staff, such as the front desk, ensure plexiglass shields and sneeze guards are built in. Expect that some hotels may monitor the temperatures of each person entering the premises before starting a shift in the case of an employee or a guest before completing the check-in process.

Shared quarters that are tight and sit in the back-of-house for employees will need to be rearranged. Locker rooms, cafeterias, break rooms and inventory closets must be managed very carefully. Some hotels will likely implement health-screening procedures for staff and equip them with the right tools, such as gloves, masks and approved cleaning supplies. Ensure training materials are also available for employees to update them on how their workstations have been rearranged, along with general refreshers on duties.

Enhance the Guest Experience with Enhanced Technology

In the near future, hotels will need to alter the meaning of a high-touch experience. It’s critical to remain connected with guests, but through a renewed lens. Upgrading door locksets for keyless entry and leveraging mobile devices for check-ins, roomservice and ordering vehicles are safe ways for guests to get enhanced services at their fingertips. For those amenities that require a form of human contact, such as hotel restaurants, allow guests to order via their mobile devices for contactless delivery. 

Enhanced technology, such as voice-activated and mobile technology, will also become a necessity in hotels. Voice-activated in-room services, like checking flight time or making a payment, are convenient ways to get contactless concierge services. 

Experts foresee the first waves of travelers in upcoming months, so it’s important to start planning ahead for guests. When crafting protocols to navigate the “next normal,” remember to always keep the health and safety of people at the heart of operations. 

Andrea Grigg is managing director at JLL Hotels & Hospitality Group.

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