With the daily COVID-19 cases and deaths witnessing a steady decline in much of the US as in mid-June 2020. A majority of these states have already allowed businesses to reopen in a phased-manner, albeit under certain restrictions, and transitioned from a ‘stay-at-home’ approach to a ‘safe-at-home’ approach.
As businesses restart their operations, travelers have begun to plan their trips again. While this is great news for the hospitality industry and travelers alike, safety measures must be implemented by hotels and travelers must exercise caution.
COVID-19 is not over yet. Risks remain for travelers staying at hotels:
COVID-19 crisis is still not completely over, not yet. We have only begun to see a decline in daily cases and COVID-19 vaccines are yet to be out. Therefore, hotels and travels must take precautions and focus on safety and even the state norms say so. Guests can come in proximity to each other while staying at a hotel. Since the virus spreads when infected respiratory droplets (produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes) land in the mouth or nose of a person, person-to-person contact in gathering areas such as hotel front desk, restaurants, and pools can lead to virus transmission.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the virus can also spread when a person touches a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touches their mouth, nose, or possibly even eyes. Therefore, travelers can also get infected with the virus when they come in contact with an infected surface. Current restrictions imposed by various states:
An analysis on most US states’ reopening under restriction clauses reveal the need to implement the following in general (refer to your state’s restriction notification):
- Allow fewer customers
- Employees & guests to wear masks
- Encourage social distancing while restricting gathering within the premise
We can expect stricter and more elaborate clauses to be announced in certain states.
‘Safety’-related online searches are peaking:
With the virus fears still afresh in travelers’ minds as cases continue to be reported, consumers want to be sure that they aren’t unnecessarily exposed to COVID-19 risks during their stay. They would rather prefer hotel environments that nurture social distancing, ones that are hygiene-focused, and are well sanitized. All this has led to an emerging new search trend – ‘safety’-related searches are peaking. According to Milestone Research, consumers are increasingly looking for “cleanliness”, “safety” and other COVID-19-related information in their online searches.
Take a look at the steady increase in searches with regard to Hotel Stays as per Google Trends and the top or ‘quickly rising’ search queries:
When you correctly address the post-pandemic friction in the hotel buyer’s journey, you see stellar gains in clickthrough and conversion. Milestone Research found strong gains in messaging with and without safety-related messaging.
- 13.9X increase in conversions
- 5X increase in transactions
Hotels are cleaner than most houses. How?
In the pursuit of building confidence in customers, hotels are going the whole 9-yards to ensure that their properties are following the AHLA, CDC and EPA guidelines that promote high-levels of hygiene, sanitation and cleanliness and are doing what’s in their grasp to curb the spread of COVID-19. In most ways, hotels are cleaner that the average home courtesy AHLA guidelines, and this is why:
Health and sanitization policies for employee and guests According to CDC guidelines, emphasis has been given to washing of hands, and this is promoted by front and back signages on sanitization, and constant monitoring of employee and guest health.
Responsibilities of Hotel Employees As per the CDC guidelines that was issued by AHLA, hotel employees have to follow strict COVID-19 best practices for health and hygiene which include washing hands for no less than 20 seconds, face covering and protective masks, and intensive COVID training for Housekeeping, Food & Beverage, Public Area Department, Hotel Operations, Security, Valet/Door/Bell Services, and Maintenance/Engineering.
Enterprise-grade disinfectants To ensure that guests are absolutely comfortable on their properties, hotels are using enterprise disinfectants to ensure that their properties are sanitized thoroughly. Hotels are using electrostatic sprayers with hospital-grade disinfectant to sanitize surfaces in the hotel. Electrostatic spraying technology uses high grade disinfectants recommended by CDC and WHO to treat known pathogens and viruses.
Protocols for disinfecting regularly used products and services Hotels have put into place strict protocols to ensure regular disinfection of common public spaces, laundry areas, guest rooms, back of the house, shared equipment, elevators, ventilators and water systems, and room recovery if there is a COVID-19 positive case.
Physical distancing normsStrict norms have been put in place for physical distancing in the common places, reception area and parking lots, swimming pools and beaches, guest rooms, meeting and convention halls, etc.
How top hotel brands are ensuring that their guests stay safe?
While it’s now necessary for hotels to abide by the set norms imposed by the respective states, most hotel brands are going above and beyond to appeal to potential customers looking for a safe stay. Let’s have a look at how some of the top brands are adapting:
Marriott: Marriott has set up a ‘Marriott Cleanliness Council’ to redefine cleaning and safety standards. Some of the initiatives they are taking:
- Public spaces: cleaning surfaces with higher frequency, dedicated staff, and quality cleaning agents
- Hand sanitizer: installed at several places including front desk, elevator banks, and meeting areas
- Social distancing: installed signage and partitions in public areas and front desk
- Guest rooms: increased cleanliness protocols with standard disinfectants and disinfecting wipes
- Cleaning tech: embraced high-end tech such as electrostatic sprayers. Testing UV light technology
- Mobile app: app to check-in, access room, and even place room service orders in 3200+ hotels
IHG: IHG has introduced ‘IHG Clean Promise’ – if guests don’t find clean, well maintained, clutter-free rooms as per IHG’s set standards during check-in, IHG promises to make it right. IHG has partnered with Cleveland Clinic, Ecolab, and Diversey to redefine cleanliness and supporting wellbeing of guests and are using new science-led protocols and service measures to ensure guests’ safety. Some of the measures they are implementing:
- Reduce contact/contactless transactions and paperless check-in/check-out
- Added sanitizer stations, sanitized key-cards in public spaces
- Hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes in rooms
- Hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes in rooms
- Promoting social distancing
- Last-cleaned charts
- Best practices for pools, lounges, fitness centers, laundry and introduced stronger food safety standards for restaurants and room-service
- Improved sanitization of guest rooms
- Cleanliness information in hotel premises and websites
- Employee training & certification
- Cleaning kits for guests
Hilton: Hilton has introduced the ‘Hilton CleanStay’ program in collaboration with RB, the makers of Lysol. They have introduced a slew of safety and cleanliness measures such as:
- Hilton CleanStay Room Seal to show that rooms have not been accessed post-sanitization
- Reduce paper amenities and supplement with digital
- Disinfecting and cleaning fitness centers and public spaces
- Disinfecting wipes in areas that are accessible by guests
- Contactless check-in/check-out
- Digital room-key and mobile app
- Innovative disinfection technology
If you are a traveler, here is what you should do:
With COVID-19 risks still lingering, as a traveler you should be cautious. Therefore add ‘safety’ as an additional parameter that you must check when shortlisting the hotel for stay. The best way to do so would be to read the COVID-19 related policies on the website and visit their ‘Clean’ information page. Also, you must contact the hotel and ask about what they have implemented for guests’ safety.
What you should look for while choosing a property:
- Carry your own set of disinfecting wipes or sanitizers
- Cleaning & disinfecting high-touch surfaces in hotel rooms including the availability of disinfecting wipes and sanitizers
- Protocols for checking guests for COVID-19 symptoms at check-in
- Installation of sanitizer stations
- Contact-less or reduced contact during the check-in/check-out process Active cases in the vicinity of the hotel
- Social distancing implementation for employees and guests
Dos and don’ts during your stay:
- Cleaning & disinfecting protocols for public spaces such as fitness centers, lounge, pool including the frequency of cleaning
- Ensure that the room allotted to you has been disinfected – check for signage and do a visual inspection of the room
- Use disinfecting wipes to wipe the high-touch surfaces in your room like door handles, TV remote, washroom faucets
- Avoid crowded spaces and limit interactions with other guests, wear masks and maintain 6-feet distance from others at the front desk, dining spaces, fitness centers, and pool
- Regularly sanitize your hands
- And above all, reach out to the hotel staff if you see any violation of cleanliness standards
- Prefer room service over dining in the hotel restaurant
Also, don’t forget to check the opening information and hotel cancellation policies – just in case the situation escalates during the travel period affecting your travel or stay.
Advice for hotels: Implementing and promoting safety & cleanliness measures
Hotels should maintain cleanliness standards prescribed as per government guidelines. Some of the important things that hotels must implement as they re-open:
- Create a council to plan ‘cleanliness protocols’, oversee the implementation and periodically review once implemented
- Ensure that the protocols defined meet ALL standards of cleanliness as per CDC guidelines
- Ensure that the protocols defined are adhering to the relevant state’s latest restriction norms
- Define standard operating procedures for cleaning premises, define cleanliness frequencies
- Create a social distancing statement
- Heighten emergency protocols, e.g. doctor-on-call facility
- Arrange furniture in all common areas like dining area, lounge, etcetera, to encourage social distancing
- Create partitions to ensure that social distancing is adhered to in public spaces and front desk
- Adopt paper-less, contact-less check-in/check-out process, powered by technology
- Install signage at public places and rooms once disinfected
- Install ‘last cleaned at’ charts in common areas
- Install disinfecting stations in common areas
- Close-off areas where a person is sick
- Provide sanitizers and disinfecting wipes in each guest room
- Train employees and provide them with masks, gloves, and protective gear
How hotels can promote safety and cleanliness policies to build confidence in customers
Once the hotel has implemented these policies, they should update the details on the hotel website, social channels, and local directories. Milestone has published a very useful, MUST-read article for hotels – ‘Hotel reopening and recovery playbook’ that provides a detailed playbook of how to get the reopening right and accelerate recovery. It presents a 4-step framework on how to build confidence and convert potential guests. It explains what and how you should publish cleanliness information on your website.
Take a look at how some of the top brands have spread their message of safety and cleanliness on their home pages:
If you represent a hotel and would like assistance with your reopening strategy and the ongoing campaigns, please contact your CSM or email us at [email protected].