COVID-19 forced a new reality on hotels. An industry known for personalized, face-to-face service is at a crossroad for adhering to new safety protocols while also creating a high-touch experience without the “touch.” How can hotels keep the warm atmosphere in this new sterile environment?
Think contactless. There’s an opportunity to enhance each piece of the guest journey by making simple adjustments and improvements now. With limited touch points and top-notch processes, hotels can build travelers’ confidence while navigating this challenging time and moving into recovery.
Guest and employee safety and health remain top priorities for hoteliers around the globe. As people cautiously venture back into the world of travel, hoteliers are updating current protocols and training staff as the first steps in a recovery plan that ensures guests will feel comfortable throughout their journeys. Need a strong reference for best practices? 81% of travelers say they would prefer to stay in a hotel that has implemented AHLA’s “Safe Stay” protocols.
The first touch point with potential guests often happens before they book a room. Let them know what to expect by updating websites and listings to reflect the latest COVID-19 policies and cleaning standards. A recent study by AHLA reports that 70% of guests want to hear what measures hotels are taking to promote safety. If your hotel offers contactless technology for check-in, cleaning or booking amenities, a confirmation email is a great place to convey what’s available.
Check-In and Lobby
Checking in once meant an in-person interaction at the front desk, an exchange of credit cards, pens, hotel keys and information. Today, this can be handled digitally with mobile check-in and digital key cards or self-service kiosks. While the pandemic has created some new hurdles, this is a great opportunity to reimagine check-in processes for efficiency and a better experience.
The lobby can be a safe and inviting space. Offer clearly marked distancing guidelines and easy-to-digest visual cues for cleaning protocols and COVID prevention plans. Discrete clear barriers at the front desk can help protect both guests and staff. Cleaning robots, air purifiers or electrostatic sprayers can be used in shared spaces to boost sanitation and help busy staff tackle extra duties.
Given that guests may be spending more time in their rooms due to health concerns in shared spaces, think about ways to make the experience more comfortable and personalized. Consider contactless technology to permit guests to change the lighting, lower the temperature, or turn on the TV without touching a switch, thermostat or remote. AI and voice devices can also enhance the in-room experience and ease the burden of already stretched staff by taking care of common guest requests. Guests can place an order via a personal concierge or app and also have towels and room service delivered to their doors, all without physical contact.
If tech upgrades seem out of reach right now, there are options for subscription pricing models to enable getting the tech now without the up-front, per-room costs traditionally offered in this industry.
Amenities and Common Areas
Reinventing ways to serve your guests can keep the hotel experience fresh. Conference rooms, gyms, pools and outdoor spaces can still be used in a contactless or social-distanced way. A great option many hotels are starting to adopt is allowing guests to book an hour at the pool or gym. Instead of closing or trying to keep spacing, each guest gets a set amount of time between cleanings.
For outside areas, repurpose plants or screens as dividers between restaurant seating for more privacy and protection. Additionally for dining, offer restaurant takeout specials to both guests and local residents. Don’t forget to provide QR code access to online menus, along with contactless payment options to limit additional touch points.
Consider offering digital options to eliminate dropping by the front desk for checking out. Also, be sure to email a post-stay survey to learn more about the experience and offer an incentive to come back. A kind note or small gesture can add comfort during these difficult times.
From the first interaction to the last, each touch point can be memorable and safe if the right adjustments are made. With technology, updated cleaning and proper distancing, a strong program can be created now to boost traveler confidence and to prepare for occupancy to increase as the industry moves into recovery.
This content originally appeared in Hotel Management International Magazine.