Jayanti Jayanti, Lecturer in Hospitality Management at the University of West London reports on the welcome back strategies from hotel brands globally.
As we welcomed in 2020, many of us had already made travel and holiday plans. However, within a few short months, we realised that Covid-19 had become a pandemic and was impacting not only the travel/holiday plans but also our way of living, working and socialising.
We embraced social distancing and lockdown as a tool to fight this new unknown disease. Holidays, leisure and recreational activities at least for the short term were cancelled. This was a direct hit to travel and hospitality business. This industry not only serves the business community but also plays an important role on overall physical and mental wellbeing of the general community by providing relaxation and leisure.
The hospitality industry is committed to find ways which are not only safe and compliant with government guidelines, but also provide the best possible customer experience. They are taking steps and introducing new ways of engagement with customers so they feel comfortable. I have reviewed steps taken by the industry not only in the customer facing aspect but also how they operate behind the scenes to provide a safe stay. As the customer expectation and behaviour has changed post Covid-19 outbreak, various hotel brands are taking initiatives to enhance the cleaning and hygiene standards and put the measures in place to provide a safe and secure environment for their guests.
You may notice many visual changes when you visit a hotel now. They are allowing minimum touch-points and maintaining safe distance. In order to do so, hotels have shifted to self-check-in / check-out terminals (digital apps), motion sensor doors, electronic key cards, voice activated elevator call buttons, electronic minibars, guest room doors having strips saying “sanitised for your protection”, extra cleaning and sanitising protocols, housekeepers wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) and rooms not being serviced while the customer is inside (eliminating occupied rooms service / room cleaning turndown service in luxury hotels available only on request), fogging machines / gloves / hand sanitiser /disinfectant wipes / temperature reading of the guests and the staff on arrival. While all of this may feel overwhelming, it is essential for a safe stay.
Every hotel brand is working tirelessly to ensure they upgrade their health and safety measures in order to provide a better normal in place of “new normal” experience to the guests. Or we can say the utmost transformative hygienic experience, which is the new luxury customers are looking forward to. Covid-19 has given some new accelerated use of technology and value associations. The new role of the Chief Health/Hygiene Safety Officer has emerged in hotels, to monitor the hygiene standards of the hotel by devising the guidelines at the corporate level.
Changing role of the Housekeeping Manager / Hygiene Manager
The role of the Housekeeping department is pivotal in meeting the expectation of the customer by devising stringent room and public area safety and hygiene checks. Many changes that have been or will be incorporated in the Housekeeping standard operations to adapt to the new normal (we can say the Covid-19 compliant standards) include:
- Testing all the employees on re-joining for COVID-19. Thermal scanning of the employees and the staff on a regular basis.
- Installation of sanitiser station at the exit and entrance and at various public area spaces to provide easy accessibility for the guests.
- Thoroughly sanitising guest luggage on arrival.
- Every staff needs to be retrained about the new service protocols and essential new way of working and maintain safe distance (with colleagues and customers) before sending them back to operation. Mandatory Health and safety training for all staff members.
- Vehicles used for airport pick up and drop must be thoroughly cleaned and sanitised.
- Every alternate hotel guest room will be left empty to reduce the guest density and allow time for deep cleaning and sanitisation on departure.
- Information cards in each room outlining how each room is cleaned and sanitised between two guests to give assurance to the guests.
- Use of UV and electrostatic sprayers to kill the coronavirus, air purifiers, consistently disinfecting the frequent touch points like elevator buttons, door handles, switch plates, remotes and washing/sanitising room keys better switching to electronic keys.
- Considerable changes in the guest supplies, amenities and minibar items—on request to avoid cross contamination. Disinfectant wipes, hand sanitisers gel and face masks to be available for guests as a part of amenity-CARE KIT. Disposing of the unused amenities on departure to avoid cross contamination.
- Hotels are scrapping up the amenities to cover up the cost of cleaning supplies and antiviral cleaning equipment. This will offset the cost and help in meeting the elevated expenses for cleaning and disinfecting agents.
- Washing and sanitising the pillows, mattresses after every departure.
- Revisiting the labour cost: On reopening most of the hotel chains are going to scale back on daily cleaning of the occupied rooms (to maintain social distancing and avoid contacts) in favour of the deep cleaning of the departed rooms.
- Turndown will be given on guest request as few guests will not be comfortable for a housekeeping attendant to enter their room.
- Removal of amenities like decorative pillows, directories, amenity trays, stationary, few remotes to eliminate the contact from the surfaces through which virus can spread.
- Public area spaces like restaurants and bars should operate with reduced capacity to follow the guidelines of social distancing.
- Furniture in public spaces will be rearranged to respect social distancing. Use of signage to ensure safe distance.
- EPA (Environmental Protection agency) approved cleaning agents and Blacklight inspection to be incorporated in the cleaning protocols.
- Changes in design considerations for future hotel projects, like choosing surfaces that are less porous (ease of cleaning and repels germs), incorporating more environmental conscious design like way to sunlight and fresh air.
- Embracing technology to give contact free service to the guests and ensure safety in post Covid-19 environment as well as safeguard the health and wellbeing of staff.
- Having lab connection and providing swab testing for customers and staff.
- Visibility of cleaning team.
- Restricted use of swimming pool and SPA ensuring repeat cleaning between services if in use.
- Spacing the gym equipment and regular cleaning and disinfecting the equipment.
- External and internal audits of hotel guest rooms and public area to check the standards of cleaning and hygiene.
Review of Cleaning / Hygiene Initiative from Hotel Brands
Most of the hotel brands are collaborating with the champions of the cleaning, disinfecting and sanitising leaders to ensure the safety of their customers and the staff. Some of the recent actions by the industry leaders are quoted below:
- IHG (Intercontinental Hotel Group) has launched global Clean Promise programme in partnership with industry leading experts Cleveland clinic, Ecolab and Diversey.
- Oberoi Hotels & Resort: Have collaborated with Bureau Veritas to validate their hygiene & safety measures and deliver online and face to face training for the staff to implement the programme consistently at all the 33 Oberoi Hotels in India and globally.
- Marriott International: Has launched WE CARE programme in association with Ecolab and Diversey to provide clinically clean environment. Marriott has identified approximately 194 touchpoints in the entire customer journey right from the airport pick up. Special QR codes are used at each of the touch points on scanning it shows the details like when it was cleaned how it was cleaned and the frequency of cleaning.
- Accor hotels have launched ALLSAFE to ensure an elevated wellbeing of their guests.
- Kempinski has introduced “White Glove Service” which involves hygiene strategy to offer antiviral stays to the guests.
- Hilton’s Clean Stay with Lysol protection Programme in partnership Reckitt Benckiser (RB) producer of Lysol, Dettol and Mayo clinic has provided an extensive cleaning programme for the groups 6100 hotels across the globe.
- Hyatt Hotels worldwide has launched global cleanliness and care programme and has started GBAC star cleanliness and training accreditation training through Global Biorisk Advisory Council at all Hyatt hotels to ensure rigorous cleaning and hygiene standards.
- Four Seasons (Lead with Care) has announced partnership with Johns Hopkins Medical International to validate its global health and safety programme.
- Wyndham’s Hotel & Resorts with approximately 9300 hotel properties in 90 countries has launched “Count on Us” Cleaning and Disinfection Program in partnership with EPA approved Ecolab’s disinfectant.
- Rosewood Hotel Group’s international luxury hotel chain operates 28 hotels in 16 countries have launched Commitment to Care policy in partnership with Ecolab and Diversey.
- PARK Hotels: All 22 hotels of Apeejay Surendra Park Hotels (ASPH) have introduced an elevated cleaning programme called SHIELD in partnership with Diversey. S-sanitisation H-Hygiene I- ISO standard equipment L-Luxury redefined D-Distancing
- Roseate Hotels & Resorts an international chain with 28 hotels in 16 countries have started CARE BY ROSEATE initiatives to reassure customers of a safe environment and upscale hygiene and sanitation by remodelling their standard operating procedure.
- American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) has devised “SAFE STAY” guidelines outlining the enhanced cleaning standards and best practices for the industry to meet the new health and safety challenges.
- Singapore has launched “SG Clean” stamp which is an initiative by the Ministry of Tourism to audit approximately 570 hotels for their cleanliness and hygiene on 7 criteria. Every hotel needs to pass this audit before starting their operation in the post coronavirus era and this helps to instil confidence in the travellers and remove any kind of fear or anxiety.
Welcoming Guests again
Any crisis forces us to think and adopt creative ways. The hospitality industry is working hard to transform themselves in order to provide customer care, upgrading staff skills and knowledge by aiding them with the right training. The industry does expect to return to a form of normality while they take this opportunity to make the operation and experience even safer, brighter and fulfilled and give a holistic healthy experience to the customers focussing on wellness and self-care. Deep cleaning and sanitisation were already part of industry which has received a further facelift and we can see hotel brands have already started marketing their cleanliness and hygiene. Brands are coming up with short video clips and marketing campaigns to showcase their initiatives and reassure the customers. While this pandemic is still far from over yet, efforts to “welcome the guest” again is a priority for the hospitality industry.
Jayanti Jayanti is a Lecturer of Hospitality Management at the University of West London. Connect with Jayanti on LinkedIn.