Hotels Adapt to ‘New Normal’ Amidst Pandemic

By Jonathan Webster

United by a common crisis, those in the travel industry are bonding to support one another during the COVID-19 pandemic. Hotel experts predict that the pandemic will drastically alter the future of hotel visits, prompting many properties to embrace a host of new practices while adapting to a hotel experience that’s just as personalized, but far less hands-on.

Hotels are doing this by implementing enhanced protocols for sanitation and cleanliness; offering new and different services when it comes to hosting events and offering room service; and introducing new technologies that will benefit guests and staff alike. One thing is certain: Hotel stays will be different post-pandemic.

During this time of unknowns, hoteliers have a rare opportunity to connect with the wider industry, make internal improvements and, most importantly, update and reevaluate existing health and safety procedures. What can and should we be doing to ensure we’re prepared and accessible to guests at all times? How can we do this while keeping them safe and at a socially responsible distance?

Minimizing Direct Contact
Limiting face-to-face contact with guests is of top priority during the pandemic in the short term, but also for the foreseeable future to ensure all guests are comfortable as travel restrictions are lifted. Primarily working to serve others and offer a personalized touch, maintaining a human connection without the human touch—whenever possible—is critical.

Consider alternatives to face-to-face services and implement new services where possible. Offer socially distant dining options, like pre-made boxed meals and complimentary room service, and also limit elevator rides to one guest per car.

Adapting Virtual Technologies
Examine opportunities to implement digital technologies to enhance the guest experience and adapt to virtual check-ins and checkouts. This means giving guests the ability to check in, select their room and use their phone as their room key, without ever having to interact with the front desk.

Many hotels are employing technology behind the scenes to help them utilize resources more effectively and to improve overall planning and decision-making. One such platform is called Alice, a service technology that allows hotel teams to text with guests and electronically submit service requests.

Update Health Procedures
Now is the time for properties to emphasize and focus on health and safety procedures to ensure guests are safe and secure. If a hotel or restaurant is remaining open during this time, it’s vital to reevaluate that the establishment has appropriate health and safety policies in place, especially because these businesses typically rely on in-person interactions. For example, offer single-serve options in place of buffets.

As social distancing eases, be aware that most guests will be looking for hotels that have stringent cleanliness protocols in place. Now is an ideal time to ramp up these procedures and communicate with guests about how their potential concerns are being addressed.

Focus on Internal Growth
If anything, this is a perfect opportunity to encourage employees to improve or gain new skills through professional development. Just as the world has evolved during current events, our industry must also evolve to meet the new needs and expectations of travelers. For example, a multitude of management certifications are available online for employees to enhance their skills.

Although 2020 isn’t going in the direction we previously envisioned, the industry will continue to stand strong and connected during this time. Industry experts are confident that they will emerge stronger and more resilient than ever.

The UN World Tourism Organization counted 1.4 billion international tourist arrivals in 2018; before the crisis, it predicted 1.8 billion arrivals by 2030. With virtually all travel paused, recovery will take time; however, it will undoubtedly resume.

As we emerge from months of social distancing, business and leisure travelers alike will look forward to diving into new experiences. Be sure your hotel is a destination of choice.

Jonathan Webster is the VP of lodging for Geronimo Hospitality Group, which owns and operates a collection of upscale boutique hotels, restaurants and clubs.

This is a contributed piece to Hotel Business, authored by an industry professional. The thoughts expressed are the perspective of the bylined individual.