New Health and Safety Plans: Four Seasons, Benchmark

INTERNATIONAL REPORT—As the hotel industry readies for its reopening from the devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of companies are implementing new cleanliness and safety protocols so that they will be ready for the return of employees and staff. Here are some of them:

Four Seasons Teams With Johns Hopkins on Health and Safety Plan
Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts has entered into a collaboration with Johns Hopkins Medicine International to validate its new global health and safety program, Lead With Care, and provide ongoing, real-time guidance on the evolving COVID-19 situation. The Lead With Care program will be reviewed and validated by Johns Hopkins Medicine experts and implemented by dedicated teams at Four Seasons properties around the world.

Johns Hopkins and Four Seasons have established a dedicated COVID-19 Advisory Board, bringing together Four Seasons leadership and top experts from Johns Hopkins Medicine International to inform health and safety decisions based on the latest scientific knowledge.

The COVID-19 Advisory Board will create, enhance and review current procedures, along with virtual and in-person training to guide implementation of Lead With Care across Four Seasons global portfolio.

This builds upon the early experience of Four Seasons Hotel New York, as well as Four Seasons hotels in Riyadh and Mumbai, in providing accommodation to high-risk medical personnel fighting on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Four Seasons Hotel New York was transformed into a safely zoned environment in a matter of days, implementing enhanced procedures to safely house guests, as well as properly train all employees.

The Lead With Care program is focused on providing care, confidence and comfort to all Four Seasons guests, employees and residents within the new COVID-19 environment. The new program outlines clear procedures that educate Four Seasons employees to take care of guests and each other.

The collaboration will ensure the review and validation of the Lead With Care program in two phases.

Phase one of the collaboration—Review and Validation—involves a comprehensive review of Four Seasons existing health and safety procedures along with enhanced protocols in response to the current situation at a global, regional and property level.

Phase two—Ongoing Guidance—provides Four Seasons with ongoing collaboration with the Johns Hopkins Medicine International team, including direct access to curated critical updates, relevant COVID-19 research outcomes and expert advice to ensure real-time adjustments to operating procedures. Customized through on-property Hygiene Officers, this will allow Four Seasons to respond quickly and anticipate future needs, providing assurance that all appropriate infection control safety measures have been taken, according to the company.

Four Seasons and Johns Hopkins will also establish a joint Response Team, where senior experts in infectious diseases from the latter will provide on-demand response and guidance to hotels facing COVID-19 situations.

To support the development of procedures to be verified by Johns Hopkins, as well as the procurement of supplies and equipment for Lead With Care implementation, Four Seasons will be working closely with EcoLab and International SOS—who were also critical in the transformation of the Four Seasons hotels in New York, Riyadh and Mumbai that housed medical personnel.

While guests will see many of the enhanced Lead With Care procedures, behind-the-scenes measures will also take place through employee training, additional food handling protocols and enhancements to ventilation systems and other back-of-the-house operations.

In addition, Four Seasons continues to invest in its App and Chat that further allows guests to control how they engage with others—limiting face-to-face interactions while maintaining the highest levels of personal service. Features include the ability to make and manage reservations, as well as request luggage pickup, airport transfers, room service, and restaurant and spa reservations. Wait-free check-in and checkout is also offered, while Four Seasons Chat integration offers instant translation of 100-plus languages.

Benchmark Launches Recovery Initiative for Meetings
Benchmark has launched its strategic recovery initiative that will support meeting planners and partners while forging new solutions for the industry’s future in a post COVID-19 world.

In effect through March 2021, the plan mitigates the risk and uncertainty of committing to new meetings and events. To provide reassurance to corporate planners, the plan includes flexible short-term bookings; relaxed attrition and cancellation fees; and 100% credit given on rebookings.  Meeting spaces at Benchmark properties will be restructured, focusing on long-term safety to align with conscious distancing and optimizing healthy hygiene practices. To support independent planners, Benchmark will increase commissions on new business from 10% to 12%, with 7% distributed immediately upon booking.

“The COVID-19 crisis has devastated the meetings industry and taken a severe toll on our confidence as well as commerce,” said Eric Gavin, Benchmark chief sales officer. “At Benchmark, we are aggressively addressing both the monetary concerns and the need to reassure our partners that it is safe and prudent to return to the conference room. We have built this program to demonstrate our commitment to and support of these relationships as we work to meet the challenges of operating in a vastly changed environment.”

Benchmark’s Meeting Accelerator Program encompasses elements that the company sees as essential to the industry’s support and recovery, such as the zero-risk clause. Zero attrition or cancellation fees will apply to contracted room and F&B revenue on new meetings scheduled through March 31, 2021, until 60 days in advance of arrival. A full, one-time rebooking credit will be extended to new meetings scheduled April 1, 2021, through Dec. 31, 2021, with a minimum cancellation notice requirement of 90 days in advance of arrival. Rebooked groups must be of equal or greater contracted revenue and be held by Dec. 31, 2021.

Benchmark has embraced accommodations for safe distancing and elevated hygiene procedures and safety protocols, while providing distinctive meeting environments and mindfulness programming:

  • A Safe Environment: Safe social distance spacing; sanitizer stations; increased air purification and aroma therapies; and staggered breaks coordinating event entry and exit timing
  • A Safe F&B Program: Sustainable, nutritious and enhanced food safety culinary practices, complemented by local sourcing and cooperative partnerships, as well as skilled culinarians and mixologists
  • Safe and Activated Breaks: Staggered refreshment breaks with mindful programming—from guided breathing exercises and yoga, to brain teasers and flash mob dances to stimulate energy and engagement
  • Safe and Healthy Team Building: Unique physical, social and creative experiences to enrich individual and collective minds, bodies and souls, delivered in a safe and secure environment