This week, eCornell had a webinar about a topic that many hoteliers are thinking about as they begin to reopen: building guest confidence during Covid-19. To understand both the current state and what the industry must do as a whole to get back on track, eCornell put together an expert panel that included David Sherwin, Professor, Cornell School of Hotel Administration; Dr. Robert Corona, CEO, SUNY Upstate Medical University Hospital; Stacy Fischer-Rosenthal, President, Fischer Travel Enterprises and Fischer-Rosenthal Consulting; Duane Shroder, VP of Operations, Waterford Hotel Group; Sergio Saenz, Director of Hospitality and Principal, HKS.
Here are five insights we took away from the conversation:
Safety is the new luxury
Stacy Fischer-Rosenthal’s luxury travel business is about “Making the Impossible Possible.” She has clients that continue to travel during the pandemic, but things have certainly changed for her clientele. Most importantly, safety has become king. She says that Covid-19 has amplified fear for many travelers and everyone has different comfort levels with traveling. She notes that her clients want to know more details than ever about the hotel before booking, including the cleaning process, the hotel’s occupancy and how long the room will be empty before guests check in. To give them the confidence that they need to book rooms, Stacy will call the hotel to speak with the GM about cleaning protocols and share those details with the potential guests to ensure it meets their standards. In some cases, she will arrange for extra cleaning or provide a team to assist in cleaning, to give her clients the assurance that they need to feel comfortable traveling.
Instilling confidence requires visible cues
Cleaning and sanitizing no longer needs to happen under the cloak of darkness at hotels. Today, to drive guest confidence, hotels need to be overt in their cleaning. Duane Shroder recommends that all staff wear PPE, wipe down extra touchpoints throughout the day, increase their signage around social distancing and get retrained on cleaning protocols. He says that many of his hotels have taken additional steps including removing amenities from the guest room and instead presenting them to guests at check in so they know they haven’t been handled by previous guests. He also advises hotels to ask guests for their preference around room cleaning as many guests don’t want people in the room once they have checked in.
The buffet is changing
Some things are going to have to change at hotels and the buffet is one of them. The guests agree that there might still be the illusion of a buffet, with all food on display for guests, but the food will be pre-portioned and guests will no longer be able to serve themselves. Rather, attendants will hand guests their plates.
Room service is making a comeback
Room service has been in transition for many years now. When the service went out of favor with guests, many hotels, realizing that it wasn’t profitable, switched to a grab-and-go concept. But today, it’s ready for a comeback and breakfast is leading the way. Hotels are urged to offer contactless delivery and rethink the packaging to make it as appealing and safe as possible. If the selection is broad, the quality is great and the packaging is appealing, people will love the convenience of ordering food to their rooms.
The additional costs around cleaning will be offset by operational efficiencies of technology
While hotels today might be struggling with the cost of maintaining new, stricter cleaning standards with a smaller staff, the cost shouldn’t be passed along to guests. Rather, Duane says that the additional costs will be offset by the changes to service that guests are demanding, including contactless check-in, no housekeeping, concierge apps, etc. All the technology platforms that have been developed in the past decade may finally get their day in the sun.
If you’re looking for more strategies as you reopen your hotel, check out our Covid-19 recovery guide, chock-full of templates and tools to help you drive business throughout the pandemic.