How the hotel industry can strategically plan for 2021

By Ken Schnee  

It comes as no surprise that COVID-19 disrupted the hospitality industry and significantly impacted all global travel and tourism. As 2021 continues to unfold, people are eager to leave lockdown and to resume travel, especially once vaccinated. According to Destination Analysts, 80% of people have a tentative trip planned for 2021, indicating that as COVID-19 concerns subside, leisure travel will likely boom.

In our current state, trust and safety are at the forefront of every traveler’s mind. As we continue through this pandemic, and travel resumes, hotels will be pivoting their strategies to maximize safety and trust among employees, guests and their communities. To learn how you can prepare your establishment for hospitality growth, here are some tips:

Bringing hospitality workers back safely and efficiently
Since March 2020, many hotels have had to furlough or lay off staff, causing leisure and hospitality jobs to reach an unemployment rate of 16.7% as of Jan. 11. As the rollout of the vaccine continues and we start to see indicators of a return to normalcy, the hospitality industry may quickly rebound. In order to accommodate this growth, hospitality establishments will have to efficiently ramp up hiring—while still being cognizant of safety precautions.

From hotel managers to waitstaff, hotel employees are the face of your company, representing your values and brand. Trust and safety are essential in a business where employees have such a high level of interaction with customers and guests.

Background checks are critical to a safe hospitality growth plan. Criminal background checks can be run on new hires, as well as furloughed employees, to uncover potential criminal activity. If an employee is furloughed you should consider running a background check as he or she is brought back to work.

Background checks should never be a bottleneck in the hiring process. While running them, it is important to partner with a screening provider that is committed to fast turnaround times and highly accurate results.

Importance of identity verification
Almost one in five respondents to a 2020 HR.com survey reported instances of identity fraud at their company. To safeguard against this, identity verifications should be run at the start of the background check process. These verifications verify that your candidate is who they claimed to be throughout the application process.

Through advanced technology, identity can be verified in minutes using a mobile phone-based process. Candidates would just need to take a picture of their government ID followed by a selfie on their phone. The program then validates their documentation and matches them with their photo ID.

In conjunction with background checks, identity verifications can help build trust and safety into the process and create a sense of security that you are choosing the right person to join your organization, interact with your guests and represent your brand.

Additional background check protocols
As mentioned previously, it is critical to run background screenings in the hotel industry, specifically, criminal screenings. There are additional valuable searches for an organization to conduct, such as social media screening and workforce monitoring, which can be considered based on role, security measures, access to finances or sensitive information, timing, cost and impact on the guest experience.

Incorporating a COVID-19 testing program
As vaccines begin to rollout, there are still many unknowns. The World Health Organization estimates that 60-70% of people would need to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity. With the vaccine being distributed in phases, we are unsure of when vaccinations will be more accessible and widespread. In addition, at this point in time, we do not have insight into the possibility of a vaccinated person transmitting the virus.

In a time of many unknowns and increased hiring, incorporating a COVID-19 testing program into your strategy will maximize safety until the world reaches herd immunity. Testing can be administered to employees before they return to the hotel, which can help determine if they have the active virus and the potential to infect others. Tests can also be administered on an as-needed basis.

Many COVID-19 testing options can be integrated into your screening program including at-home, in-person and bulk testing. These can be paired with on-site temperature checks, wellness questionnaires and other health and safety measures.

As you plan for increased staff, trust and safety initiatives should be at the forefront of your strategy. Background checks, COVID-19 testing and identity verification can help set your organization up for success in 2021 while protecting your employees, guests and community.

Ken Schnee is the general manager of the technology, media, entertainment and hospitality group at Sterling, an employment background screening solutions company.

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

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