By Andy Romjue
It’s no secret that the COVID-19 crisis has shocked the hospitality industry. The devastating impact has left hotels in major cities across the country struggling to stay in business, with over half of them below the threshold at which most hotels can break even and pay back debt, according to the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA).
While the hospitality industry continues to struggle with almost two-thirds of hotels at or below 50% occupancy, according to AHLA, and hoteliers grow concerned about the outcome of this new year travel, it’s wise for hotels to apply lessons learned from this year and prepare for the future of the industry beyond COVID-19. Now that safety and cleanliness are more important than ever, it’s time to adapt and reinvent the way hotels attract patrons.
According to a survey from AHLA, 81% of travelers feel more comfortable staying at hotels with cleaning and safety protocols that keep everyone safe. In 2021, getting the word out that your hotel is safe and clean is imperative. After implementing improved sanitation practices that help to protect guests from bacteria and viruses, share the news. This can be communicated by outfitting your staff with masks and gloves and creating transparent barriers on front desks, valet tables, etc. Other ways to demonstrate your safety protocols could be hanging signage marking improved cleaning practices and social distancing, preparing sanitizing stations and providing temperature checks upon arrival.
The pandemic has changed people’s awareness of cleanliness and made individuals think again about shaking someone’s hand or sitting at a table they don’t know has been properly wiped down. Hotels working to take every precaution to protect travelers from COVID-19 also helps ensure their guests are protected from other contaminants like bacteria as well. The most common bacteria found in hotels are Salmonella, E. Coli and Legionella, which can make guests sick and affect return visits and loyalty. Making sure your staff is aware of all types of contaminants ranging from bacteria to viruses and are actively working to keep spaces sanitary are especially important for a rebound in 2021.
Even before COVID-19, cleanliness was at the top of the list for guests. In fact, according to a survey from Hotels.com, cleanliness and comfort were rated 36 times more important than a lavish breakfast, pool or deluxe coffee machine.
Another thing that’s at the top of that list? Convenience. Patrons are looking for establishments that offer in-house amenities like coffee shops, multiple restaurants, room service and even small convenience stores. These accommodations can allow guests to stay put within the property, ultimately creating fewer touchpoints while traveling.
Change it Up
Even though traveling will never stop and face-to-face business meetings won’t completely go away, Reuters predicts the travel industry won’t fully recover from 2020’s plunge for at least four years. The slow rebound will likely be a result of corporations lowering their travel expenses and consumers being more precautious. However, with the help of the vaccine and new product innovations geared to keep guests safe, those who feel more comfortable traveling will—and, hoteliers who invest in more sanitary features and improve cleaning protocols will motivate guests to lodge with you.
For example, aligned with CDC recommendations, hotels can consider switching to disposable products everywhere they can from guestrooms and meeting rooms to restrooms. Bonus if you find and use products with antimicrobial properties since its technology will stop the growth and transmission of bacteria and fungi. Additionally, making a shift from hand dryers to disposable hand towels can provide security in cleanliness as studies find hand dryers are less sanitary, increasing the survival rates of bacteria on the hands and in the air.
As many of us prepare to leave 2020 behind, the lessons from COVID-19 will stick around in the hospitality industry. If hoteliers create and use innovation to market clean and safe stays to leisure and business travelers alike, traveling can soon resume with confidence.
Andy Romjue is the president of Hoffmaster, a supplier of disposable foodservice solutions.
This is a contributed piece to Hotel Business, authored by an industry professional. The thoughts expressed are the perspective of the bylined individual.