Hoteliers are preparing for a new guest experience after COVID-19 that is likely to be less hands-on.
United by a common cause, the hospitality industry is coming together amidst the shared circumstances of COVID-19 to create and embrace a new guest experience that, while incredibly personalized, is far less hands-on.
With an anticipated surge in hotel travel on the horizon, many properties are implementing a host of new and improved practices and services that will allow them to utilize the benefits of modern technology to connect with guests on a more personal level.
With the safety and wellbeing of guests and staff a top priority for hoteliers, this is a rare opportunity to take a step back and really ask ourselves: What can and should we be doing to ensure we’re prepared and accessible to guests at all times, all while keeping them safe? During this time of uncertainty, hoteliers can connect and plan with the wider hospitality industry, make improvements or renovations and revisit health and safety procedures.
Transition to hands-off service
Those who work in hospitality are bonded by a shared passion for serving others, and at this time, great service means maintaining a personal touch while limiting direct contact with guests. Choose to implement technology in place of face-to-face service where possible. Hoteliers can also:
- Adapt to virtual check-ins and check-outs. 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.
- Offer socially-distant dining options such as pre-made boxed meals and complimentary room service.
- Limit elevator rides to one to four guests per car.
Implement virtual technologies
The pandemic has quickly proved that remote work is vital. Consider managing all processes using cloud-based systems. Our properties have recently done so through service technology.
In fact, hotels can manage all processes without being onsite with cloud-based systems. Our properties have recently implemented service technology to allow employees to text with guests and electronically submit service requests, allowing guests to further reduce the amount of face-to-face contact. Additionally, updating traditional printed hotel directories to digital hotel directory options will be key for long-term safety and flexibility in communicating with guests. This can also allow for contactless delivery of guest amenities or room service at the guest’s request, and electronic follow-up can put the personal touch in the delivery; something that has previously been done in person or via telephone.
Establish safety procedures
The emphasis on health and safety procedures should only increase in this period. If a hotel or restaurant is remaining open during this time, its staff should reevaluate that the establishment has appropriate health and safety policies in place, especially because these businesses typically rely on in-person interactions.
As previously mentioned, contactless room service deliveries may become the norm. Alternatively, in meeting rooms, for instance, consider single-serve options instead of buffets, or have a team member serve guests from a buffet instead of allowing guests to help themselves as they typically would.
Embrace internal growth
If anything, now is a great time to make some necessary improvements or renovations to a hotel without impacting guests. Inventory of maintenance supplies, system repairs, security checks, pool systems and light maintenance all fall under this classification. Deep cleaning is an accessible way to improve the business experience. Additionally, consider moving up the timeline for larger planned capital projects to be done during this time rather than later in the year.
Many businesses are also using this time for employee professional development. There are several management certifications available for employees to enhance their skills. Just as the world has evolved during current events, our industry should evolve to meet the new needs and expectations of travelers.
Overall, despite the current events that have dramatically impacted our sector, demand within the hospitality industry will continue to increase. CBRE Hotels Americas Research forecasts consecutive growth for the U.S. hotel industry throughout 2022. In all scenarios, the modeled value of all hotels ultimately surpasses the 2019 value, reaching a value 9% higher by 2025. People will once again explore their love of travel and the hospitality industry will once again flourish.
While current events have tested our limits as hoteliers, employers and community members, we must remain confident that the hospitality industry will emerge stronger and more resilient than ever. In the face of crisis and hardship, hospitality’s dedication and bond to serving people only strengthens.
Jonathan Webster is the Vice President of Lodging for Geronimo Hospitality Group, which was founded to provide memorable guest experiences through its genuine service and original brands. Headquartered in Beloit, Wisconsin, Geronimo Hospitality Group owns and operates a growing collection of award-winning, upscale boutique hotels, restaurants and clubs, including Ironworks Hotel, as well as Bottleworks District and Bottleworks Hotel opening up in late 2020 in Indianapolis. Geronimo properties are distinguished as destinations of choice for locals and travelers in the cities they operate. For more information, visit: www.geronimohospitalitygroup.com.
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