Covid-19 Management in Hotels
With the uncertainties brought in by the pandemic, travel has been on a decline, but experts say that the pent-up demand would slowly unravel and soon the hospitality industry will see a surge in business. But, before things can take-off, there are certain crucial factors that need a hotelier’s attention, as they are on every traveler’s mind. Guest interaction is adduced as the most common concern travelers have as safety and security in hotels has become extremely important, given the havoc that the pandemic has played.
Since there is a high measure of interaction between guests, guests and staff and between staff members themselves, in a hotel environment or within any kind of entity that provides accommodation services, these interactions require keen attention.
The management at hotels needs to have a strategy in place to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic, which must be regularly updated, as suggested by pertinent authorities. Some aspects to consider are:
- The management at hotels must create and implement a plan to prevent transmissions, in consultation with the local government, health authorities, as well as hotels, restaurants and other related administrations and industry associations.
- Mitigating health impact on staff and guests is possible by supporting the health authorities in managing cases and tracing contacts.
- Processes should be clearly laid out for staff members to follow in case they feel poorly, such as maintaining a minimum distance of 1 meter between themselves and guests.
- Staff must have easy accessibility to facilities and reserves of cleaning and disinfecting materials.
- Processes to follow in case of cleaning and disinfecting rooms utilized by infected people must also be put in place.
- The management must also ensure that adequate resources are allocated to manage suspected cases and their possible contacts.
- Regular supervision of measures taken, and their effects is important to cover any gaps in implementation.
- A detailed record of actions taken to manage suspected cases must be kept.
- Clear guidelines must be provided to staff members on how to communicate the action plan to guests, to make sure everyone is aligned towards the purpose.
- Documents, videos etc. which stress on the best practices for Covid prevention could be circulated to establish information amongst guests and staff.
- Staff must always have an updated list of contacts and emergency numbers handy for use whenever required.
- Staff must be informed of all the protective measures and signs and symptoms of Covid-19, by organizing regular briefing sessions. Standard operating procedures for dealing with suspected cases, as well as cleaning and disinfecting premises, should also be included during these sessions.
Another important aspect of post-Covid hotel management is the management of revenue. The market conditions and containment of Covid-19 around the world varies in the present scenario. It is therefore only fitting for hotels to develop recovery plans that are not too boxed or stringent in nature. Flexibility would allow hotels to thrive in the evolving market situation and must therefore include four key factors – Capturing existing demand in the market, adjusting pricing strategies to maximize long-term revenue, reviewing market forecasts and analyzing the competition’s contribution to the playfield. A hotel property management software can provide you with all the inputs, spread over 100+ reports such as those which present a cumulative of finances and occupancy as well as night audits that are done at the end of a day, which you would need to make these business decisions.
In addition to keeping communication open with the staff at your hotel, it is important to stay in constant touch with your hotel’s audience by way of emails or updates on your website and social media channels. For example, answering commonly asked questions related to bookings/cancellations and safety measures would display a hotel’s proactiveness in Covid-19 prevention. Also, reach out to guests through content tailored to suit their interests and current apprehensions.
Staff at the front desk have maximum chances of interaction with guests and therefore, it is pivotal for employees at the reception to take all necessary precautions and to comply with the guidelines laid out by the management and the government for protection against Covid-19. In addition to maintaining physical distance and always having masks on, other points to be taken care of are:
- Staff at the reception must always be kept abreast with all information related to Covid, enabling them to pass it on to guests. This should include all the safety measures, protocols, and policies in place.
- Front-desk staff should be given the authority to advise guests with symptoms of Covid-19 to quarantine within their rooms, until seen by a doctor or medical practitioner and must arrange for masks or alcohol-based hand rubs for the guests with symptoms.
- Occupancy policies of a hotel for person’s accompanying people with a suspected case of Covid must be made clear to the reception staff.
- Guests who make an exit from your hotel must be asked to inform local health authorities of their stay at the hotel, if they develop symptoms associated with Covid-19.
- Emergency telephone numbers for hospitals, health authorities, transportation services should be at the front-desk’s disposal.
- Guest information must be treated with caution, in consultation with the hotel’s management and local health authorities. With a property management system like Hotelogix, it is easy to manage such information without being worried about safety or security of data.
- In order to ensure that Covid appropriate behavior is followed, it may be necessary to reduce the occupancy rate at your hotel. However, to make sure that your hotel does not suffer losses or the revenue does not get affected in doing so, you could invest in a hotel management system that also does yield management for your property.
- Guests must always be reminded of respiratory hygiene, social distancing and sanitizing hands and other surfaces as a norm, even though they may already be aware of them.
- If deemed necessary, the establishment must provide physical barriers between staff and guests to maintain the required distance.
- PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) should be available to the reception staff to use in the presence of a suspected case of Covid-19 and must include things like medical masks and eye protection, face shield, disinfectant wipes, surface cleaners, plastic aprons, isolation gowns etc.
- Proper training should be given to the staff for the use and disposal of PPE kits.
Along with these, another operational aspect that hoteliers must immediately employ is making a provision for guests to check-in/out of their hotel/s with the help of a mobile app. The touchless method of check-in/out is highly sought, given the current state of things. Property management systems like Hotelogix are also available in mobile versions for easy, remote access. From managing reservations, rates, availability of rooms to assigning tasks to different departments and more, these PMS apps allow hoteliers to be in control of their businesses, with just a tap of a finger.
Food & Beverage/Service
Staff working at food and beverage stations, restaurants, dining rooms etc., must follow all precautionary measures to prevent Covid-19. Maintaining hand and respiratory hygiene being a must.
- Staff working in the food and beverage department must regularly practice hygiene procedures such as handwashing, cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and frequently used touchpoints.
- Rubber gloves could be used but changed often and hands should be washed during glove changing or after removing.
- Handwashing being more effective in fighting the Covid-19 virus, disposable gloves must therefore not be used as a replacement.
- Staff members, especially those whose work involves close interaction with guests must always wear a fabric mask for protection.
- Guests must be encouraged to use alcohol-based hand rubs, preferably placed at the entrance of restaurants, dining rooms etc., before and after their use.
- Buffet spreads of food are not recommended in context with Covid-19 and must not be offered.
- Drink dispensers, if utilized, must always be well maintained in terms of regular cleaning and sanitizing of utensils used and the dispenser itself, after each use and preferably more often. Adequate facilities for hand hygiene must also be employed for users.
- All utensils used, no matter which type or grade, must be cleaned and disinfected in a dishwashing machine, and unused must go through the same process to avoid infections through inadvertent contact.
- In case of manual washing of dishes, the same set of precautionary measures must be put in place and drying must be done with the help of air or disposable paper towels.
- Tablecloths and napkins used at restaurants, dining rooms etc., must also be washed and disinfected as per the local health regulations. Hot water (60-90 degree Celsius) should be used, with laundry detergents for linens.
- Dining indoors in rooms that are not suitably ventilated can cause a health risk. Guidelines given by governments must be followed in such cases. Only a maximum of 4 persons per 10sq meters should be allowed at a time in any indoor space and tables must be arranged at a minimum distance of 1 meter from one another.
- The use of facilities available at hotels such as gym, spa, sauna etc., must be done under restrictions as per national guidelines. For example, a limit must be set to the number of persons allowed into such spaces, ventilation and air conditioning recommendations must be followed, as should cleaning and disinfection of all surfaces, specifically frequent touchpoints.
- Hand hygiene facilities should be easily accessible to all, wherever required.
- Towels must only be kept for single use and arrangements for disposal made.
- Drinking water must be provided for individual use only.
- Concerned individuals must be vigilant for any indications of Covid-19 amongst children and must inform parents, as well as follow your hotel’s procedures for suspected cases.
- Preventive methods must be employed at recreational areas assigned for children.
- Property Management Software like Hotelogix enables the management of multiple POS points from a single dashboard, thereby making it easier to keep a track of tasks assigned and attended to.
Housekeeping and cleaning staff is usually at a higher risk, compared to others since they are in direct contact with guests and also because of the very nature of their work. This makes it essential for them to practice preventative measures against Covid-19 and make sure that situation handling in the housekeeping department is done accurately.
- High touch surfaces, such as lifts, elevator buttons, handrails, doorknobs, switches, halls, reception etc., must be cleaned and disinfected frequently to prevent contamination through SARS-CoV-2.
- Cleaning agents and disinfectants used for hotel guest room cleaning procedures must be carefully selected to prevent environmental damage. Concentration of these chemical agents must be such that they do not cause degradation to surfaces where they are used.
- Staff members with the chance of chemical exposure must be provided PPE kits to ensure ill effects are minimized.
- Proper training must be given to the staff for the use and disposal of disinfectants and PPEs such that all waste material is managed in an environmentally sound manner, causing no pollution to air, water etc., or damage to human health.
- Any surfaces that have been in contact with ill persons must be cleaned and disinfected with a prescribed dosage of hygiene agents such as a sodium hypochlorite solution.
- Additional training may be required for the staff in storing, handling, application etc., of such products.
- Marked laundry bags must be used to collect textiles, linen, cloth etc., for washing, to prevent contamination of people and surroundings and detergents must be used in 60–90-degree warm cycles for adequate cleaning and disinfection.
- Disposable items must be collected in containers with lids and disposed off as per your hotels action plan for waste management.
- In case the housekeeping or cleaning staff notices sick guests in their rooms, they must inform the management or the front desk about the same and leave it to them to take appropriate action.
Guest safety and security in hotels is of primary importance to people in the post-Covid world. Though a large number are looking forward to international travels once Covid-19 is well contained, they have concerns regarding health and safety and only if hoteliers make sure they take all necessary precautions and communicate about intensified cleaning protocols, social distancing norms applied, as well as changes made to commonly used areas in their properties, in order to promote social distancing, would they be able to build confidence in their audience’s minds.
Hotelogix Editorial Desk
Hotelogix's team of researchers and writers are constantly innovating to share the latest trends from the travel and hospitality space. Got suggestions? Write to us on [email protected]