Industry Update
Opinion Article 6 July 2020

Hotel Operators: Various Approaches To Security And Cleaning Protocols

Co-written by Vani van Nielen, Eliana Levine, Larina Maira Laube, Jedaiah Gwee, and Paloma Guerra from École Hôtelière de Lausanne, with the participation of Alex Slors.

By Alex Sogno, CEO - Senior Hotel Asset Manager at Global Asset Solutions

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Globally, hospitality companies industries are hopping on the cleaning, safety and security certification bandwagon. The Coronavirus is forcing professionals to embrace changes, even if they are not how we pictured our industry to be. Meanwhile, hotel operators are creating new images, to adapt as fast as possible to guests, employees, partners and investors' needs; the owners are draining money to emerge from the ashes.

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We agree that our commitment is to follow the World Health Organizations guidelines and local safety regulations to assure that our hotels and restaurants are free of infection risk. We also agree that accommodation and F&B operations, services, and the entire business models have been forced to take painful decisions to adapt our industry to the Coronavirus requirements. Since the outbreak, the top priority has been to give peace of mind to guests, employees, partners and investors. However, the three core standard operational procedures (SOPs): safety, hygiene and maintenance, are not new topics for hospitality operators. Furthermore, the international certifications, such as ISO among others, have been lifelong essential requirements to run the business.

The Coronavirus is pushing hospitality service companies to reinforce their SOPs, including additional guidelines and certifications. That in itself doesn't mean anything, but if you want to reopen your business and get your stakeholders into full swing, you must prove a commitment to security and cleanliness.

What are the leading hotel operators doing in terms of new security and hygiene protocols?

In the chart below we disclose the programmes created by seven leading hotel operators:

The hotel operators are coming along with new standards to assure guests, employees and partners that their properties are clean and safe, to enjoy a comfortable and free of contagious risk stay.
However, the COVID-19 additional security and cleaning protocols will certainly affect hotel owners' out-of-pocket costs, and one common concern is the cost efficiency of these practices. For that reason, firstly, we will list the common approaches encompass in five key areas, and elaborate afterwards in the most innovative ones, which are particularly proposed by some operators.

1. Hotel Operators common security and safety practices

Cleanliness
Hospital-grade room disinfection

  • Increase in cleaning and disinfecting frequency of all hotel areas, F&B outlets and SPA
  • To pay special attention to high-touch items

Employees' safety & comfort

  • To provide with personal protective equipment (PPE): masks, gloves and hand sanitizer
  • To design specific COVID-19 training and protocols
  • Front and Back of the house signage to remind about hygiene practices: proper way to wear, handle and dispose of masks, washing hands and keeping social distancing

Guests' safety & comfort

  • All room keys disinfected and presented safely upon check-in
  • Place hand sanitizer stations throughout hotel public areas and entrances
  • Guest-accessible disinfecting wipes
  • Social distancing guidance in public areas across hotel properties

F&B safety

  • Implementation of enhanced food safety and hygiene protocols for restaurants, room service, group meetings and events
  • Restaurants and bars may operate with reduced capacity and space tables apart in restaurants and bars to provide physical distancing
  • Providing a-la-carte service with digital menus
  • In-Room Dining offering contactless delivery outside guestrooms along with sustainable, single-use packaging
  • To enhance operational practices for in-room dining
  • To design new approaches for buffets
  • To adhere to the strict safety procedures while serving all food and beverages

2. Hotel Operators innovative security and safety practices

Cleanliness
New investment in tools and innovative equipment is expected. For example, electrostatic spraying, ozone technology for air purification and using UV light to sanitize surfaces and objects and as a heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) coil cleaner. To perform efficient room cleaning controls, hotel operators plan to install discreet QR codes near the rooms to help the housekeeping staff to check the principal touch points have been deep cleaned.

Hilton is including in its protection plan, placing a room seal on doors, which will indicate to guests that their room has not been accessed since being thoroughly cleaned. Furthermore, some hotels are planning to limit the housekeeping service one time during the stay, delivering additional service under request charging an extra cost to the guest. These types of initiatives not only will reinforce the cleaning procedures, but also will be at the same time cost-effective and consequently will reduce labour costs.

Employees' safety & comfort
Firstly, some operators are proposing to redesign the front desks, implementing Plexiglas barriers to create a safe environment and the hotel staff to respect the two meters social distancing from guests. Secondly, new surveillance tools will be implemented, such as thermal scanners and temperature checks for team members and suppliers, when it is legally permitted or required, as Radisson includes in their protocols.

As part of the specific Coronavirus training, to ensure the team professional awareness of COVID-19, some training programmes will include emotional aspects of customer relationships. For example, Four Seasons aims to ensure empathetic, personalised care and connection are not lost in the absence of close contact and limited face to face interaction.

Moreover, Hyatt and Four Seasons will create specific roles to handle COVID-19 safety standards and to focus on implementing stringent procedures, called "Hygiene Manager" and "Hygiene Office". Lastly, Four Seasons is equipping the personnel with access to leading international experts and real-time COVID-19 information.

All these additional practices will intensify the professionalism, ensuring that hotels are sanitary and safe for employees to observe good personal hygiene and outstanding working habits.

Guests' safety & comfort
Perhaps, the most important factor for the long-term success of the hospitality industry is the implementation of technology. Hotel operators are implementing Contactless Technology as part of the guests' core experience, that even requiring and initial investment they are designed to create more efficient operations, besides to deliver a sense of safety and security. For example:

  • Digital key
  • Digital check-in with room selection, and digital check-out
  • Connected rooms
  • High touch areas will switch the physical material and hands touch for digital and contact-less hardware

Furthermore, the ongoing push for social distancing is making designers come with new ideas. Some hotel operators are convincing to reconfigure many areas to facilitate social distancing. But also, they support the idea to be flexible in the reshaping, to cater to the taste of those who prefer privacy and who request open spaces.

Among the innovative principals, regarding the room amenities and customize service, below are the top initiatives hotel operators suggest and differentiate one from the others:

  • Care kits placed in each guest room providing masks, hand sanitizer and sanitization wipes, with additional masks supplied on demand
  • App and Chat providing guests with real-time, contactless interactions with employees from their device on global platforms and in different languages
  • Provide a clean and disinfected TV remote in an individually sealed and protective bag
  • Guest-accessible disinfecting wipes
  • Lock or remove all minibars
  • Place a "disinfect box" in meeting rooms for used stationary items and disinfect them after events
  • Fitness and holistic classes will be adapted for guests' optimum wellbeing

F&B safety
Specific protocols will apply to food and beverage safety programs including enhanced sanitation guidelines. The industry will reinvent the service provided, design new approaches that meet identical cleaning, employee and guests' safety and comfort principals. We invite you to consult our article "100 ideas for the F&B industry post-COVID-19" to learn from the most innovative procedures, service and experiences implemented by hotel operators and independent restaurants.

Conclusion

Cleaning, sanitation, hygiene and security- these are more than just marketing buzzwords in the age of COVID-19. The hotel operators quickly are moving on and every brand has a respective way to do it. Once the guidelines are in place, owners are looking at prestigious hotel operators to evaluate cost-efficient measures to implement, owners do care about the ROI. The new equipment, standards and protocols have to be planned with a long life vision, and the COVID-19 has triggered the opportunity to make properties stronger and maintain the efficiency of the operations in the short and long term.

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