As Countries Start to Reopen, How Can Hoteliers Navigate This New Normal?
By Dimitris Manikis, President and Managing Director for Europe, Middle East, Eurasia and Africa (EMEA) at Wyndham Hotels & Resorts
As hotels begin to re-open, and we start the journey of navigating the new normal, it is vital that all of us in the hospitality industry feel well-prepared to overcome the various challenges brought on in the wake of COVID-19.
Staying well-informed of the guidelines within your region and monitoring the advice of local medical and government authorities will remain imperative as we continue to manoeuvre through this new era of travel globally.
As countries reopen for travel, optimising space in hotels, restaurants, and bars to maintain social distancing guidelines will remain critical. Local authority guidance for each country will be a starting point but individual hoteliers also need to look at on-going methods to encourage this based on the operational workflows of their staff, as well as the flow of staff and guests around the hotel. For example, consider re-configuring large areas such as hotel's food and beverage venues to ensure ample space between groups of guests and take advantage of any outdoor space you may have. As we head into the winter months, consider expanding your public areas into any indoor spaces that are currently not being utilised, for instance conference facilities or wedding venues, to maximise the space you have. Looking at ways to increase contactless services wherever possible and encouraging guests to practise social distancing through visible signage and markers, should also be considered.
Restoring guest confidence is vital on the road to recovery and brands that can show they are doing everything possible to make guests feel reassured, safe and that their health is being accounted for will be in a much stronger position to see an increase in bookings and repeat customers. Brand standards will need to be consistently reviewed and updated to ensure they are adhering to all protocols and safety measures set out by local authorities, as well as to meet consumer's needs. Take full advantage of your communication channels to emphasise the measures you are implementing to ensure guest safety and well-being, as well as any flexible booking policies and promotions you are offering to welcome guests back. Maintaining a voice in the market and clearly communicating the safety procedures and flexible booking policies you have implemented will give consumers peace of mind and help restore confidence in the services you are providing.
It is also vital to recognise the elevated importance of your domestic bookings. Although some countries are now reopening their borders to international arrivals, it is likely that in many markets, consumers will favour domestic travel over travelling abroad for the next few months. It is worthwhile to align this increase in domestic travel with your marketing and advertising strategies, for example partnering with a regionally based car rental company to offer a cross-promotion or upscaling your food and beverage offering to draw in day visits.
An element of hospitality that we can be certain will see a significant change will be the design and development of hotels. Hotel interiors and design concepts will need to reflect the new reality by incorporating hygiene and safety protocols that meet the evolving standards. This will include utilising contactless solutions where possible and having architects create spaces that are not only functional but also encourage social distancing.
The travel industry is incredibly resilient, and despite the challenging times we have endured and the obstacles this new era of travel will continue to bring about, have confidence knowing that demand will gradually return and people will travel again. The safety, health and well-being of your guests, staff and team members should be the number one priority as you navigate through this experience. With this in mind, remember that the hospitality industry is about making people feel warm and welcome and despite the current situation it's important to greet your guests with a smile, even if it's from behind a mask.
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