The turmoil we have all faced due to COVID-19 is beyond a shock, and it will take years for the hospitality industry to recover from the knock-on effects.
However, if you've been keeping up to date there is good news on the horizon for the hospitality industry. From July 4th, pubs, restaurants and hotels can officially reopen their doors in England since the forced closure from March 20th.
For this to work sufficiently, Boris Johnson discussed relaxing the regulation around the two-meter distancing rule in England to one-meter. However, the regulations haven’t relaxed completely, hotels will need to make changes to shift patterns, the arrangement of their restaurants needs to adapt to the one-meter distancing rule and there will need to be an increase of hand sanitisation.
The re-opening of the hospitality sector for Wales will be discussed July 9th, the 15th for Scotland and 3rd of July for Northern Ireland.
It goes without saying that the hospitality industry has been one of the hardest hit by the Coronavirus crisis.
For the majority of us, life has gone on with weird but adaptable changes. But for businesses in the entertainment and leisure sectors, the cost of the Covid-19 epidemic has been catastrophic.
Worldwide, the travel sector has either been forced to close or slow so dramatically businesses are needing to make large-scale redundancies and even worse- close down for good. The WIRC carried out a survey in Wales and found that out of 92 hospitality businesses, only 7% were confident they would still be operating by the end of 2020.
For reducing the spread of the virus, temporary closure of public spaces has been essential.
The nation will need to move on at some point for the sake of the economy, but it is imperative that the opening progress to the public is done in a safe and careful manner.
Likewise, we are to expect a very different experience in the aftermath of the coronavirus crisis.
Let’s look at what changes may be necessary...
While the hospitality industry needs to reopen at some point, it may come with a heavy price if careful action is not taken.
Hoteliers must implement increased sanitisation and social distancing to avoid an increase in spreading the coronavirus.
Previous to the Coronavirus epidemic, few people gave mind to the hundreds of previous guests sleeping and using the same hotel room as them. But with the crisis, alarm bells for cleanliness must put travellers minds at ease if they want to attract guests to their hotels again.
There are so many areas of a hotel room that gets touched by each guest without a second thought, the door handles, drawers, wardrobe, light switches, plug points, TV remotes and that's without mentioning the obvious, bed and bathroom facilities.
With the potential of infected surfaces becoming more present on people’s minds, hotels need to increase their cleaning and sanitation efforts throughout and communicate these effectively to their guests and staff to relieve worries.
To reduce the spread of the disease and encourage guests to visit, we are already seeing hotel giants put in affirmative action into their cleanliness and sanitation protocols since the epidemic.
Hotel chains such as the Marriott and Hilton have put in high-intensity cleaning regimes into ‘high-touch’ areas. The Hilton has even gone one step further and is considering the use of door seals to tell guests that they are the first to enter the room since it was sealed.
Sandals Resorts are also putting into place a minimum of 3 checks daily on the enhanced cleaning standards across their resorts. Including the use of advanced technologies to sanitise bedrooms. These include, “ hospital-grade disinfectants; electrical aerosol sprayers for advanced cleaning; the use of UV-LED lighting equipment to inspect cleanliness; air duct sanitization for each arrival and upon each departure; weekly steam-cleaning and sanitization of carpeting; placement of anti-bacterial gels and soaps in each guest room”.
More and more hotels have already implemented or are now considering the introduction of hotel mobile apps since the Covid-19 pandemic as a way to reduce person- to person contact.
A major feature of hotel mobile app technology is the contactless hotel arrival and departure. Through the mobile app, guests can check into their hotel room via a check-in system and a digital key. By skipping the front desk and foregoing the use of a door key, the risk of virus transmission is dramatically reduced.
While this is a seamless way to reduce the spread of COVID-19, it may feel cold and distant to travellers who enjoy the warm and friendly welcome they have come to expect from hotels. This is why we recommend that hotels make up for the lack of customer service interaction with some friendly welcome packs to get them ‘feeling-at-home’ in the room.
How will travellers know if a hotel's cleaning measures are effective enough to reduce the risk of catching viruses?
Maybe soon we will see the introduction of a new governing body of sanitation and cleanliness levels that hoteliers will need to adhere to.
There has been talk of the 'consumer mark' which is a set of cleaning guidelines that hotels will need to follow. They can then advertise their 'consumer mark' cleaning levels to travellers to communicate this is a good place to stay.
Hotels may need to even update their facilities to make a dramatic reduction on touch points. Obvious areas include automatic sliding doors to replace push and pull handles, sensor faucets in public restrooms, contactless sensors for elevators and possibly even voice activation technology introduced to bedrooms.
Failing the implementation of (expensive) high tech equipment, hotels at the very least will need to introduce touch-free sanitiser stations throughout all their public spaces.
One of the bigger challenges to the hospitality industry will be implementing the social distancing measures. Politicians around the world have already acknowledged the difficulty this will bring to many organisations, and have reduced the social distance requirements to a minimum of 1 meter to ensure some hotels and restaurants may still be able to function.
But they won’t be functioning as normal. For the social distancing to be effective, all public spaces must arrange furniture, check-in desks, concierge services, gym, pool and even spa facilities to a minimum of 1 meter apart.
Businesses who are used to running at full capacity with high occupancy rates will see a devastating blow to their revenue streams with the 1m distancing rule applied. There will be much fewer tables in restaurants, seats in bars and we haven't even touched upon what will happen in spas delivering treatments.
While the opening of businesses will allow the ability to generate some revenue, the restrictions on occupancy levels may still mean the further redundancies of staff as the business may be unable to keep their jobs.
We may even see a huge increase for in-room dining, as guests may prefer to avoid eating at restaurants. If this is the case, we will likely see extra measures hotels will need to take to ensure the careful preparedness of food and the transporting of it. It's possible we will see food arriving in cling film, cutlery with sanitisation wipes and glasses or drinks in pre-packaged bottles.
It will be the responsibility of hotels to ensure strict social distancing behaviour is conducted within their premises.
Hotels need to consider all areas of their businesses. This is especially true when it comes to elevators or other small spaces, hotels may need to introduce minimum person restrictions to adhere to the social distancing measures.
A strange but more common sight we can expect to see is the increase of Personal Protective Equipment throughout hotels.
Front desk, concierge and even restaurant staff will more than likely be required to wear masks and gloves at the very least to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. Hotels can even introduce a ban on wearing hotel uniforms travelling to and from work. It is also likely that hotels will introduce routine hand washing intervals for staff.
Some hotels such as the Sandals Resorts have even begun requiring temperature checks for all staff at the start of shifts to eliminate possible carriers of the virus.
When it comes to PPE staff and guests need to be protected from the possible change of infection. However, this will come at a cost to the communication abilities of a hotel. Foreign speaking and even deaf travelers will no doubt have a hard time communicating with the covering of the face and mouth. Hopefully hotels can largely overcome this issue with the use of mobile app technology to reduce staff-to guest in-person communication.
While the reopening of the hospitality industry is music to the ears of hoteliers, it doesn’t mean this is the end of their troubles.
Right now, half of the population are enjoying the relaxed measures and going about normal life as close as it once was. - The other half are still frightened, and are very wary of socialising again, let alone entertaining the idea of visiting a public space!
This no doubt will have a huge impact on hotels.
Don’t hold your breath for maxed-out occupancy rates just yet. It may take a while for hotels to see their revenues hitting the heights that they were used to before the pandemic.
With nervous travelers and even restrictions on social distancing, hotels are unable to take the full amount of bookings as they used to. This will have a dramatic effect on revenue streams and may even force hotels to cut more staff to keep their heads above water.
While there is light at the end of the tunnel, there is still a long way for hotels to go before everything is back to normal. Maybe the above changes may just be the new normal for the future of the hospitality industry.
What are your thoughts on the direction of the future of hospitality services? Let us know in the comments!