With the world finally opening back up, travelers are once more looking to book stays with properties just like yours. However, this isn’t a return to the pre-pandemic normal. That may not happen for several years or ever. In the meantime, guests have very real concerns. How safe are hotels? Is it safe to stay in hotels?
The answer to these questions is: it depends. Each hotel and its staff must come together to create protocols and procedures that protect guest health during a stay. In this post, we’ll explore several key steps your property must take to provide guests with the safety and peace of mind that they deserve.
The Right Technology
Technology can provide a lot of convenience for your guests. However, it’s not just about ease of access or streamlining the guest experience. Today, technology is at the heart of making hotels safer and preventing the spread of diseases like COVID-19. What technology should your hotel adopt? Two types that you should integrate immediately are contactless check-in and room key integration.
What is the most likely time for hotel guests to come in contact with pathogens during their stay at your property? It’s the check-in/check-out process. Think about it – the queues of guests waiting to check-in or check-out, the close proximity of people from different areas of the nation or the world, the need to speak with guests face-to-face. All these things add up to one inevitable situation: a increased risk level for spreading germs.
By instituting contactless check-in and check-out procedures, you get right at the heart of the situation. You can eliminate:
- Long lines
- Face-to-face contact
- The potential to spread germs from person to person
With digital kiosks and smartphone apps, you can offer contactless and even remote check-in and check-out opportunities. Imagine how safe your guests will feel being able to check-in without having to stand in line or even speak with the front desk staff.
While a great deal of focus is on the spread of germs through the air, we must also realize that they spread via touch on surfaces all around us. That includes room key cards. If you want to make a hotel customer feel safe, eliminating keys/keycards is a great step to take.
Quite a few hotels have already jumped on board this trend and added keyless locks to their guest rooms. How does this work? It’s all about technology. You’ll find several systems on the market, some that rely on smartphone apps and others that rely on proximity to a chip-embedded card carried on the person. Both allow your guests to unlock doors without ever touching the lock or the card. In fact, 60% of hotel guests state that they want the ability to open their room without the need for a key.
Hotel concierges provide vital services to guests, but in the aftermath of COVID-19, that’s just one more touchpoint, one more infection vector. Hotels must strike a balance between doing away with concierges and increasing the risk level to their guests and their staff. One way around the issue is to use a digital concierge.
A digital concierge, sometimes called a virtual concierge, uses artificial intelligence to help guests connect with the information they need and provide personalized services to each guest. While these systems are not as widespread as others, they are becoming more and more popular with hotel guests and hoteliers.
In addition to technology, you also need to ensure that your staff is prepared for the reality of a post-COVID world. You and your team must be able to develop and implement COVID-appropriate behavior.
What does that mean, though? What would such behavior look like? Honestly, it will look a lot like the precautions that you followed during the height of the pandemic, including:
- Regularly sanitizing high-touch surfaces in public areas
- Enforcing safe distancing between guests in public areas
- Sanitizing guest rooms between stays and explaining sanitization/health practices to hotel guests
- Adopting technology and safety protocols to protect your employees
Train Your Staff
It’s also important that your staff are trained to use technology that increases guest safety and builds trust. What sort of technology should you consider?
- Temperature Checks – Guests from urban areas care about regular temperature checks for people entering the property. However, if your guests are largely Gen Xers or from rural areas, this will matter less.
- Masking – Upgrading to N95 masks (or the equivalent) and training your staff in how to wear and use them can provide peace of mind for many of your guests.
- Keyless Entry – Make sure your staff fully understand how to use the keyless entry technology you adopt. This allows them to explain it to hotel guests, but also to use it themselves effectively, without compromising their safety or that of your customers.
The Role of Your Staff
Building on the last point in the section above, we need to discuss the role that your staff will play. With guests wondering it is safe to stay in hotels, your staff must reply with a resounding “yes”. However, they must do this through both words and actions.
First, your staff members must be committed to guest health and safety, as well as to protecting their own. This should include social distancing whenever possible and appropriate, mask-wearing, and adherence to sanitization policies.
Second, your staff members should be able to explain the steps and procedures that you have put in place to enhance guest safety during their stay. Make sure your staff can do so with calm confidence, as well.
Finally, you must have policies in place that tell your staff how to deal with guests who may not value specific safety precautions. Understand that what makes one guest feel safe may make another feel stifled. Safety is a very personal thing, and no blanket rule will benefit everyone.
Is it safe to stay at hotels? Yes, in most cases. However, it is up to each hotel to create policies and procedures that address guest concerns, as well as to install technology that enhances safety and peace of mind. Do not neglect staff training, either, because your team will be the key to making your guests feel safe during their stay.
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