Rethinking the guest experience, creating new standards, and committing to those standards will be vital in building future loyalists.
Originally published on Hotel Online
COVID-19 has caused many to reflect upon the fundamental operations of our global society and our day-to-day lives, including the way we travel. In hospitality, many are wondering how an industry that is so reliant on personal interactions can recover from the crisis and earn back guest confidence.
Moving forward, hotels that integrate the newest stringent standards into their operations – while also rethinking the guest experience – will be the first to see a positive revenue impact. Further embracing digital tools based on a hybrid model of contactless and personal customer engagement will also ease concerns and help guests once again embrace everything they love about travel.
Read on for our recommended strategies to boost guest confidence, increase guest satisfaction, and build the future loyalists of tomorrow.
1. Understand New Guest Expectations
Moving forward, concerns from COVID-19 will likely affect every touchpoint across the traveler journey and will be top of mind throughout the guest’s hotel stay. The new “Generation Clean” guests have elevated expectations when it comes to cleanliness, and major hotel chains have responded to these concerns with public campaigns like Marriott’s Commitment to Clean and Hilton’s CleanStay.
Hotels will need to demonstrate, even more than in the past, that they provide clean and healthy environments and are following specific disinfecting protocols if they want to begin earning back guest confidence.
2. Enhance Building and Asset Integrity
In continuing to cultivate the potential for success, hoteliers must understand the importance of protecting their property’s surroundings. Address immediate safety-related concerns while performing proactive maintenance to protect assets and meet any new industry requirements. Schedule regular reminders for filters and ventilation systems to ensure optimal air quality. Plan for health checks on equipment and meter readings, while reconfirming maintenance and housekeeping checklists meet the evolving standards of today. From public areas and outlets to guestrooms and back of house, reviewing standard operating procedures around the hotel’s entire organization can help to reduce costs and mitigate risk.
3. Implement a Structured Program
As this new reality unfolds, the ability to develop and implement proven strategies to meet these new cleanliness standards will be critical to your hotel’s future success. Establishing clear step-by-step standard operating procedures (SOPs) and cleaning protocols will be crucial to enhancing cleaning regimens and ensure nothing is missed. Create a distinct checklist, ideally using digital service optimization tools, for each area of the property, make sure all team members are adequately trained, and carefully record each step that is performed. If your brand or management company does not provide a structured program, leverage one from a trusted industry organization like AHLA’s Safe Stay program or apply Amadeus’ disinfecting housekeeping checklist, endorsed by the International Executive Housekeeping Association (IEHA).
4. Communicate Cleanliness
As the industry moves through each phase of recovery, guests will want to travel where they know that their basic intrinsic needs will be met before even stepping foot on the property. Support health and cleanliness standards in all marketing and guest communications pre-stay, on-property, and post-stay. This acknowledgment will foster mutual value to protect and enhance the best interests of both the hotel and guests.
Once on property, ensure team members are seen cleaning and wiping down door handles, countertops, floors, and surfaces in high traffic areas from the moment the guest enters the building. Promoting healthy hygiene practices and enhanced proactive maintenance measures will not only put your guests at ease but will likely become the most influential factor in the hotel booking cycle for the foreseeable future.
5. Highlight Unique Experiences
In earlier generations, the ownership of items defined status. More and more travelers, however, have shifted to an experiential economy, where memorable experiences rather than material goods mark milestones. 73% of global travelers agree, “When I go on vacation, the most important thing is to have a unique experience,” while 59% of global travelers say they like hotels that feel unique. Consider creating packages that emphasize outdoor or nearby unique experiences. Enhance flexibility and rewards with loyalty programs. Offer little extras such as access to amenities, food and beverage incentives, or upgrades to in-room essentials.
6. Reassess Traditional Greetings
A warm smile and friendly interaction with the front of house team as guests check in set the expectation for what’s to come. Some of those traditional greetings may have to change, but the heart of hospitality will certainly always remain the same. When greeting a guest, have different alternatives in mind that are in-line with new physical distancing criteria. Nonverbal communication cues such as tone of voice, eye contact, posture, and a gentle nod of the head, hand over heart are a few ways that we can communicate with one another to reinforce a welcoming message mindfully. Simply being courteous and well-mannered can go a long way.
7. Practice Contactless Guest Engagement
As we enter a new era of hospitality, some aspects of the guest experience will have to be reimagined. Any opportunity to reduce direct contact between staff and guests will be duly appreciated, while never missing a chance to engage with guests. From temperature checks upon entering to mobile check-in and digital keys, an increase in technology can help to maximize efficiency and ensure safety. Guest-facing technology like in-room voice-activated assistants and mobile messaging channels can help to respond to requests in real-time, while staff-facing tools can help to increase customer satisfaction by responding to requests and escalating service issues immediately. Hotels that can use the staff’s skills and technology in harmony will undoubtedly have a competitive edge in the new world of travel.
8. Ensure Guestrooms are a Safe Sanctuary for Relaxation
As restrictions ease around the world, consumers are likely to be highly selective about their travel, and even short weekend getaways will be taken with a mix of excitement and fear. Ease travel-related anxieties by showing visible and sensory cues that the room is a clean, safe space for relaxation. Display sanitation-related certifications or protection seals and feature prominent signage highlighting any associated materials or technologies (antimicrobial surfaces, air/water filtration, etc.). Consider adding mini hand sanitizers, masks, and disinfectant wipes to personal care amenity kits. Replace in-room glassware with water bottles. Use single-use bathroom soaps instead of dispensers. Ensuring guestrooms are a safe sanctuary for relaxation will be valued now more than ever, enhancing overall guest satisfaction.
9. Emphasize Wellness-Focused Amenities
As travelers ponder what is needed to keep themselves healthy, infusing wellbeing into the hotel’s amenity program will help to support the widespread change in personal behavior. And with today’s technology, wellness-focused amenities can be easily personalized and delivered according to the guest’s preferences. As an example, individual yoga mats in guest rooms can be combined with access to a complimentary on-demand yoga TV channel, while designated workout areas can be complemented with pre-sanitized resistance bands upon request. Mindful breathing – shown to regulate sleep and lower blood pressure and cortisol levels – can be promoted via meditation app integrations, as immune-boosting minibar products could both surprise and put guests at ease.
10. Leverage Technology to Maximize Efficiency
Hotels face an enormous responsibility to address heightened guest expectations due to COVID-19 as demand returns, placing increased pressure on properties to respond despite limited staff and budget. The Amadeus Service Optimization suite of solutions that include HotSOS, HotSOS Housekeeping, and the new HotSOS Select – tailored for select-service properties – can help to maximize a hotel team’s capabilities while ensuring the highest standards are met. Whether it’s wiping down frequently used areas like elevator buttons, delivering guest requests like soap or chargers, or ensuring air-conditioning and other equipment is maintained correctly, a service optimization solution can assist in making sure all necessary tasks are completed with maximum efficiency.
Rethink the Guest Experience, Increase Loyalty
There’s no doubt the crisis has placed unprecedented challenges on the hospitality industry. The future of hospitality will look different across the globe as communities move through the evolving stages of reopening, phased travel, and beyond.
Decreased immediate demand makes for a highly competitive market. Servicing guests and managing hotel operations will require more focus than ever before. Whether full service, luxury, or select service, properties that rethink the guest experience to meet the needs of the new traveler best, while incorporating a higher standard of cleanliness into their core values, will have the ability to attract a new generation of loyal guests.
By reassessing the guest experience, considering these operational actions, and leveraging technology to maximize these efforts, we can begin to rebuild confidence to help guests once again experience everything they love about travel.
To further support hospitality recovery, HotSOS Select is now available with complimentary access for the first 90 days. HotSOS and HotSOS Housekeeping also have new recovery pricing for this new era of hospitality. Click here to learn more.