What’s next for the hotel sector?
The hospitality industry has been one of the hardest hit during the coronavirus crisis. With international travel discouraged and domestic travel (until relatively recently) halted, there has been little to no demand for hotel accommodation. This, combined with government guidance has meant that many hotels have been forced to close and are uncertain of when and how demand will come back once the lockdown is lifted, being from 4 July.
The story so far
At the end of March, hospitality businesses were instructed to close their doors, including many hotels, B&Bs and holiday accommodation.
However, government guidance permitted some hotels to stay open. This included hotels that provided services for people who lived in their accommodation permanently, non-residents who were unable to travel back to their country of residence and the homeless.
This guidance has meant that some hotels have been flexible and innovative in how they have been able to stay open and fill empty rooms during the crisis. We know of some in the sector that have agreed with local councils to house asylum seekers, the homeless, and key workers in their rooms which otherwise would have been empty.
Now, the government has advised that on the 4 July all hotels will be able to begin opening, provided they can enforce social distancing. So, will it be business as usual?
The future of hotels
In the short-term, hotels will need to protect their owner’s investments and cash flow when re-opening whilst safeguarding their team and customers from the virus. This means that techniques and hotel etiquette will need to change.
The new normal could include:
For hotel employees
- New training – interactions with customers will change, potentially with less defined roles for employees. Training will need to take place for this. For example, ensuring employees maintain a safe distance from customers, especially on arrival to encourage confidence. Ensuring stations are sanitised throughout a customer’s stay, doors are not held open, porters leave bags outside rooms etc.
Cleaning – cleaning will need to be more frequent and transparent. When guests arrive, it will need to be obvious that the room has been cleaned and ‘sealed’; we expect rooms will then only be cleaned by request.
- Uniforms – employees may be advised to change shoes on arrival and exit from work. PPC equipment will be required.
- Reception areas – less employees will be required to maintain social distancing. This may mean that more employees will be on rotation and initiatives will need to be put in place to keep employees motivated and connected.
- Robust websites – hotels that put in place measures to gain customer confidence, such as walk throughs of the ‘new normal’ hotel, Q&As on the website and transparent cancellation policies are expected to get back up and running quicker.
Changes for guests
- More communications – prior to arrival, we expect more communications to be made to ensure guests know the etiquette and what to expect upon arrival.
- Hotel etiquette – this could include: one-way systems, one person per lift (or stairs only), taking the temperature of guests (and employees) upon arrival, encouraging guests to use toilets in their room and not communal toilets.
- Eating and drinking – customers will be expected to pre-book restaurants to allow the hotel to provide safe seating and stagger times. Guests may also expect fewer menu choices as chefs try to minimise cross-contamination of ingredients, single-use, disposable menus and condiments only served in sachets on requests. Some hotels may also encourage room service.
- Breakfast buffets – it is expected that these may no longer be allowed and instead will be a set menu. Alternatively, breakfast picnics may be provided for guests to enjoy outside.
- Spas – Spas and gyms will have a maximum number of people to prevent overcrowding, requiring customers to book their slots. Swimming pools may only permit one person per lane with lanes needed to be booked.
ConclusionThere is finally light at the end of the tunnel for hotels. However, the new normal will look a lot different and many steps will need to be taken to ensure employees and guests are safeguarded as re-opening begins. We believe it will take time for hotels to build customer confidence; however, the key matter is for businesses in the sector to remain trading and increase the levels of activity over the coming months.