As the world slowly opens up again in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, our hotel stays are set to be organised differently. Some beloved practices have to be shelved – goodbye buffet breakfasts – and new protocols introduced to ensure that travellers and staff feel safe and protected. Here are some of the ways in which hotel stays will adapt from now on.
Travellers have always rated hotel cleanliness highly, but will be hyper-conscious and vigilant around it going forward. Hotels will need to demonstrate that they have implemented enhanced health and safety protocols for cleaning guest rooms, meeting spaces and common spaces in their properties, as well as back-of-house areas. It is expected that auditing initiatives will ultimately be implemented to measure hotel compliance with a stated criteria for cleanliness.
“Travellers are yearning for enhanced transparency around cleaning, hygiene and sanitisation measures at a property,” says Pepijn Rijvers, senior vice president of accommodation at Booking.com. “It will be key for accommodation providers to openly display this information to help set accurate expectations and bring travellers additional reassurance as they search, book and begin to experience the world once again.”
Another protocol will be the deep-cleaning of bedrooms and bathrooms after guests check out. There will also be extra disinfection of the most frequently touched guests room areas, including light switches, door handles, TV remotes and thermostats.
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Who doesn’t love starting the day off with a plate of muesli, scrambled eggs, sliced cheeses and meats, toast, strawberry yoghurt and a pain au chocolat? Alas, while we all adore the breakfast buffet, it may become a thing of the past. The problem is that social distancing will be impossible to maintain as we all crowd around various food and beverage stations, and the communal handling of jugs and tongs is just too risky going forward. It looks like individually plated and served meals will become the norm, or “grab-and-go” options.
Bowls of peanuts on bars and complimentary plates of cake in the afternoon are nice little touches previously offered by many hotels, but these will have to be eliminated for the moment to avoid people handling the plates and bowls. The idea will be to prevent cross-contamination by minimising guest contact with food and surfaces. Sadly, it could also mean the end of beloved amenities like in-room minibars. Room service on a cart may be a thing of the past too, as you can expect to pick up your meal outside your door instead.
We all enjoy being welcomed at reception by smiling hotel staff, but some hotels will now implement automated self check-in procedures. Virtual check-ins and digital keys using your phone will be used at some hotels. Hotels might also use digital voice devices in some properties to control the technology in guest rooms, and contactless or low-touch solutions around check-in and payment for goods and services.
Chilling out in hotel pools and getting active in their gyms are great perks to staying at hotels, but new protocols will have to be followed when they re-open. It is likely that scheduled gym time-slots will be introduced, for example, so we won’t be able to just rock up when we feel like it. A gym’s maximum capacity should be based on three square metres per person. Spacing exercise equipment two metres apart to facilitate social distancing, and cleaning touch points of equipment after each person, in addition to the regular cleaning schedule. Guests can expect at least six feet of distance between lounge chairs at the pool.
Where they are not executed on a self-service basis, changes to check-in procedures may include the installation of social distancing floor decals, front desk partitions and hand sanitising stations. Some hotels will require guests to take temperature checks before entering the hotel or while staying there.
“More than ever before, communication with guests will be crucial for the hotel industry’s rebound,” say travel experts. Social media channels will become an even more effective way for brands to inform travellers about COVID-inspired updates and upgrades, and to illustrate how new protocols are part of creating an appealing, special hotel experience.
In an effort to encourage guests to stay, some hotels are also extending their loyalty programs. Members will be credited with 50% of the status nights and points required to re-qualify for their current status level next year. Hotels are also planning to include complimentary care packages for their guests.
While we all love the luxury touches in hotel rooms, it looks like minimalism will be the way forward in reducing the number of items that need to be disinfected. This means possibly waving goodbye to complimentary pens, paper, magazines and guest directories, and other items that we love but are not crucial to the room. While opulent hotel rooms add the touch of glamour that makes our stay extra-special, we may have to get used to more minimal lodgings in future.
With travel restrictions in place at present and the world at different stages of dealing with the coronavirus, staycations are looking to be the main way people will travel this year. “We’re seeing that more local travel – including to familiar and less crowded, rural or coastal destinations – is top of traveller’s minds,” Pepijn Rijvers, senior vice president of accommodation at Booking.com tells Lonely Planet.
This article was first published on www.lonelyplanet.com.