While the COVID-19 pandemic has had an acute impact on the hotel, restaurant and entertainment industry, in due time guests will return. Already, occupancy rates are ticking up from mid-April at over 30%, indicating a rise in consumer confidence and economic resurgence.
Hoteliers should be acting now to adopt new processes, evolve safety protocols and reimagine both the guest and staff experience to align with post-pandemic expectations and needs, all the while reinforcing brand confidence.
Leveraging our years of hospitality design experience, along with our science & technology expertise, we have developed five strategies owners and GMs can follow to mitigate transmission of COVID-19 and create safer spaces for their guests.
It’s important to provide clear guidance on the flow of people around the space from entry areas, amenity spaces and various internal access points. Consider limiting entry points, adopting "one-way" zones and temporarily closing off high-traffic spaces. Do the same for front-of-house and back-of-house to support the safety of both employees and guests.
Consider the social distancing practices (at least six feet) and make any necessary adjustments. Do you anticipate a higher level of check-in/out traffic at a certain time? Implement temporary kiosks or portable reception desk spaces to support overflow and install plastic barriers to help your front desk staff stay protected. If you’ve historically offered breakfast or an evening social hour, reimagine that experience in a way that is portable, yet still provides the level of hospitality that your guests have come to expect.
Visual cues can be applied across your property to both guide flow of traffic and provide helpful reminders. Consider the policies and procedures you expect staff and guests to follow (e.g., use of face coverings, hand washing, use of a stylus, social distancing) and design markers and signage that support your brand identity. Clearly label notable changes that may impact the guest’s experience (e.g., closure of ice machines or vending) and provide alternatives where possible, educating your staff so they can speak knowledgably. Walk through your space in your guests' shoes, from arrival, to their room, to available amenities and back to address any gaps.
Consider installing no-touch sensors on doors and restroom fixtures, introducing touch-free bottle filling stations and updating your technology to provide contact-less hospitality at a distance. While these technologies require an investment, they will provide long-term benefits.
Given the airborne qualities of this virus, it’s important to give careful attention to your HVAC systems, which control your air quality and circulation. You can mitigate airborne infections by applying the right strategies such as pressurization rebalancing, temperature and humidity level adjustments, exhaust systems enhancements and the application of appropriate duct-cleaning methods. A mechanical systems audit by a trained engineer is recommended for identifying the appropriate steps for your property.
Don’t wait for reservations to pick back up. The time to start planning, implementing and communicating these strategies to both staff and guests is now.