Just a few months ago — though it seems like another lifetime — the hottest trend in the hospitality industry was to "be green" with environmentally friendly products and processes. Now, as the global economy reopens to post-pandemic business and leisure travel, what guests will look for first and foremost is "clean." They will expect a hygienic experience at every touch point from arrival to check-out.
This is not to say that the sustainable/natural ethos should be completely abandoned; it is simply taking a back seat while the world deals with the restrictions and worries imposed by the coronavirus.
MINIMIZING THE COSTS OF THE CORONAVIRUS ON THE HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY
Just as hotels, resorts and spas took arguably the biggest financial hit from the pandemic shutdown, they will have the biggest task to r eopen under new health and safety guidelines. From guest density to sanitization procedures to staff training, there are many changes to navigate in the months ahead — and they all cost money.
As we discuss the 5 areas of concern for the guest seeking a "clean" experience, we will suggest ways for hotels to reduce or offset costs while maintaining a comfortable environment.
#1 PUBLIC AREAS: TRANSFORM FROM SOCIAL TO SAFE
In pre-coronavirus times, public spaces — from the lobby to the breakfast room to the pool — were the welcoming face of the hotel. There were areas to socialize, interact with staff members and be dazzled by the hotel's sense of style. Now, guests will prefer distance over togetherness. Public areas must be adapted to address these new needs.
Social distancing will start in the lobby with check-ins by phone, staggered check-in times and the removal of gathering spots such as the coffee bar. The lobby will need to be equipped with disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer dispensers near frequently touched surfaces such as door handles and elevator buttons. Hotels can also reassure guests by offering personal sanitization kits at check-in. As well, the appearance of cleanliness can be enhanced by removing some furniture and decorative accessories.
In the gym and pool areas, sanitization will be even more important to give guests a feeling of confidence in using the facilities. Disinfectant liquid and wipe dispensers should be complemented by frequent rounds of cleaning by housekeeping staff. Towels and lounge chair covers provide a reassuringly sanitary surface for guests to sit or lie on. Even more security can be added by packaging them in zip-locked plastic bags after laundering.
Towels and similar items can be placed in-room instead of common areas to ensure that they are freshly cleaned. To recoup costs, hotels may choose to offer guests the opportunity to buy these items and kits brand new, as an extra measure of security or to enjoy at home.
#2 THE BED: REDESIGN FOR CLEAN COMFORT
The bed is one of the most important parts of the hotel room and the guest's entire stay. As the focal point of rest, luxury and comfort, it was lavished with plush layers and elegant accessories. Unfortunately, for the foreseeable future, those days are over. How can a hotel business maintain that inviting look and feel while creating a post-coronavirus environment? Let's break it down by component.
Decorative accessories — such as accent pillows, throws and runners — will be less popular on the post-pandemic hotel bed. The primary issue is one of cleanability. Their fabrics and fills usually won't stand up to being laundered after every guest stay. What's more, they offer additional opportunities for bacteria and viruses to be trapped and spread to the next user. We'll see more minimalist bed designs gaining favor with COVID-minded hotels and guests.
Filled products — pillows, comforters and quilts — deliver a fluffy comfort factor that just cannot be eliminated or replaced. However, they do lose shape and loft with frequent washing. The solution is to use encasements such as zipped pillow protectors and duvet covers. These protectors can be washed after every guest and provide an antimicrobial barrier between the person and the filled product.
Blankets can be a stylish alternative to filled covers on the minimalist bed, and have the advantage of durability in the commercial laundry. Hotels can choose lofty polyester plush or fleece blankets, or cotton with interesting weave textures such as cable, honeycomb, waffle or herringbone.
The mattress can be protected with a full encasement product for the peace of mind of hotel businesses and guests alike. A wide range of options are already on the market, many of which have additional benefits such as locking out dust mites, bedbugs and moisture.
The costs of making the post-pandemic bed may be significant. One way to offset those new items is to review the choice of sheets. Hotels using 100% cotton sheets could switch to 80% cotton/20% polyester, which gives the look and feel of cotton but dries faster, wrinkles less and costs less. Those already using 80/20 sheets may consider 60/40. Another factor to explore is thread count. Very few customers report being able to tell the difference between T-300 and T-250, but hotels will notice the difference in savings.
The hospitality bed linen experts at T-Y Group and Harbor Linen will be happy to share their knowledge and work with hotels in achieving cost-effective solutions for their "new normal."
#3 THE CLOSET: MORE CLEAN, NOT LESS CONVENIENT
Guests are used to finding their extra comforts in the closet: spare pillows, blankets, robes, hangers, ironing boards and so on. But removing them completely isn't the answer, especially since items such as an additional pillow may be necessary for some people to sleep safely or comfortably. Instead, hotels can wash/disinfect closet contents after every guest stay and place them in a sterile zippered bag or protective case for the next guest's assurance of safety.
Closet items such as robes are another area that may be turned into a profit center by the hotel offering brand new ones for the guest to buy and take home.
#4 THE BATHROOM: SANITATION SAVVY & COST EFFECTIVE
This is the room where guests will disinfect themselves after they come in from contacts with the outside world. It must be perceived as upholding the very highest standards of cleanliness as well as offering a range of anti-bacterial and - viral products for guests' use.
Some hotels may decide to remove commonly touched items such as hair dryers and trays for body care products. As to the products themselves (if they stay in their original bottles, not touchless dispensers), they must be replaced after every guest stay.
Products that definitely should be present in the vanity area include hand sanitizers, disinfectant wipes and touchless dispensers. Amenity kits containing such items, as well as face masks and slippers, may be placed in-room or handed to guests during check-in.
The bathroom offers hotel businesses another opportunity to trim costs, particularly with their choice of terry. Cotton quality — from open end to ring spun, combed to carded — as well as the type of border all affect the price.
Polyester blends are usually not considered acceptable due to their harsh feel against the skin, despite their lower price. However, T-Y Group & Harbor Linen offer a high tech solution: the Dry IQ Towel in which the ground is polyester and the loops which touch the skin are 100% cotton. This hybrid delivers the combined advantages of unabated comfort, faster drying, better durability and more savings.
view dry IQ
#5 THE MARKETING:
SHOW & TELL THEM YOU'RE SERIOUS
For guests to come back in the door, hotels will need to assure them that it is safe to do so. And this effort must start long before they even make the reservation. Posts on the company's website, social media pages and booking websites must clearly outline what steps have been taken to ensure people's health and safety.
After guests have arrived, they must immediately see evidence of ramped up sanitization and social distancing. This includes the alterations we've discussed above (an emptier lobby, installed disinfectant dispensers, etc.), as well as staff changes such as wearing masks, elimination of baggage handlers or addition of elevator operators. Instructions on new procedures for check-in/out, breakfast buffet, room service or other use of facilities and services must be provided in the room, and/or in an advance email.
"Clean Is the New Green" has become the current mantra for reopening hospitality businesses. But we predict that new technology will soon develop products and services that allow both "clean" and "green" trends to thrive in tandem. And the hotel business which manages this transition successfully will also see more "green" on its balance sheet.