Top Trends for Hotel Business Reopening: Hospitality Industry Experts Weigh in on During and After the Coronavirus Pandemic, Part 2
T-Y Group & Harbor Linen convened a panel of hospitality industry experts to weigh in on the changes we can expect in the hotel business in the wake of the global pandemic. If you haven’t already, check out Part One of the series, where we discuss changes to hotel dining, check-in procedures and shared services – like gyms, pools and spas.
The new hotel room aesthetic is clean and cozy – in that order
The eight-layer, perfectly-made bed may not be as appealing to guests returning in the wake of the global COVID-19 pandemic. In the short term, what travelers are looking for is a hotel bed with layers that can be verified as clean at first glance.
“The hotel bed is still the center of the room, and it’s still the universal signal that it’s time to relax. But now the look that inspires relaxation has changed. Hotel guests will expect every part of the room to exemplify cleanliness, almost sterility,” says Chris Nelson, president of T-Y Group & Harbor Linen. “The comfort still has to be there when they lie down, but it’s now of secondary importance.”
“The hotel bed is still the center of the room, and it’s still the universal signal that it’s time to relax. But now the look that inspires relaxation has changed.”
Do away with unnecessary hotel bed adornments
It’s time to put away the throw pillows, bed scarves and partial coverlets for a while. An unbroken field of white cotton/poly is a far more reassuring look for the new hotel bed. Even if these items are laundered frequently, the implication that they are not can undermine guest confidence.
Consider introducing branded touches in new ways – like custom weaving patterns, edge details and tasteful embroidery. It’s a design opportunity to say more with less.
There’s another great reason to minimize bed complexity: traditional turn-down services and bed remakes by housekeeping will no longer be standard practice. Making the bed easy to maintain by the guest is the new goal.
“We’re no longer having housekeeping change sheets during a guest’s stay. If the guest requires new linens, we deliver a thoroughly clean set to the room door – or we can simply move a guest to another room that is on the same floor and has been vacant for at least a day,” says David E. Cohen of the InterContinental, Tel Aviv.
Clean is in, as greening takes a backburner for the hospitality industry
Many hotel and resort brands have undertaken green initiatives to reduce single-use items by guests. Well, those efforts are pausing, at least for a while. We’re back to the world of individualized and sealed shampoos and conditioners. The reusable glasses and drinkware will be shelved, also, in favor of individually sealed plastic cups.
One element of greening initiatives will stick around – less regular collection and cleaning of towels and linens during your stay. Now the only time housekeeping will enter your room is after your stay is over. New towels or bedding will be handed over at the door – or left with a knock for a contactless experience.
Hotel business changes to housekeeping, laundry and sanitation
Housekeeping has previously been a background task at most properties – taking place when guests aren’t watching. Now this critical task is essential for instilling consumer confidence that serious measures are being taken to protect guest health.
The changes need to be visually evident – because it’s an important signal that things are being taken seriously.”
Chris Nelson, president of T-Y Group & Harbor Linen had this to say on the subject, “Housekeeping staff will be looked at very differently. As a member of the housekeeping team, you’re now a paragon of confidence. You’re now expected to be a standard-bearer of cleanliness. The whole uniform may change and include PPE as a central component. This isn’t ideal long-term, but in the short term, it will be essential for guest confidence.” He went on to add, “Guests are going to want to see and understand what’s being done. Testing procedures for staff and housekeeping need to be outlined on the in-room channel. The changes need to be visually evident – because it’s an important signal that things are being taken seriously.”
Hotel staff uniform and presentation changes
It’s time to think about the face your housekeeping staff puts forward to guests. Changing up uniforms for something that’s easy to sanitize and that appears healthcare-inspired is both a good idea for worker safety and for guest confidence. These new uniforms also need to accommodate varying degrees of personal protective equipment (PPE) that will become a standard for most positions.
Now that masks will be used as a protective measure for staff, some hotel brands are creating proprietary hand gestures that associates can use to communicate simple ideas – like thanks and welcome – to guests without a visible smile. These types of gestures, currently used by sports mascots and costumed characters at theme parks, would adapt well to this new use case.
Hotel suppliers are preparing for a shift in linen selection and laundry process
Chris Nelson of T-Y Group & Harbor Linen says, “We have partners who are completely replacing their standard set of linens and towels with new products we offer that are better suited to the new normal. Our whole line is designed to stand up to the rigors of laundering and sanitation that will be required for consumer confidence.”
The company recommends more hotels rethink their approach to bedding during this period. High temperatures and sanitation agents added to the wash should now be standard operating procedures. Additionally, hotels that don’t currently have a process in place to properly sanitize linens and towels should consider contracting with an outside firm to assist until they have an on-site system in place.
“Our whole line is designed to stand up to the rigors of laundering and sanitation that will be required for consumer confidence.”
There’s a need for new hospitality industry-wide staff procedures and training
Procedure changes stick better when staff understand the reason behind them. For instance, consider changing the timing of cleaning processes so that they happen during periods when guests will observe them. Make sure your cleaning staff, who are used to working unobserved, understand that the whole point of this change is to make sure guests see cleaning happen. This is an inversion of prior convention. It’s important that guests know your facility is being constantly cleaned to protect their health. And it’s important that staff know the rationale behind the shift.
One of our contributors, David Cohen of the InterContinental, Tel Aviv suggested that room cleaning may now be a three-part job. “I expect that the roles will be segmented – with one team responsible for removing everything from a room after it is vacated, a second, specialized team tasked with sanitizing every surface in the room and a third team dedicated to preparing the room for the next guest, once a holding period has passed,” says Cohen.
Third-party hotel industry COVID-19 standards will become essential
Currently, Bureau Veritas is working with Accor hotels to create a series of certification and training programs to equip hotels for reopening. We spoke with Natalia Shuman, EVP and CEO for Bureau Veritas, North America, who had this to say, “The agency created a comprehensive set of operational guidelines for cleaning and sanitation – backed by our third-party certifications and inspections. With the programs designed, we instituted an e-learning platform to help train staff at hundreds of locations throughout the world.” Shuman added, “The goal, like so much of what we’ve done at Bureau Veritas in our 200-year history, is to create consistency and compliance that will increase consumer confidence.”
Bureau Veritas worked with the entire chain of Accor hotels to create this initial program. In Europe and Asia, the Bureau Veritas name is synonymous with health and safety. They hope to extend those programs to U.S. hoteliers – ultimately creating an industry-wide standard for cleaning and sanitation procedures.
“It’s vital that the whole industry comes together with a set of best practices informed by experts and backed by third-party verification.”
Kim Gorton of Slade Gorton Seafood said, “There’s a need for more unified, across-the-board industry certifications to really instill consumer confidence.” Chris Nelson of T-Y Group & Harbor Linen added, “If procedures and certifications aren’t handled in a unified manner, they could actually undermine confidence. It’s vital that the whole industry comes together with a set of best practices informed by experts and backed by third-party verification.”
“The goal is to create consistency and compliance that will increase consumer confidence.”
New hospitality industry software means new training needs
New procedures are only useful if they’re followed. And these new procedures are going to necessitate new staff training. For instance, touchless check-ins use software to track room availability and to assign rooms to guests checking in. But for higher-stakes processes, the need is even greater.
According to Nikhil Nath of Knowcross, “Critical functions like beginning-of-shift health checks for staff will need to be logged and tracked using software. This creates an ongoing record that’s essential to demonstrating compliance. This is a new type of procedure for which every staff member will need to be training.” Communicating to staff members both the how and the why of regular screenings is the only way to avoid slip-ups that may spread disease.
“Critical functions like beginning-of-shift health checks for staff will need to be logged and tracked using software. This creates an ongoing record that’s essential to demonstrating compliance.”
Another essential new process that requires rigorous adherence and training is the proper cleaning and sanitation steps after a guest checks out. Many properties plan to leave the sanitized room vacant for a certain period of time before the next guest checks in. Tracking this via software is both more reliable and easier than tracking manually.
If your hotel does not already have an e-learning system, this is a training opportunity where such a system will come in handy. Not only are success and consistency better ensured by a tracked e-learning system, these tools also allow continual training updates without having to track the schedule manually.
Making changes visible to hotel guests
We’ve covered many changes that will be necessary to instill guest confidence. But the single most important factors are transparency and visibility. These were recurring themes of our conversation with this group of hospitality industry experts.
Simply put, guests need to know what the new procedures are, and they need to see them happening. Background tasks like food safety and room cleanliness are no longer in the background. As we heard from Elizabeth Blount of UNIGLOBE Travel Consultants in Part One of this series, these concerns are at the forefront of guests’ minds and need to be a visible part of the stay.
Today, it’s not a concern for a guest to see a suited-up team sanitizing the next room over – it’s a relief. And it’s not a bad thing that the gym is now by appointment only – it’s a benefit. These alterations need to be thoroughly communicated to guests in order to have the intended effect of creating confidence while delivering a great experience.
Add your new procedures to the in-room channel for guests. Make sure that cleanings take place at peak times rather than off-peak times. Consumer confidence is no longer a given, and hotel brands will have to make an effort to increase feelings of safety.
It’s time to start planning for your hotel business reopening
The guest experience experts at T-Y Group & Harbor Linen are immersed in the emerging trends and ready to help. Get in touch with our team to learn about the linen products, hotel towel sets, custom products and guest amenities kits that will get your properties off to a successful new start.