Article Summary:

Keeping our properties clean and safe also will help separate the hotel industry from the shared economy.

Primary Category: Opinions

Secondary Categories: Coronavirus

While we spend nearly every waking and sleeping hour defeating COVID-19’s crushing impact on our industry, it is not too early to think about what may follow.

For a good while, safety and cleanliness will be paramount in helping assure guests that it is all right to stay with us. Procedures, procedures, procedures will be the order of the day, as if they aren’t already in our world of hospitality. The playbooks that have been drawn up to guide us are akin to those created to manage our favorite sports team on game day.

Diving ever deeper, many of us are learning about ultraviolet-C light and electrostatic sprayers, hand sanitation formulas, face mask designs, protective screens or antimicrobial fabrics and surfaces. As many are saying, clean is the new green.

AHLA and the brands are doing a great job helping set sanitation, disinfection and distancing standards and protocols, while conveying what the industry is doing to keep things safe with guests, communities and our industry partners. The overriding goal: Make the consumer feel comfortable. In this process, transparency helps win trust.

A wedge against the sharing economy?
Eventually, travel and hotel stays will rebound, likely in waves that mirror an EKG, the real-time heartbeat of our industry. As they do, many guests will prefer a hotel with its demonstrated, verifiable housekeeping standards and overall safety over the perceived hominess of an Airbnb or other sharing economy space.

Many shared economy spaces are inviting, and certainly some hosts do a good job of regularly cleaning their units. However, this is an area where, on average, the hotel space supersedes Airbnb, likely by many degrees. Cleanliness will get guests in our doors. If everything else is done right, we have an excellent opportunity to win back share from Airbnb and similar concepts, especially if municipalities start scrutinizing private lodging venues similar to other businesses post-pandemic. Hotels are already audited by ownership, property managers and the brands in a way that no Airbnb unit is.

There are two key elements here: The first is the deliverables that the hotel industry can do so well. This includes achieving greater penetration of the ultra-safe digital key, conveniently tied to brand loyalty programs; or reinventing roomservice by having pre-packaged, quality food and beverage items available for purchase or offering to navigate and handle food delivery services like Instacart or Uber Eats. The latter will also help minimize non-guest traffic in lobbies and room corridors. We might even be able to bring back laundry and dry-cleaning services for guests. Roomservice reinvented!

Second, it is imperative to learn from our coronavirus experience how we can be more adaptable. We already mentioned expanded services. In addition, sharp operators are exploring new flexibility for group sales and room offerings, including day rates or turning a suite of rooms into an office or mini-meeting space—all with proper social distancing and cleaning protocols. Our properties have the necessary bandwidth.

Some of the newer hotel platforms that allow reconfiguration of rooms or share college dorm-like common space for a small group of rooms point the way to the future. Don’t be surprised to see Murphy beds make a comeback. As nasty as it has been, the coronavirus experience will put more tools in our toolbox.

From procedural to personal
Mission accomplished? Not quite. The pandemic has put not just physical, but also psychological space between us. What a difference between a hundred thousand screaming fans jammed into a college football stadium on game day, reacting to every play, versus each of us watching alone as sporting events are possibly played in what are essentially television studios.

Notice the caution in the air. It’s understandable that the relationships between guests and ourselves will be more formal in these early days of recovery. Especially when lobbies, elevators, corridors and rooms have constant reminders of the situation, what with all the posters, tape on the floors and hand sanitizing stations.

Our challenge is to restore the special relationship that transcends a hospitality transaction, where guests welcome and respond to our human sentiment and concern for their well-being. This is what we enjoy. And this behavior is key, as the coronavirus pandemic will clearly introduce more technology systems to the hospitality space.

Beyond a safe environment, beyond a rebound in ADR and occupancy, then, we will know that we are back in business.

Kerry Ranson, a 21-year veteran of the hospitality industry, is chief development officer at HP Hotels.

The opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Hotel News Now or its parent company, STR and its affiliated companies. Bloggers published on this site are given the freedom to express views that may be controversial, but our goal is to provoke thought and constructive discussion within our reader community. Please feel free to comment or contact an editor with any questions or concerns.

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Headline: Reclaiming our space in the minds, hearts of guests

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Article Time: 8:46:00 AM