Back in school, we had a pretty interesting chapter on “Adaptation” in our biology books. It is referred to as “the process of change by which an organism or species becomes better suited to its environment.” Thus, as species, we are all continuously evolving to adapt to our ever-changing surroundings.
Let’s make this more interesting by giving it another angle. Imagine yourself traveling back in time (you can drop your skeptic hat for a while!) Now, fast forward to 2050 and imagine yourself in a completely new world. Hypothetically, if you’re stuck here and can’t go back, what is the only option left at your disposal? Adaptation! Trying to come to terms with the “new” normal, discarding your old ways of sustenance!
The same stands true for the hospitality business in today’s world, especially the hotels. Speculations like “how hotels can be more sustainable,” “how hotels can survive COVID-19,” “how hotels can recover from COVID-19,” etc. are commonplace nowadays. With COVID-19 still casting its fearful shadow over the world, it is crucial for the hotels to “adapt” to this sudden shift in the culture to sustain themselves in the face of adversity. And keep this in mind, hotels are “adapting” during COVID-19 to provide a first-rate hotel experience to their guests.
Meet Mr. COVID!
Speculatively, COVID isn’t going anywhere, at least for a while.
But your Customers are!
With the world moving towards social distancing and increasing the reliance on technology for most of their needs, it’s time for the hotels to reap its maximum benefits in going from high-touch to hi-tech. This is what we refer to as the “Contactless Hospitality,” a smart, new-era practice encouraging a zero or minimal dependence on the service providers (s). Going “touchless” is what the hotel customer-centric service ethic is all about in the world of COVID. After all, meeting the evolving travelers’ expectations is what the hotel business aims to achieve.
So, How Can Hotels Provide A First-Rate Experience During COVID-19?
With the evolving travelers’ expectations, it’s time for the hotels to shed their inhibitions and come out enlightened from the forest of austerity to gear up for the “new” world.
Yes, there has to be an overhaul in certain areas and standard operating procedures to make sure that your guests’ safety, health, and hygiene is not compromised in any way. There is a need to re-think the whole of guest experience with end-to-end protocols. This will enable us to gain the trust of our customers with the assurance that their safety is our primary area of focus. Yes, this is what staying in a luxury hotel will be like now with new ways to improve guest experience. In a way, hotels are preparing a year ahead for the Post-COVID hotel luxury.
The guest journey begins way before the guest even arrives at the hotel. Hence mapping the guest journey is crucial to make sure that the valuable service expected all the vital touchpoints (pre-arrival, on-arrival, mid-stay, check-out, and post-check-out) leave nothing to be desired, especially during this time. The main motive is to provide a first-rate hotel experience to your guests during COVID-19.
So with all the things changing, the tone and sentiment in your review content and online feedback will also change. This will be in tune with the changing travelers’ expectations. Positive COVID-19 reviews and feedback received from your visitors is also a great way of setting the proper pre-arrival expectations. After all, about “95% of travelers read reviews online before booking accommodation.” We shall discuss more of it as the article progresses.
In a way, what is the hotel experience like now and after COVID-19 is something we’ll be discussing soon. Meanwhile, to make things better, we are presenting the “before-now” illustrations of the areas where you can provide a first-rate hotel experience:
#1 “Warm(th)” Should Not Be Missing From “Welcome!”
Stringent safety standards do not mean compromising on the guest experience. Your way of greeting and welcoming the guests should also have a reflection of concern embedded in it. If possible, sanitize the exteriors of the guest’s car with a fogging machine before it makes its way to the hotel’s porch. Keep a masked and gloved door attendant to greet the guests. Make provisions for the sanitization and security scanning of guest’s baggage along with the body temperature scan. After this, the bags would be taken up by a masked and gloved bell-boy (if asked) or through self-service (by guests). Some 5-star hotels are also resorting to the idea of offering immunity boosters as welcome drinks to their guests instead of the usual fruit punch.
#2 No Lobby Commotion, Please.
If you imagine a hotel lobby scene before COVID-19, an array of travelers waiting, checking-in, or merely strolling here, and there is what would hit you suddenly. However, imagining the same thing in today’s era would be a little unnerving and potentially dangerous, as we become more inclined towards the idea of social distancing.,
Here, technology can come to your rescue by allowing the guests to check-in virtually, let’s say through “mobile keys” which is what helps them bypass the front-desk queues and keeps the potential risk of transmission at bay. In other words, the adoption of “keyless entry” would mean a minimized face-to-face interaction with the front desk. Even proper social distancing protocols during check-in could be a real game changer.
Provide A First-Rate Hotel Experience to Your Guests
#3 Replace the WiFi and Amenities Cards With Convenient Digital Concierge Page or MicroPage.
After checking-in, guests usually will have a lot of questions regarding the WiFi password, breakfast timings, recommendations regarding things to do, transportation, area, and weather details. Hence to avoid the one-on-one interaction with the front-desk staff on this, a digital concierge or micro page can come in handy, allowing the guests easy access to all the information on the go.
#4 From Buffet to Single-Serve, From the Hall to the Room-Enjoy Your Breakfast On The Go!
Yes, we’re talking about the first meal of the day! The thought of a hotel not offering breakfast would have been inconceivable to most of us, Pre-Corona. Instead of suspending your breakfast service altogether, we suggest you keep up with that by allowing your guests the privilege of enjoying breakfast in the room. Do that by letting them relish breakfast in grab-and-go bags in their own space. Serve pre-boxed meals and go from buffet to single-serve options. All in all, the idea is to minimize contact in every way possible!
#5 Provide Your Guests Housekeeping As An Option
While it has become all the more vital now to raise cleanliness and hygiene standards, it is equally essential to ensure that you do this too in a “contactless” manner to provide a first-rate hotel experience to your guests. You can either reduce the housekeeping frequency (providing it only upon request) or keep it limited to twice a week or so. In fact, in some hotels, there is no in-room housekeeping service per se now during the guest’s stay. In contrast, others provide this service only to guests who have just checked-in.
Hotels can also come up with the idea of self-cleaning, whereby the guests are given different kinds of bags upon arrival to keep their soiled bedding, soiled towels, and trash. When the stuff needs to be cleaned or disposed of, guests are to text the hotel and keep the bags outside the room. The staff will collect this without even entering the room.
#6 Ordering Services and Amenities Seamlessly From the Rooms
Be it ordering food or asking for extra pillows; there won’t be any need to go to the front desk. At least not anymore! With useful communication tools like Guest Messaging, guests can order things seamlessly from their rooms. In some hotels, the experience has gone entirely digital now. Using an Ipad, guests can now control temperature and lights or even open the door.
And what about the delivery?
It’s even easier! Once the front-desk staff receives the guest’s request for an extra pillow, blanket, or coffee cups, staff can hand-deliver these things to the guest’s room by placing the items outside in a well-sanitized container which can be later collected by the guest. You see, “no contact!”
Provide A First-Rate Hotel Experience to Your Guests
#7 Reduce the Guest Density
Adhering strictly to the doctrine of social distancing, some hotels are taking extra care in terms of room assignment, by placing the guests apart to ensure that there is no contact with other guests and no disturbance.
Thus, it is advisable to keep every alternate room in the hotel empty to reduce the guest density.
#8 Provide a Safe “In-Room” Experience
With the insistence on “safe” experience, it is equally essential to ensure that guests feel safe in their rooms as well. Make sure to equip all the guest rooms with essentials (welcome amenity kit) like hand sanitizers, wet wipes, disposable bathroom slippers, disinfectant wipes, face masks, etc.
To avoid the risk of transmission, some hotels have also removed magazines, coasters, newspapers, etc. from their rooms, to be provided to the guests only upon request.
#9 Downsize the Furniture in the Room
To minimize the chances of transmission from high-touch surfaces, hotels are resorting to downsizing the room contents. Hence a lot of in-room amenities like minibars, extra pillows, extra linen, etc. might be missing from the scene. In short, these items could only be provided upon request.
#10 Have An On-site Restaurant? Reduce the Table Density
Sorry to break this, but there will be no more buffets! Just like your breakfast spread, table density in the hotels with restaurants will be reduced, and banqueting would be reconfigured by placing the furniture at least 6 ft. apart. In hotels with alfresco seating arrangements, consider placing red cards on tables that cannot be used. In some hotels, special envelopes are also given to the guests to keep their masks in it while they have food. All this is a part of how to provide a first-rate
hotel experience to the travelers.
In-room dining would be encouraged allowing the guests to order food or à la carte from the digital menu either through Guest Messaging with a simple tap or through “touchless, QR Code special menus.” If you do not have a lavish restaurant setting and are offering only quick bites, allow your guests to order items like wraps and pizzas from the “Knock n drop” menu, wherein you can pack the food items in a way that it can be carried to the room (if required). Even the glass, plates, and cutlery are sanitized and covered in paper bags. So you see, despite this, there is no compromising on the luxury and less would always mean more for the new-age travelers:)
#11 Manage the Spa and Gym Experience
Your gymnasium and pool might seem deserted for the time being. While it is a great idea to suspend these facilities temporarily, there is still a way out! If manageable with utmost care and attention, you can also allow the option of letting a guest sign-up for a specific time slot to access the gym equipment or simply provide them with the in-room equipment for a socially distanced workout.
Similarly, if you have decided to keep the pool service open, putting a pool attendant on duty to ensure the capacity and adherence to social distancing protocols is mandatory.
However, it comes with a caveat and is therefore not really recommended to be done at this point if your accommodation does not have enough provisions for that.
Provide A First-Rate Hotel Experience to Your Guests
#12 Encourage Cashless Payments
To minimize physical contact, encourage your guests to go cashless in their payments for a contactless transaction. The motive behind this is to prevent the transmission of infection through currency notes.
#13 Ensure A Safe and Contactless Check-out
Before the outbreak, the standard check-out scenario involved the guests walking up to the front desk to drop their room keys and bidding the personnel goodbye after completing the remaining formalities. But in 2020, this is almost unthinkable!
Considering that all other touchpoints in the customer journey have been handled contactlessly, it is crucial to make sure that even the check-out is done the right way. Guests can simply check-out using their phone with a text and bypass the front desk altogether. Furthermore, send a post-check-out message thanking the guests and asking for their feedback to know what their overall experience was! With cashless payments in place, even the invoice can be sent via text or email, making the whole experience seamless.
Changing the Review Content With Evolving Travelers’ Expectations
As discussed above, with the change in travelers’ expectations, the nature of your review content and overall feedback would change as well. Earlier, a slightly negative comment on some sort of a compromised cleanliness might not have given you much jitters. But today, this same comment can negatively impact your hotel’s overall reputation. Positive COVID-19 reviews on your property can set travelers’ expectations from the very outset.
So, How This Entire Initiative to Provide a First-Rate Hotel Experience During the Outbreak Appears in the Online Reviews?
“The property was well-stocked with sanitizers.”
“Social distancing protocol was strictly adhered to by the staff and other people.”
“We were provided “breakfast-on-the-go” to avoid interaction with others.”
“Great hospitality amidst the Coronavirus crisis.”
Few Other Tips For Meeting the Travelers’ Expectations in the Pandemic Era
• With face-to-face interaction becoming potentially risky at this point, it is essential to keep communicating with your guests and updating them about the changes and measures implemented by you. Taking to your social media handles and updating your website with the necessary COVID-19 steps is what would keep the guests relieved. Be it the changes in the time slots for accessing specific amenities, breakfast selection, or front-desk dependability, notify your guests about all of it.
• Earlier, face-to-face interaction with the guests allowed a chance at the possible service or mid-stay recovery. Now, an immediate post-stay email or message can be a big-time savior.• Staff protocols should also be in place with the changing expectations as travelers certainly wouldn’t appreciate any of your staff members to be walking around without a mask. Therefore, educating your staff and training them meticulously in this regard is pretty crucial.• Toiletries should be at a minimum (to be replenished upon request) and minibar is to be stocked only upon request.• For a better stay experience, it is advisable to keep the room vacant for at least 24 hours before the next check-in.
Rejuvenate the Experience
Wearing face masks and maintaining safe distance should not be a tedious experience at all. Hotels still stand a chance of making the experience better by providing the personal monogrammed face masks and hand sanitizers in an attractive bottle that contains the favorite scent of the guests. Thus, customization has not entirely left the league. Elevators can be reserved for a guest exclusively for a specific time slot or limit. And to make them understand the concept of social distancing better, what can be more appealing than a series of champagne bottles lined up to demonstrate a distance of 6 ft!
Thus there are various ways in which guests can be amazed. It can be through small gestures, mutual understanding, and authentic moments.
Considering the sudden shift in 2020, safe distancing is now a reality in every sector, to which the hotel industry is no exception. As travelers succumb to the new “normal,” they expect the same from the hospitality sector- to provide a first-rate hotel experience. A promise of providing optimal well-being through responsible practices and stringent safety standards is what counts as the real 5-star experience today. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the hotels to offer safety and assurance to their guests without really compromising on the same high levels of warmth and hospitality that they have been known for years.
Today, pure luxury lies in maintaining social distancing and in slowing down as hotels start to roll out red carpets to their guests once again. Yes, social distancing is the name of this game in which we all will partake. With safety occupying the topmost position on the list of priorities, hotels must work relentlessly on providing a “safe” 5-star experience to their guests in anticipation of operations returning to normal.
How GuestTouch Can Help
With GuestTouch, provide a contactless service and stellar experience to your new-age travelers. Easily communicate with guests and potential customers at all stages of their journey through robust and simple-to-use communication platforms like Guest Messaging enabling personalized guest experiences, operational excellence, and increased revenue.
Have questions? We can help!