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How to improve the hotel guest experience in a COVID-19 world

Daryl Wing

At the beginning of 2020, the hotel experience was something travellers aspired to. Now, as the COVID-19 pandemic shows little sign of taking a break, travellers are no longer scrutinising blue flag beaches. Instead, they’re worried about the endless red flags being raised, with hygiene, social distancing and safety at the top of their list of concerns.

While we all deserve a holiday after what we’ve had to endure this year, many of us will put plans on hold. Is it safe to stay in a hotel right now? What are the risks? The new normal is the biggest test the hospitality industry has ever faced.

The last few months have seen tremendous change as hotels, serviced apartments, aparthotels and resorts implement measures predominantly focused on hygiene to reassure employees and guests that it’s safe to return.

Sanitisation stations, unmanned reception areas and COVID-crushing cleaning are the new norm, while familiar features like key cards, breakfast buffets and cash are confined to history. Without compromising on service and guest experience (GX), how can the hospitality industry reinvent itself and safeguard its future?

Download our FREE ebook to discover how you can protect your people and premises with better hygiene and pest control – now and in the future

Keep guests and employees in the loop

Many hotel groups, such as Four Seasons and Hilton, have publicly declared their commitment to hotel hygiene in the hope of satisfying guest concerns. According to new research, one way is to build an emotional attachment with customers during communications – an attachment that’s more likely to continue into post-pandemic times.

Researchers from the Universities of East Anglia (UEA), Bath and West of England say by giving priority to shared emotional responses to risks, guests are more likely to ‘humanise the hotel’.

The guest experience starts long before check-in and continues post-stay, driven by technology throughout the journey.  Potential customers may prefer to interact with a hotel instantly using an app rather than by email, phone or browser.

The world’s first hometel brand, room2, which is based in the UK, has protocols in place pre-stay, during and post-stay. Their website and social media platforms offer a wealth of information prior to arrival.

During a stay, guests are able to WhatsApp or text if they have any issues. Signs providing one-way directions and hygiene protocols for leisure facilities are everywhere.

Post-stay, room2 ask guests to complete a feedback form that includes questions on how safe they felt during their stay and if they have any suggestions for improvement.

Another popular way to communicate with guests is by using Radar’s location-based apps. Radar can send push notifications to visitors within a certain radius, enabling real-time conditions to be communicated to visitors when they’re nearing the hotel to help avoid overcrowding in areas such as the lobby. Geo-prompted push notifications can also update guests on the latest safety protocols and other vital information about their visit.

Hotel employees and their families are susceptible to COVID-19 – just like everyone else – and uncertainty clouds the future whether you’re staying or working at a hotel. Taking a ‘we’re all in this together’ stance arguably feels more personal and helps staff to commit to the new safety protocols being introduced.

Guests want tech-savvy accommodation

Guests expect hotels to be keeping up with technology. A presence on social media channels, such as Facebook or Instagram, is vital, especially for up-to-the-minute updates.

Guests want flexible booking policies just in case they’re forced to cancel at short notice due to a local lockdown or change of personal circumstances. They want to be able to social distance and use contactless check-in, room entry and room service because they reduce interaction and feel safer. Review room-dining menus and hotel-based entertainment activities to give guests more options for their stay.

The Internet of Things (IoT) embraces products like LED lighting, Alexa and Google Home, temperature control and smart TVs (another great way to convey information about housekeeping and other services), while sensors can replace buttons, handles, or other traditional means to enter rooms and operate devices.

Keep a clean slate with Initial

Good hygiene in hotels has never been more important. A protocol should be in place for an emergency response to confirmed cases of COVID-19. If an infected person has been at your hotel, it’s important that you decontaminate as a precautionary measure. Rentokil’s professional disinfection service teams use the highest level of personal protective equipment (PPE) and comply with safety regulations at all times.

Marriott Hotels has introduced new operational measures that include regular deep-cleaning of soft surfaces such as carpets and upholstery and high-touch surfaces like elevator buttons and public washrooms. Deep-cleaning minimises the risk of pathogens being spread via surfaces – reducing the likelihood of cross-contamination for guests and employees.

Manual methods are often the first choice to disinfect surfaces, but if rapid disinfection of larger areas is needed, ultra-low volume (ULV) disinfection fogging will reach areas that are difficult to access. Fogging can significantly reduce the number of pathogens both on surfaces and in the air.

How will a guest know if door handles or other such contact points have been cleaned prior to touching them? Our sister company, Initial, has a range of disinfection services that can sanitise touchpoints, surfaces, equipment and floors. They include:

  • a range of sprays and surface wipes that provide up to 24-hour protection for high-touch items, such as remote controls, light switches and headboards;
  • HygienicTouch door handles that limit the spread of bacteria accumulating on the surface of the handle;
  • serviced floor mats that capture up to 80% of microorganisms before they’re spread through your hotel.

Add a safe pair of hands

The Hotel Monville was one of the first hotels in Canada that offered a contactless guest experience when it opened in 2018. While adopting robots hasn’t caught on quite as quickly, using a hotel app and kiosks in the lobby for guests to check-in has.

Hometel brand, room2, has replaced key cards with contactless mobile keys that can be accessed via their app. They’ve also ditched breakfast buffets (offering breakfast boxes instead) and introduced card-only payments and sanitisation stations. 

Going contactless makes sense. Hands that touch contaminated surfaces can transmit germs to other surfaces or directly to people. By using no-touch technology, the risk of germ transmission is much lower. Initial provides a range of hand hygiene consumables to help minimise the risk of cross-contamination and recontamination, such as hand and surface sanitisers for key locations and no-touch paper and linen dispensers.

To help reduce the spread of germs, Initial can also educate staff on correct handwashing procedures and glove usage policies.

Face up to COVID-19

It’s important to take measures that will make areas in your hotel safer, with increased cleaning and the addition of screens. A growing number of countries are making face coverings mandatory during the COVID-19 pandemic, vital for areas such as hotel check-in desks, where people might gather.

PPE such as face masks and disposable gloves are not recyclable at conventional recycling facilities and shouldn’t be placed in multi-use bins. Initial has developed a safe and responsible removal service to keep your staff and guests protected, while avoiding irresponsible disposal of PPE.

Breathing it all in

It’s extremely common for hotel rooms to have windows that can’t be opened, but airborne pathogens can trigger allergies or spread infection and disease. While HVAC systems are necessary for room-temperature control to keep guests comfortable, such systems will need to be thoroughly and regularly checked for ventilation and air filtration levels for safety.

Mobile air purifiers can work without or in conjunction with HVAC systems to provide better-quality and safer air at ‘local’ levels in rooms. Given that the coronavirus is a respiratory disease that begins its transmission with airborne particles, air purifiers reassure guests of their safety in enclosed spaces.

Initial’s air hygiene solutions can provide cleaner air and help reduce cross-contamination across your hotel.

  • InspireAir 72 HEPA13, a portable air purification solution, removes over 99.95% of airborne particles down to 0.3 microns in size for healthier indoor surroundings.
  • For washrooms, Biozone reduces bacteria in the air and combats bad odours that can make an environment seem unclean.
  • EcoBreeze filters, cleans and fragrances the air in washrooms to maintain a pleasant-smelling experience for guests.  

Pathogens kept at bay, but pests might come out to play

Protocols such as mask-wearing, hand-sanitising and social distancing are being accepted as new norms and contactless technology that keeps people apart while maintaining holiday vibes are the order of the day. But as lockdown have left buildings empty for some time, hotels are also under threat from things that are more than happy to contravene regulations – pests. And every guest will expect, as standard, a pest-free environment with any signs of their activity completely removed.

COVID-19 isn’t spread by pests, but pests do transmit a large number of diseases and can cause extensive damage to buildings, reputations, repeat custom and revenues. As pests search for food, shelter and warmth, they can often be found in the following risk hotspots:

  • entry points
  • storage areas
  • kitchens
  • dark places, such as cracks, crevices, drains and sewers
  • hotel carpets and furnishings

It’s essential for every hotel to have effective procedures for preventing, monitoring and controlling the following pests quickly.

  • Flies
  • Bed bugs
  • Fleas
  • Clothes moths
  • Rodents
  • Cockroaches

After a pest infestation, your hotel will need to be virus-free and the surfaces safe to touch and use again. Our disinfection services can do this with solutions that kill up to 99.99% of bacteria and viruses.

We also provide a complete range of proofing solutions for the hospitality industry to help protect from all pest entry. Internal proofing will restrict pest movement inside your business, which will limit the spread of infestations.

Our comprehensive range of integrated pest control solutions will also help to protect your hotel. Digital pest control – including PestConnect and myRentokil – provides remote monitoring of pests and 24/7 alerts of pest activity, while a range of non-toxic solutions are available to remove pests safely in the event of an infestation.

These tailored services and solutions ensure you have peace of mind that pests are under control, your guests and staff are safe and your hotel can safeguard against future lockdowns.

Get in touch today and we’ll send in our local experts to survey your premises at an appropriate time – following necessary social distance guidelines – to provide recommendations on how to keep your hotel protected now and in the future.

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Daryl Wing
Daryl Wing

Daryl Wing studied Scripting for Film and Television at Bournemouth University before starting his career working on Fireman Sam scripts for television. He is an experienced copywriter, who enjoys writing children's literature, watching football, and eating chocolate. He firmly believes that as long as there’s Star Wars, there’s hope.

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