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Hotels gearing up to welcome back guests – but stays won’t be the same

Though the early summer months should be a busy time for hotels, around the world hotel rooms have remained empty and lobbies sparse as the coronavirus pandemic forced them to close their doors. However, with staycations on the cards in July for Britons, and may European destinations reopening their borders for international travel, hotels are ready to welcome back guests.

Though stays are back on the cards, they are likely to be very different from the hotel experience most holidaymakers are used to.

“Before this pandemic, few people gave a second thought to sleeping in a bed that hundreds of others had slept in, or touching door handles, faucets and television remotes. But after, people will be hyper-conscious of all the surfaces in a hotel room that are hosts for the virus,” said Nicky Kelvin, Head of Content at The Points Guy UK (TPG).

“To assuage fears of guests that will return to hotels, a flurry of organisations and individual companies have come forward with detailed operational plans on how they plan to welcome guests back to their properties and how they’re striving to provide a safe environment for both guests and employees.”

In line with varying government guidelines, hoteliers have been forced to get creative, enforcing new ways of ensuring a positive guest experience while also sticking to social distancing and boosting hygiene.

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Dubai’s famous Atlantis, The Palm, for example, has assigned a dedicated hygiene officer whose job will be to ensure hygiene measures are being implemented and standards met.

The resort now offers a discreet area for private temperate checking and is utilising specialist technology such as thermal cameras and digital infra-red thermometers to check for symptoms.

Guests will also have the option of having their luggage sanitised on arrival before it is taken to their suite of room.

A welcome kit with protective gear and sanitising products will also be given to each guest during their stay.

Similarly, Hilton hotels have also put in place new measures to ward off germs.

The hotel chain has revealed long-standing hotel room amenities will be removed in a bit to “de-clutter” and ensure top standards of hygiene.

Pens and branded paper notepads will be removed, as well as guest directories.

High touch areas will endure heightened disinfection.

Meanwhile, a room seal will be placed on all doors to show guests that their room as not been accessed since the cleaning process.

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Visitors are also able to take the cleaning into their own hands, with dedicated disinfection wipe stations at all primary entrances and high traffic areas, such as elevators.

Though the new rules may take some getting used to, they could prove vital to encouraging more guests to return.

“If hotels can convey the message to their guests that they’re being regulated, checked and approved by the authorities for clean and safe practices, it may ease the minds of at least some guests who are eager to get back on the road but are still put off by the idea of staying in a hotel,” explained Nicky.

Along with heightened cleaning and the removal of some high-touch amenities in the room, other parts of the hotel stay could be set to transform too.

“We’ll likely see hotels roll out contactless initiatives, such as mobile check-in and digital keys.

“Check-in and door-key apps have been implemented in a somewhat piecemeal fashion over the past several years, but the pace will need to accelerate quickly so guests can more easily open doors in public spaces and complete check-in and checkout procedures digitally,” Nicky pointed out.

Furthermore, dining and spa experiences could be overhauled.

“We’ll likely see social-distancing measures continue to apply within hotel restaurants and bars for a while, and guests will probably turn to room service in higher numbers,” continued the TPG expert.

“However, staff members who bring food to a guest’s room will have to show they’re following strict protocols to ensure minimal interaction for the safety of both parties.

“We could reasonably expect to see food delivered with a lot more plastic wrap.

“And, perhaps we’ll even see rooms rearranged to be more suitable for in-room dining.

“At properties that don’t offer room service, the popular lobby grab-and-go stations where you can pick up a complimentary apple or cookie will probably not be stocked for several months.”

During spa treatments, staff may begin to wear PPE, and Nicky believes treatment lists will likely be cut down to minimise germs and reduce contact.

“At the pool and the beach we’ll see social distancing measures, like chairs spaced further apart, and changes to service at the pool and beach, with attendants wearing masks and gloves and being less hands-on about setting up lounge chairs and fetching glasses of water and other drinks,” he added.

In a bid to restimulate tourism, in some countries authorities have rolled out specialist schemes aimed at regulating hotels.

“The Singapore Tourism Board launched a “new clean” auditing initiative that measures hotel compliance with seven criteria for cleanliness. The properties will be considered “SG Clean” if the hotels meet the standards,” Nicky explained.

“Neighbouring Malaysia implemented its version of the program, called ‘Clean & Safe Malaysia’, through which hotels can be declared safe by ‘relevant authorities’”.

Research shows eager Britons seem keen to travel as soon as it is safe.

According to Skyscanner, they have already seen a boost in searches for the Autumn months, with a 38 percent increase for October.

Although the new hygiene measures are set to change the hotel experience, they will ensure the revival of tourism with guest wellbeing at the forefront.

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