Future of hotel stays and hospitality industry in the near future

by Shatakshi Gupta

The pandemic era of COVID-19 in the year 2020, had brought with itself a number of lessons for all the people across the globe. We are already going through a lot of changes during this pandemic era, but still it won’t end here and we still have a lot more to see in the coming days. And these changes will now become the part of our lives as well as the part of our lifestyle. No matter whether it be your house or your office; whether it be a market or a hotel, everything would undergo a number of changes now.

Especially, by the time we are working over the research and development of a vaccine, we all need to be very much more careful. Now if we talk of travel and tourism, it would be a great blow to this industry. Similarly, it is also a worst hit for the hospitality industry as well. We would now witness a number changes in the hotel stays as well as in our hotel stay experiences. Christopher Anderson, professor of business at Cornell University’s Hotel School in Ithaca, New York says “Hotel stays are likely to be a stripped-down affair, particularly in higher-end hotels where personalized service and amenities have long been part of the draw”.  

There will be less communal access in hotels, “so no buffets, no minibars,” and many of the “high-touch elements of luxury” such as spa treatments and bellhop and valet service may be suspended, Anderson predicts.

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All the hotels will now focus on the changing on their standard operating procedures, few of these changes would be like keyless as well as contactless check-in facilities for the guests in order to maintain social distancing, and also there might be fewer personalized services available for the guests now.

“We’re going to want to strip those away and basically walk into the hotel, go up the elevator by myself, enter my room without having to touch anything with some comfort that the service provider has completely disinfected that space prior to my arrival,” he says.

Occupancy was still down 58% compared to the same week last year. As demand creeps up, the hotel industry is trying to reassure potential guests that they’ve put additional measures in place to protect against coronavirus transmission as states and countries start to reopen.

Hygiene, of course, is a top concern, and the American Hotel & Lodging Association on Monday released industry wide. Many major hotel groups have also outlined new policies.

The American Hotel & Lodging Association had already released its safety standards guidelines which are supposed to be followed by all the hotels as well as lodges. Undoubtedly, health and hygiene is now the top most concern, so all the stakeholders need to take strict measures, need to formulate new policies for their properties or hotels. Some of the international hotel chains are already working in this direction, and making themselves equipped for the same.

Hilton, an international hotel chain, is working with the Mayo Clinic’s Infection Prevention and Control team. Hilton is exploring the use of electrostatic sprayers — which uniformly mist disinfectant across wide areas — and ultraviolet light to sanitize surfaces and objects.

Marriott, which is one of the largest hotel chains around the globe, also made an announcement of using electrostatic sprayers for cleaning guest rooms as well as public areas and is testing ultraviolet light technology too. Marriott and other brands will also be removing furniture and reconfiguring many areas to facilitate the six-foot social distancing space prescribed by health officials. The brand is considering Plexiglas barriers at front desks to separate guests and hotel staff.

These new measures will certainly affect hotel owners’ out-of-pocket costs, Freitag says, but whether guests will see those costs in room rates is unclear. Guests in more than 3,200 Marriott hotels can use their phones to check in, access their rooms and order specially packaged room service delivered to their door without contact. Masks and gloves for staff will be ubiquitous at many hotels, and hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes will be the latest additions to public spaces and personal care amenity kits.

Venetian reception employees will use every other workstation to properly distance and slot machines, restaurant tables, pool loungers and more have been spaced to comply with the rule.

The resort suggests no more than four guests in an elevator. The Hamilton Hotel in Washington, DC, urges guests to limit that number to two. Properties are also outlining policies specific to suspected or confirmed cases of Covid-19 on site. Those measures often include intensive third-party disinfection measures of rooms occupied by guests who become ill. Temperature screening for guests and employees is one line of defense in detecting possible infection, but it’s unclear how widely it will be implemented in hotels.

At The Venetian in Vegas, which has not yet reopened, thermal scanners will be used at every entry point “allowing discreet and noninvasive temperature checks” for staff and guests, these guidelines are now mentioned in the new rules of this hotel.

In Singapore, a national campaign called SG Clean had been started across industries and includes a set of rules and standards, including temperature checks for guests, “where feasible and applicable.”

The Four Seasons in New York has been following an unbelievably serious set of temporary protocols since it started hosting health care workers in the month of April.

Those policies, developed by travel risk management company International SOS, include a single point of entry for everyone where each person’s temperature is checked and questions are asked by nurses staffing the entry 24 hours a day, according to the plan’s architect, Dr. Robert Quigley, International SOS’s senior vice president and regional medical director for the Americas.

Since the Four Seasons New York started accommodating medical workers in the coronavirus epicenter, a cleaning protocol designed by International SOS has involved leaving rooms empty for long periods between a series of cleanings to make sure that any contamination is eradicated.

But that protocol was tailored to a very specific situation. The Four Seasons luxury brand is working on exactly what new measures guests will find at its hotels around the globe and at the property on New York’s 57th Street when it reopens to guests who aren’t health care workers.

Social distancing measures, reduced capacity public spaces and redesigned restaurants, bars and fitness facilities will be among the changes. Many of a hotel’s public spaces and amenities will need an overhaul for the coronavirus era. For example, room service might be preserved as there’s more control in who touches what, says Anderson, from Cornell’s Hotel School, but buffets are likely a no-go.

And he’s not sure that services such as buffets — whether hotel breakfast bars or full-blown Vegas-style spreads — will ever come back. “I think just our awareness of transmission now is going to be heightened and so … even though it might be safe and there might not be a pandemic scare, psychologically it might not be attractive anymore,” he said. Pre-wrapped, grab-and-go offerings are likely to be the solution in the near future, Anderson said.

High-touch public areas such as spas and gyms — where it’s also difficult to social distance — pose a “really, really high risk for transmission,” Quigley said, with lots of handles and doorknobs that would need very attentive cleaning.

“If social touch becomes even more rare post-coronavirus, spas may provide a unique haven where people can experience touch in a clean and safe environment,” said Jeremy McCarthy, the hotel group’s director of spa and wellness.

There are a number of services, which were earlier an attraction for the guests, may now be restricted or those facilities or personalized services may not bring in that much revenue to the hotel which they did earlier. But once, all these hotels reopen, they actually need to work really hard, they will have to go in length and breadth for bringing back that trust in their customers. Because until and unless they do not regain that confidence in their guests, it would become very hard for them to survive in the hospitality industry any more.