What will it take for hotels to get their guests back after COVID-19? The good news, based on research from the U.S. Travel Association, is that over half of all consumers are either ready to start staying at hotels again or already doing so. Of course, that also means that half are not ready to return, with nearly a fifth of all surveyed looking for additional reassurance from expert resources that it’s safe before they’ll start booking rooms again.1
Trust in hotels must be earned every day (and it will earn you more in return)
Underlying this good news/bad news scenario is the high percentage of customers who no longer trust hotels to keep them safe – a full 25%, according to research from the public relations firm Ketchum.2 To earn that trust in the age of COVID, hotels need to go above and beyond previous expectations of hygiene. According to a survey reported in Travel Daily News, 75% of travelers now expect hotels to have clearly defined cleaning standards and protocols, with 67% saying that every touchable surface in a hotel room would have to be disinfected before they’d consider staying there.3
Those hotels that do rise to the challenge stand to not only win the lion’s share of returning tourists and business travelers, but also have the potential to be rewarded with premium pricing. That same Ketchum survey found that 80% of travelers are willing to pay more for additional privacy and distancing and advanced cleaning protocols.2 But what, exactly, do hotels need to do to attract guests new and old? Here are four key factors.
1. Take hotel hygiene to a whole new level
It’s no longer enough to have guests arrive in a hotel room that is cleaned and straightened up – now it needs to be demonstrably disinfected. The finding referenced above, that over two-thirds of people want every touchable surface disinfected, requires new cleaning routines, covering everything from door handles to remote controls, and proper supplies, like disposable wipers used to disinfect surfaces without spreading contaminates. Industry experts are recommending that hotels use detailed cleaning checklists to ensure that hotel staff is thorough and consistent in their efforts.4
2. Get out of touch with guests (use contactless technology)
Hospitality has traditionally been a “high touch,” person-to-person business, but today’s guests are looking for tech-enabled service that maintains a social distance. For instance, research conducted by travel technology firm Citron found that 73% of travelers would like an app that allows them to open their hotel room door with their mobile phone. Once in the room, guests still look toward tech to keep them safe. Voice-activated smart-assistants allow them to use the TV and phone, and make requests of the staff, without touching devices or interacting with employees face-to-face.5
Beyond attracting and reassuring guests, technology is also key to unlocking additional hotel revenue streams like foodservice – 47% of consumers surveyed by Citron said they’d be more likely to eat at the hotel if they could order room service through an app.3
3. Follow all guidelines, from practicing social distancing to face masks, hand hygiene and beyond
As the Ketchum survey showed, consumers are getting comfortable with the idea of travel again – they just don’t trust their fellow travelers. 87% percent are concerned that the person in the airplane seat or hotel room next to them won’t follow COVID-19 safety protocols.2
Hotels have the power to reassure guests of safety compliance by communicating and enforcing strict safety guidelines, from the wearing of face masks in public spaces to social distancing in elevators. Major players, like Hyatt and Marriott, are leading the way in this regard, with mandates for the wearing of face coverings in common spaces and other measures.6 In addition to publishing your safety rules and protocols, it’s crucial that your employees demonstrate them, whether by wearing masks, washing their hands and/ or using hand sanitizer frequently, maintaining a proper interpersonal distance, or by not coming to work when sick.
4. Come clean (and communicate) about everything you’re doing
Sometimes the sign of a safe hotel is exactly that – a sign. It’s not enough to have good policies and protocols; they also need to be communicated clearly, consistently and continually. Signage, from the building exterior to common public spaces and on into the guest rooms themselves, can both instruct and reassure guests, establishing your facility as transparent and trustworthy.
Get your hotel back to business (with a little help)
Amid all the COVID-inspired challenges facing the hotel industry is a significant ray of hope: three-quarters of consumers in that Ketchum survey said they expect to travel more in 2021 and beyond. Make sure you’re prepared for them — download ready-made (and free) resources, like the Back to Business Toolkit, which provide the checklists, printable posters, decals and in-room signage that you need
1 U.S. Travel Association: COVID-19 Travel Industry Research
2 MediaPost: Americans Follow Fellow Travelers, Not Companies, Given COVID concerns
3 Travel Daily News: New research reveals the technology and safety measures hotel guests want during COVID-19
4 Hospitality.net: Hotel GMs Share What They Are Doing to Welcome Guests Back Safely and Comfortably
5 Hospitality.net: Ripe for Rebound: Contactless Guest Room Technology
6 Business Traveler: Marriott and Hyatt to require all guests at US hotels to wear face masks