How Eight Major Hotel Chains are Handling the Pandemic

Written by: Veronique Colombani

The COVID-19 pandemic is profoundly disrupting the hospitality industry, and hotel chains have to make changes if they want clients to come back. Here is a look at the measures taken by eight major actors in the sector. The COVID-19 pandemic has dealt the hospitality sector one of its most significant blows to date. For months, hotels worldwide were either closed to the public or facing a sharp loss of revenue as people stayed home, either because they were being forced to by local legislation or because they thought it was the safer thing to do. Hotels couldn’t count on revenue from events and meetings either as most countries enforced a strict ban on gatherings that is still in effect to this day in some areas. In the Middle East, global hospitality research company STR found that for April 2020, the occupancy rate was down to 31.2%, i.e., -58% from April 2019, with a revenue per available room reaching an unprecedented low at US$29.82, i.e., -72.7% compared to April 2019. To survive, hotels have to tackle the many issues brought on by the pandemic. One of these issues is to reassure the public that it is safe to stay at hotels. In this post, we will share how eight major chains have evolved in their processes to respond to these new challenges. Accor Hotels As part of their response to the pandemic, Accor Hotels have launched the ALLSAFE label vetted by Bureau Veritas, to communicate to their guests when hotels have met stringent cleaning and prevention standards. They are also working with AXA to offer guests medical support. The main measures include enforcement of physical distancing, a strong focus on hand hygiene, screening for guests and employees (including temperature checks), mandatory face masks in indoor public spaces, an increased frequency of cleaning and disinfection, etc. They also made their changes and cancellations policy more flexible, and now allow guests to make changes or cancel up to 24 hours upon arrival. Accor Hotels implemented a few additional measures for meetings and events, including the management of check-in lines to promote social distancing. Room layouts and event set-ups are also modified to allow for physical distance, and outdoor space is used whenever possible. Hand sanitizer stations are made available throughout event spaces. Individual servings have replaced buffets. Finally, all touchpoints, including tables, chairs, etc., are to be disinfected between events. Best Western Hotels and Resorts In 2012, Best Western Hotels and Resorts launched their I Care Clean program to promote hygiene best practices across their properties. In 2020, they are building on this program to include enhanced cleaning protocols to respond to the COVID-19 challenge. The We Care Clean initiative addresses five key areas, front desk and lobby, guest room and housekeeping, temporary breakfast offerings, public amenities, hotel employees and staff requirements. For the front desk and lobby area, measures include enforcing physical distancing, putting up best practices’ signs, frequently disinfecting touchpoints, removing magazines and papers, installing sanitizing stations and maximizing on contactless interaction with guests. For the guest room and housekeeping area, the new protocol includes leaving rooms vacant for 24 to 72 hours after check-out whenever possible, removing items deemed non-essential, providing daily housekeeping only by request along with other health and safety measures. New temporary breakfast offerings are implemented, including pre-packaged options, or served breakfast instead of buffet offerings. Depending on local legislation, breakfast rooms might be closed. If they are open, the layout has been modified to allow for physical distancing. For public amenities, such as gyms, swimming pools, and meeting rooms, the new protocol includes a complete sanitization every evening using electrostatic fogging, ozone generators or ultraviolet devices, and availability of hand sanitizing stations in public areas. Concerning hotel employees and staff requirements, they include using Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), frequent hand-washing, disinfection of workstations after every shift, etc. In addition, face coverings are now mandatory in the USA and Canada. Finally, members of the Best Western Rewards program will benefit from greater flexibility, including extending their status through January 31, 2022. Hilton Hotels and Resorts Hilton has launched its CleanStay program, in partnership with RB, makers of Lysol and Dettol. This initiative focuses on four different areas, the guest rooms, housekeeping, public areas and amenities, and food and beverage. In the guest rooms, this means removing all used items from the room, a full clean of the room, and disinfection of most used surfaces (switches, handles, etc.). Housekeeping services are now on-demand (no more daily housekeeping). For public areas and amenities, the new protocol calls for the presence of disinfecting stations throughout public spaces, hourly maintenance of high-touch areas like elevators and bathrooms, contactless check-in and digital key using the Hilton Honors app, physical distancing measures, and mandatory face coverings in indoor public areas for hotels in the Americas. Finally, regarding food and beverage, the restaurants have been reconfigured to allow more space between tables for physical distancing, and new options are available, such as Grab & Go, or pre-plated and individually portioned options instead of buffet service. For meetings and events, Hilton has developed a specific program, Hilton EventReady with CleanStay. This program expands the CleanStay program by addressing every touchpoint of the event experience. Hyatt Hotels Hyatt hotels have also upped their game through Hyatt’s Global Care and Cleanliness Commitment. An emphasis has been placed on cleanliness and safety with sanitizing stations placed throughout public areas, a higher frequency of cleaning for public spaces and guest room surfaces, temperature checks for employees and guests, and removal of certain high-touch items from guest rooms. Social distancing measures include specific signage and revised maximum capacity guidelines for elevators, gyms, etc., as well as knock-and-go contactless room service. Employees and guests are also required to wear face coverings, indoor and outdoor. Finally, more options are provided to reduce contacts through the World of Hyatt app for check-in and checkout, grab-and-go meal ordering and other features. For meetings and events, room set-ups have been reconfigured to allow for social distancing. Inetcontinental Hotels Group (IHG) Building on its 2015 IHG Way of Clean program, developed in partnership with Ecolab and Diversey, IHG has added new COVID-19 protocols and best practices. The new measures include additional deep cleaning for high-touch surfaces, reduced contact at check-in and check-out, touchless transactions, availability of sanitizer stations throughout the properties, enforcement of social distancing, reduction of furnishings and items in the rooms, new laundry protocols. Face coverings are also required in all public spaces at IHG hotels in the Americas, starting July 27. For meetings and events, the new protocols include a deep and more frequent cleaning of spaces, hand sanitizer stations scattered throughout the event space, the re-imagining of room layout and seating options to facilitate social distancing, and single-serve, pre-packaged meal options. Jumeirah Hotels and Resorts Jumeirah Hotels and Resorts have taken several measures to reassure their guests that they are taking all steps necessary to ensure their health and safety. Face coverings are now mandatory, health screenings (including temperature checks) are conducted for employees and guests, a two-meter physical distance is enforced in all public areas, fresh air supply has been increased in all public areas, only one guest is allowed per lift, public spaces are sanitized with increased frequency where high footfall occurs. Rooms are also left vacant three days between guests, or if that is not possible due to high occupancy, they undergo a complete fogging process. Buffets are no longer available to favor an à la carte offering, and physical distancing is de rigueur in dining rooms. The cancellation policy has also been modified to allow for more flexibility, and guests can now cancel without penalty up to 24 hours before arrival. Jumeirah hotels are also working with Bureau Veritas and Ecolab, who will audit their hygiene practices and cleaning processes. As a result, several Jumeirah properties earned Bureau Veritas’ Safeguard Label, proof that best practices and procedures are in place that meet local and international regulations. Millennium Hotels and Resorts To address the pandemic’s new challenges, Millennium hotels have launched the We Clean. We Care. We Welcome initiative. The We Clean part features steps to ensure the highest level of cleanliness and safety for guests by implementing ten key hallmarks. These hallmarks include higher standards of cleanliness and hygiene, checks on arrival for guests and employees (including temperature checks), readily available disinfection kits, frequent and regular sanitization of high-contact points, use of contactless technology to minimize physical contact, mandatory use of disinfectants on all contact points, enforcing one-meter social distancing, enhanced food safety protocols, use of PPE when appropriate, and the presence of a Hygiene Ambassador in each hotel to ensure measures are implemented. The We Care part focuses on employees, with protocols to ensure their safety and well-being. The We Welcome refers to the commitment of Millennium’s staff to welcome guests with the highest standards of hospitality. They have also given their guests more flexibility as they can now cancel up to 72 hours before arrival. Radisson Hotel Group Following advice and recommendations from the CDC, WHO, and local authorities, Radisson Hotel Group activated its corporate crisis response teams worldwide in response to the pandemic. Regarding health and safety, they developed the Radisson Hotels Safety Protocol, in partnership with SGS. This protocol includes twenty steps for hotels and ten steps for meetings and events spaces. For hotels, the protocol includes measures such as physical distancing, increased frequency in cleaning and disinfection, improved air circulation, etc. For meetings and events space, the steps include installing sanitizing stations throughout the event space, making sure the meeting room set-up allows for proper physical distancing, placing a disinfect box for used stationery items, etc. Radisson also made changes to their cancellation policy by granting free cancellations and modifications up to 24 hours before the arrival date, and refund of the deposit when applicable. They also modified their loyalty programs by suspending points expiration or extending members’ status. In Conclusion The COVID-19 pandemic will undoubtedly have long-lasting effects on the hospitality sector. Many factors play against the industry, such as the length of shelter-in-place restrictions, changes in company travel policies, consumer willingness to travel, and changes to demand, such as virtual events instead of in-person events. But there are steps that hotels can take to improve their odds. Indeed, McKinsey’s April 2020 survey shows that, at least for leisure travelers, their main request is to see more health and safety measures, for example, intense room cleaning. The hotel chains that we referred to in this post seem to have heard that message loud and clear, as they are taking several measures to make guests feel as safe as possible in their properties.

Author Information

Veronique Colombani is a writer and translator based in Virginia, USA. In a former life, she was the Communications and Marketing Manager for a French IT company and planned her fair share of corporate events before transitioning to writing about the events industry. She has written or contributed to a range of editorial pieces and research projects for EventMB. Follow her on LinkedIn and Twitter for more insight into the events industry.

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