The hospitality industry has been hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, with several countries across the globe limiting air travel. Hotels have seen a major plunge in guests and overall revenue due to these restrictions and due to travellers’ hesitation to visit during the pandemic. In South Africa, Level 3 of the lockdown regulations allows for hotels to reopen for essential workers and business travel. Businesses offering accommodation such as B&Bs and hotels can accept customers who are travelling for business purposes only. Offering accommodation for leisure purpose will not be permitted under Level 3.
It is important for hotels to properly prepare to reopen. The market may take some time to regain its footing, but when the demand does return you must ensure that your hotel is ready.
Ensure that you have the right protocol in place
Firstly, it is important for you and your employees to establish an action plan. This action plan will help employees going forward to enforce new hygiene and safety protocols. The World Health Organization has provided a set of guidelines for accommodation providers dictating new requirements. Guests also expect an increased focus on hygiene, cleanliness, and safety.
This action may well highlight the steps you would need to take to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and manage the possible cases detected at your hotel. For example, rooms and any public area need to be fully cleaned and sanitised. Staff need to be made aware of the new protocols, such as wearing masks. If you have the resources. provide your staff with the right safety equipment, such as hand sanitiser throughout the premises and personal protective masks.
Once you have established the above protocols it is very important that you communicate regularly and clearly with your staff and guests. All your employees from the various departments within your hotel must clearly understand what is expected of them and how they need to handle the new safety protocols.
Short documents or informative posters can amplify key messages among guests and staff, including the promotion of social distancing, handwashing, respiratory hygiene, and coughing etiquette. Distribute these posters in a different language to ensure that more of your guests will understand your stance and protocols. Staff needs to be trained to understand what to do and how to answer guest questions regarding COVID-19 and your response to it.
Be honest with guests if there is a reported case in your hotel and provide the relevant resources to your staff and guests. Have a list of emergency contacts, such as for a COVID-19 testing centre, on hand just in case.
Review your Assets and Finances
Before you reopen you must have a full review of your business ensure that you review and reduce non-essential spending, as well as reduction of labour costs and operating hours. Pay cuts may be an unfortunate outcome of the pandemic, however, many of your employees may feel relieved to be able to return to work. Once your business starts to pick up again then you can review these reductions. It would also be a good idea to freeze hiring new positions until your business is running at full capacity again. If things get worse, it would be good, unfortunately, to have a Covid-19 exit strategy just in case.
With the increased focus on safety and social distancing, it is a perfect time for your business to start automating processes and embracing new technology. “Contact-less” or “touch-less” technologies are the most important emerging tech trends for post-COVID hotel operations.
Consider fully digital check-in options with pre-arrival web check-in or by getting a kiosk at the reception. The guest journey should be convenient, pleasant and, most importantly, safe. Mobile or online check-ins will mean that guests do not have to wait in queues at reception but can rather check-in and access their room via a unique check-in code. This will also greatly reduce day-to-day friction and you will be able to allocate staff to more important tasks. Contactless payment via smartphones are also a fast, easy and safe way for guests to make payments at your hotel.
Things could go back to normal quicker than you think. Your hotel will need to use this time to prepare so that you are prepared to reopen. By taking the above steps into consideration your hotel may make it through the pandemic and reopen successfully.