A pandemic is not new to the hospitality industry, in 2003, the SARS outbreak caused almost 50% losses to the industry. As the US government eases restrictions allowing businesses to open up given they follow SOPs & guidelines established by the WHO (World Health Organization).
In their recent strategy update, the WHO gave six important guidelines for countries that were seeking to ease COVID19 lockdowns:
- Disease transmission is under control
- Health systems are able to “detect, test, isolate and treat every case and trace every contact”
- Hot spot risks are minimized in vulnerable places, such as nursing homes
- Schools, workplaces and other essential places have established preventive measures
- The risk of importing new cases “can be managed”
- Communities are fully educated, engaged and empowered to live under a new normal
The strategy update to combat the COVID19 pandemic also specifically discusses the role of communities, organizations, and individuals as follows:
“Mobilize all sectors and communities to ensure that every sector of government and society takes ownership of and participates in the response and in preventing cases through hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, and individual-level physical distancing.”
In response to the worsening conditions of the hospitality industry, the American Hotels & Lodging Association launched the “Safe Stay” initiative. Designed around new hotel cleaning practices social interactions, and workplace protocols, the initiative will ensure hotels comply with health & safety challenges posed by COVID19.
“Every hotel guest and employee should know that their health and safety are our top priority.” Safe Stay represents a new level of focus for an industry already built on cleanliness. Hotels have always had rigorous standards for cleaning and safety.
With Safe Stay, we are enhancing these standards to help create peace of mind. When travel resumes, hotels will be ready to safely welcome back the traveling public.”
The AHLA will encourage hotels to change norms, behaviors, and service standards to ensure guests feel confident in the industry. In a meeting of the Safe Stay Advisory Council representing all segments of the hospitality industry, the following were established as priorities:
- Enhanced cleaning standards throughout the hotel, including guest rooms, meeting spaces, common areas, and back-of-house spaces
- Superior cleaning products with a greater concentration of bacteria-killing ingredients, in accordance with CDC guidelines
- Social distancing practices and reducing person-to-person contact
- Increased transparency throughout the guest journey
(All new guidelines from the Safe Stay Advisory Council will be published at www.ahla.com/SafeStay.)
Work Place Safety
Before they begin thinking about welcoming guests, hoteliers must first address the critical factors in workplace hygiene, safety, and preventive measures. Establishing strict measures to reduce infection risks and promoting them across all staff will be the priority.
Employers will need signage and staff training to reinforce social distancing, hand washing, respiratory etiquette, and temperature monitoring. Staff in different areas of the hotel must be constantly reminded to keep a safe distance from others and not be present in areas occupied by guests until requested.
Enhanced Cleaning Standards
Improved cleaning standards are being promoted by both the AHLA, CDC, and WHO for all businesses. Enhanced sterilization standards for different areas of the hotel will be top of every hotel owner’s list of policies.
Hotel owners will also have to consider several other aspects like the quality & types of disinfectants, as recommended by the CDC.
Health & Safety Signage
Mounting safety signage across properties for guests and staff will be a norm. Social distancing and hygiene guidelines delivered through digital screens and wall signage will be a great way to reinforce safety among everyone visiting the hotel.
One part of hospitality that is here to stay, is technology. As human interactions will need to be reduced, more technology will feature even in the smallest hotels. From self-check-in kiosks and POS machines to robot butlers, technology will have some great solutions for hotel owners.
The Westin Hotel Medical Center’s recent deployment of their UV sterilization robot, Aloft Hotels signature robot “BotLr”, and Hilton’s robot concierge ‘Connie’ have already made headlines in recent years.
In a post-covid19 world, we will see more intuitive applications of technology like online chat services, mobile keys & check-ins, touch payment systems, and robotics to replace human tasks.
As the world learns to live with the COVID19 infection, hospitality will be on the front line combating the virus every day. Following standards and complying with health safety standards will be part of the industry for a few years to come.
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