On May 7th, Women in Hospitality and Travel Tech organized the second round discussion for the “Wash your hands, the right way. Regulations, norms, operations, and guest experience” at WHTT Weekly. We discussed how the industry recovery, reopening, and repositioning will look like. We had panelists with hoteliers that represented companies with operations worldwide. This factor helped us to understand better the current situation as well as to have a holistic view of the current strategies they are using.
We discussed health and safety protocols, distribution, how to use technology to improve the guest experience, and guest communication. Panelists explained processes they are implementing in the short, medium, and long term, the biggest changes in the way that they will be operating moving forward, reopening strategies, changes affecting guest experience and the guest journey, and how are they supporting local communities to mention a few. Here are some points that summarize last week’s conversation.
- Panelists explained their approach on how guest experience is going to change (such as check-in changes). It was also mentioned that it is key to work on guest safety perception.
- Responding to audience questions, hoteliers said that they will provide PPE at no extra cost for guests.
- They also clarified that rates will not be increased for customers (due to PPE equipment and disinfection investment).
Business operations challenges
- Housekeeping teams will have new checklists and practices as well as disinfection protocols. Risk prevention and safety protocols are incorporated. Hotel management companies are adopting safety protocols such as the Marriott Cleanliness Council guidelines or Hilton Clean Stay as well as following similar leading industry committee’s advice. Always following CDC recommendations.
- Big hotels will still have daily linen drop.
- Personal Protection Equipment will be used by all staff members at all times.
- The participants also mentioned that after the investment needed to respond the current situation, CAPEX will be limited for other initiatives.
- Due to the current crisis, there is a risk that for some hotels sustainability will not be a priority. But is important to pivot the current situation and add sustainability as a priority. In RFPs, companies will require to disclose sustainability data as well as safety procedures and protocols.
- The panelists agree that staff training will be essential for the reopening scenario. Even though the hotel environment might be slightly different, staff should remain warm with guests, human to human connection even we can have new “social distancing” protocols.
- For hotel chains with properties in Islands, they are in a better position to control the pandemic due to their access control and they might be in a better position to receive travelers once borders reopen.
- It has been discussed that corporate accounts are using this time to negotiate rates, asking for up to 30% cheaper rates. The panelists all agree that it is important not to enter a price war, wether is leisure or corporate rates.
- The panelists expect that ADR and profitability will suffer this year but are optimistic about the industry activity recovery.
- USA hotel management company CEO stated that they are keeping the government rate flat.
- In the distribution scenario, they consider that OTA’s will gain power after the downturn, as happened in previous years.
- They discussed how technology and social media can improve communication with the consumer as well as driving direct sales to their websites.
- Many countries rely on the domestic market and this will affect the industry. Especially for those countries that rely on international visitors and also affect directly and indirectly to many other sectors such as agriculture.
- We also have to consider that domestic markets are also affected by the crisis and the spending power is being affected by the current health and socio-economic crises.
Impact on local communities
- Last but not least, it was discussed the huge impact of stopping the tourism industry have in local communities. An example discussed was Africa. In many countries within the continent, they are in a critical point, with a hunger and water crisis. Food banks are needed in many country areas.
- It was also mentioned how they are supporting local communities where they have hotels or co-living spaces. They are providing accommodation to nurses, doctors, and NGO’s members.
- They all agree to the need to reactivate the tourism activity as soon as possible to support local communities as well as the economic recovery, but it has to be done safely.
To learn more about the discussion, watch the video on Youtube: