2020 was a rough year for the hospitality industry. The year was marked by lockdowns, travel restrictions, and heightened awareness of the many ways that disease can be spread in shared environments. Fortunately, 2021 is looking a bit brighter, as we begin to administer vaccines to healthcare workers and vulnerable populations worldwide.
While there is still a long way to go in the fight against COVID-19, the rollout of the vaccines is already starting to increase traveler optimism and confidence. Over the holidays, the US saw the most travel ever since the beginning of COVID with TSA screening nearly 1.3 million passengers the Sunday after Christmas.
While Traveler Optimism is Growing, Challenges Remain
A study by Guesty showed that just one week following the news of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, there was a 6% increase in Q1 short-term rental reservations worldwide. While confidence is growing, the travel economy is still facing an uphill battle to recover from the impacts of COVID-19.
This is especially true for housekeeping managers who are responsible for ensuring hotel cleanliness to protect the health and safety of hotel visitors. We’ve put together a list of key challenges that our hospitality clients will be facing throughout 2021--and some solutions to help your hotel thrive in this still-challenging market.
Key Challenges Hospitality Will Face in 2021
1. Stringent Cleaning and Documentation Requirements...ContinuedHotel housekeeping is being scrutinized like never before. While heightened cleaning and documentation requirements aren’t new anymore, they aren’t going away anytime soon despite the rollout of the vaccines. Until enough people receive a vaccine to achieve herd immunity, cleaning requirements will remain at an all time high. This is a major strain on your resources, and 10 months into a pandemic, it’s starting to wear hospitality staff thin.
"Hotels are now required to follow brand mandated as well as city/state mandated cleanliness requirements," says Parminder Batra, CEO, TraknProtect. "In addition to their day-to-day duties, staff must also document and verify they have followed these requirements" (Hospitality Tech). The workload to keep all areas pristine--and document the process--is overwhelming to many housekeeping teams.
2. Increasing Guest Expectations
Going hand-in-hand with increased cleaning requirements, guests are also coming to your hotel with higher expectations for their stay than ever before. They expect rooms to be properly sanitized and disinfected prior to their arrival, and they expect common areas to be pristine. This is unlikely to change in the coming year. Because of this, housekeeping may be one of the most critical elements of your hotel’s brand reputation and customer loyalty throughout 2021.
3. Operational ChallengesSky-high cleaning requirements and guest expectations are already difficult when you are fully staffed, but amid a global pandemic, staff absences due to illness have become the norm. This is creating operational challenges as absenteeism makes it all the more difficult to achieve daily housekeeping targets--and it puts additional burden and stress on your remaining staff.
Having your staff vaccinated will be an important step to minimizing absences due to illness. However, it’s important to have additional tools and resources at your disposal to keep up with demand. For example, implementing a commercial vacuum cleaner like Whiz from SoftBank Robotics can ensure that all shared areas are thoroughly cleaned every day, whether or not you are fully staffed.
4. High Staff TurnoverThe combination of too much work and too little time isn’t just leading to burnout, it’s leading to extremely high rates of turnover. The hospitality industry as a whole already has the highest turnover rate in any industry at 74.9%, based on numbers from October 2019. The pandemic has only exacerbated an already major pain point, and the struggle to retain cleaning staff will likely continue into 2021 unless housekeeping managers can find ways to offload some of the cleaning burden.
One way hotels are doing this is by deploying commercial cleaning robots alongside their staff to take on time-consuming tasks so that employees have the time and energy to focus on added disinfecting and sanitizing responsibilities without being overburdened. For example, vacuuming alone can take up to 30% of your team’s time. With robots on hand to offload these monotonous tasks, housekeeping managers can create more manageable workloads for staff and improve retention rates.
5. Lack of Data
Do you know with absolute certainty what spaces in your hotel were cleaned and when? Can you quickly reference when the last time a particular space was vacuumed? Do you know whether your cleaning workflows are as efficient as they could be? Many housekeeping managers don’t have an easy way to access this type of data, and manual documentation is prone to error. But the more you know about your cleaning operations, the better your operation will become. SaaS applications for cleaning data, like Whiz Connect, can confirm cleaning and provide data-driven insights to help improve productivity and efficiency.
6. New TechnologyIf you haven’t guessed by now, cleaning technology--specifically commercial cleaning robots--are rapidly becoming a lifeline for housekeeping managers in the hospitality industry. But with new technologies often come new challenges, including costs that must be budgeted for, hardware and software that must be learned, and routines that must be modified.
Still, these commercial cleaning robots actually make the previous 5 key challenges facing hotel housekeeping managers a lot easier to manage--from facilitating higher quality and more consistent cleaning to helping your staff keep up with demand and customer expectations. They can also provide you with the data and documentation that you need to provide proof of cleanliness and optimize your cleaning workflows.
Plus, cleaning robot vacuums don’t necessarily have to be a major cost, and many are easy to use without a steep learning curve. For example, Whiz the commercial robot vacuum from SoftBank Robotics, is easy to get up and running quickly, provides intuitive and insightful user dashboards via the Whiz Connect software platform, and is available with flexible and cost-effective payment options.
Contact us today to learn more about how Whiz can help you achieve your cleaning goals in 2021.