2022 was a year of recovery for the hospitality industry. After years of lockdowns and travel restrictions, hotels are finally rebounding to pre-COVID levels of room occupancy and revenue. In fact, in their state of the hotel industry report, the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) revealed that hotel room revenue in 2022 climbed to $168.4 billion — only slightly less than 2019’s $169.6 billion. This upward trajectory has many industry experts anticipating a promising year for hospitality businesses in 2023.
Although the hospitality sector has mostly returned to status quo, the post-COVID travel industry brings its own unique challenges that owners and managers will need to overcome — especially with their housekeeping services.
We’ve put together a list of key housekeeping challenges that our hospitality clients will be facing throughout 2023 — and some solutions to help your hotel thrive in this still-challenging market.
Key Challenges for Housekeeping Staff in 2023
1. Stringent Cleaning and Documentation Requirements
Hotel housekeeping is being scrutinized like never before. While heightened cleaning and documentation requirements aren’t new anymore, they aren’t going away anytime soon, which is proven by emerging health and cleaning policies. As a response to the pandemic, the AHLA released industry-wide hotel cleaning and safety guidelines, which detail the specific protocols hotel owners should follow to keep their guests and employees safe, even after COVID-19 infections have waned. The guide includes policies on disinfectants, indoor air quality, hand hygiene, and other measures that will keep hotels safe in the event of future health crises.
These new policies and expectations don’t come without their challenges. "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. Even as the number of cases have dropped, consumer anxieties around cleanliness and hygiene have remained, especially in shared public spaces like hotels. One survey on public sentiments around handwashing found that 90% of Americans were concerned about washing their hands in 2020. In 2023, that percentage is still well above pre-COVID levels at 85%.
As such, guests 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.
3. Operational Challenges
Sky-high cleaning requirements and guest expectations are already difficult when you are fully staffed, but for many hotel managers, the staff shortage issues that began during the pandemic continue in 2023. This is creating operational challenges as absenteeism makes it all the more difficult to achieve daily housekeeping targets — which also puts additional burden and stress on your remaining staff.
That’s why 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 Turnover and Low Engagement
The 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 86.3%, based on numbers from November 2022. On top of burnout, many of today’s workers leave the hotel industry due to a lack of employee engagement. Almost three out of five hotel employees say they experience a lack of professional development, and less than a third of employees feel a strong sense of belonging at work.
One way hotels can solve burnout and engagement issues 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, which in turns frees up employees to do more engaging work.
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 2023.