A year ago, travelers were hyper-focused on price and location when it came to booking their hotel stay. Since the pandemic, what travelers want most from their hotel experience has changed dramatically. A hotel’s sanitation protocols and social distancing measures outweighed other travel considerations by far, according to a recent survey from travel company Skyscanner. For 30% of travelers surveyed, those considerations also outweighed loyalty programs—demonstrating just how much need there is for hotels to take dramatic steps to secure a loyal new following.
Adjusting to this new preference is a critical matter for hotels. In July 2020, the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) reported that, of more than 600 hotel owners surveyed, more than half feared they were in danger of losing their property to foreclosure due to COVID-19. Making carefully considered investments in cleanliness is critical to many hotels’ long-term survival.
Four investments to consider
Hotels are exploring a number of investment strategies to help redefine their benefit proposition, including the following:
Co-branding with trusted partners
Travelers may not be as loyal to hotel chains as they once were, but they are putting their trust in familiar branded cleaning products. At least that’s the thinking behind Hilton’s new partnerships with Lysol parent company RB. Hilton’s CleanStay with Lysol Protection leverages the cleaning brand’s reputation as part of its strategy for assuring travelers of regular disinfection. As Hilton put it, “The scientific expertise of RB is second-to-none and the use of its products assures consumers around the world of a safer stay.”
Partnering with a trusted or innovative provider of cleaning products demonstrates a visible willingness to invest in cleaning best practices.
More visible cleaning
Housekeeping has always been critical to hotel success, but the way cleanliness looks at hotels is changing. Once a behind-the-scenes operation, guests now want clear signs of cleaning activities. The increasingly popular “last cleaned” charts in guest rooms and public areas are one example of making cleanliness more visible.
More visible cleaning also means seeing that once-hidden work in action. For example, several hotels are using electrostatic sprayers or UV technology to sanitize luggage before it enters the hotel. In other cases, housekeeping has become more automated. The Westin Houston Medical Center has deployed Xenex Disinfection Services’ germ-zapping robots to disinfect guest rooms and communal areas. The UV light emitted by the robots has reportedly been shown to destroy coronavirus.
Some building occupants have reported feeling comforted by the gentle hum of autonomous vacuum sweepers at work. It’s a demonstration of both cleanliness and social distancing commitment. That’s because cobotic solutions, like Whiz, developed and distributed in partnership with Brain OS and ICE Robotics, allow employers to spread staff members out across the facility and gives them the tools to do more on their own.
Hotels are rethinking the amenities that once proved a part of their draw. Some hotels are swapping out classics like mini shampoo bottles for a mask and hand sanitizer. Others are focusing on experiential amenities like replacing daily newspaper deliveries with no-touch electronic PressReader access. Ocean House in Rhode Island has replaced crowded nightly happy hours with a room-to-room canape-and-cocktail cart.
Luxury brand citizenM is removing many of the classic amenities—think shared room phones and directories—through its global app. The app creates an entirely touchless experience from the front door to the guest room. Through the app, guests can open their door, order food, open blinds, turn lights off and on, access the hotel directory, and check out.
Other hotels are providing no-touch room delivery with robot-delivery systems. Hotel Trio in California has employed a delivery bot since 2018 but since COVID-19 the hotel’s 3-foot-tall delivery bot has gone from being “a novelty to a necessity.” The bot delivers groceries, towels and other items without need for human contact.
Alternative material solutions
Hotels considering more dramatic changes are investing in new material solutions to give a greater perception of clean. Some properties are removing hotel bedspreads in lieu of crisp white sheets that present a visual image of cleanliness. Experts note that some properties are replacing carpets and other textiles with hard surfaces that may seem to be easier to clean and sanitize. However, as Hotel Management reports, this is not always an effective swap. More frequent cleaning taking place today can cause degradation of hardwood and tile solutions. What’s more, guests still demonstrate a preference for soft surfaces. Investing in appropriate cleaning solutions may be a better bet for hoteliers rethinking their materials—surveying guests and suppliers can help identify the right solution.
Ample opportunities to recreate hotel experiences
With hotels around the world rethinking their approach to securing guest traffic, there’s no wrong answer. There are as many options for creative investment as there are hotel properties.
As Chekitan Dev, a professor of marketing at Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration, told the New York Times, this is “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reimagine every single amenity.” It’s also an opportunity to reprioritize across-the-board spending.
Fortunately, these investments don’t have to be cost-prohibitive. Solutions like Whiz are available with a subscription model, allowing property owners to cost-effectively pilot the solution in their hotels. With the right investment today, the hospitality industry can better protect its workers, its guests and its bottom-line.