The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in never-before-seen losses for the travel and hospitality sector. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the leisure and hospitality sector had the highest rate of unemployment in August at 21.3%. While about half of the 16.9 million jobs lost in March and April have been restored, some hotels are still operating with fewer team members and other properties have closed as a result of the financial impact of the pandemic.
Where is the hospitality industry headed in the wake of this global crisis? What changes are hotels making to demonstrate their commitment to cleanliness and make guests feel at ease? Read on to learn more about how the industry is pivoting to overcome unprecedented challenges and the best practices properties can implement to restore traveler confidence.
Hotel Industry Takes Steps to Protect Cleanliness
As the pandemic progressed, many hotels, both major brands and independent properties, took steps to showcase they were taking COVID-19 risks seriously. For example, as part of Hyatt’s Global Care & Cleanliness Commitment, the brand is working with the Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC) to have all of its properties accredited through the GBAC STAR™ program, which offers third-party validation that a property prioritizes cleaning, disinfection and infection prevention.
Hilton partnered with RB, a leader in hygiene products, to develop its Hilton CleanStay program. Meanwhile, Marriott launched the Marriott Cleanliness Council, made up of internal and external hygiene and infection prevention experts.
These extra measures could be part of the reason that both leisure and business travelers are becoming more comfortable with the idea of traveling again. The Lodging Safety Barometer that measures confidence in staying at hotels and resorts reached an all-time high score of 50 in September 2020. The likelihood of taking a domestic leisure or business trip during the next six months was also on the rise.
Some people have also turned to hotels as a safe place to quarantine during the pandemic. Whether it’s someone who is taking precautions to keep family members safe or an out-of-state traveler who is simply following state guidelines, quarantining in the comfort of a hotel is on the rise. With the holidays fast approaching, this trend is likely to continue and that makes cleanliness especially crucial.
The Consequences of Cleanliness Lapses
While every hotel’s cleaning program is focused on reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission right now, health and safety isn’t the sole reason to raise cleanliness standards. For example, cleanliness can also shape how guests perceive your property. According to new research conducted by The Harris Poll among 2,047 U.S. adults, more than half (53%) of Americans say the level of cleanliness in a hotel they visit would impact their intent to book a future stay at the property. Given the impact the pandemic has had on hotel bookings, properties can’t afford to drive more than half of their guests away.
According to the survey, 49% of Americans say the level of cleanliness in a hotel would impact the perception of the property. Additionally, more than two in five Americans (44%) say the level of cleanliness would affect their desire to recommend the hotel to friends, family or colleagues.
Nearly one third (32%) of Americans say the hotel’s cleanliness would also influence how much money they spend in the hotel, such as in the restaurants, bars or spa. These findings demonstrate that cleanliness not only impacts a guest’s behaviors during their stay, but also their future attitudes and actions.
Strategies for a Successful Stay
Consider the following best practices for your hotel or resort:
- Make your commitment to cleanliness visible. Research supports measures such as sealing rooms post-cleaning, physical distancing and physical barriers. Sealing rooms with branded stickers gives guests assurance that their room has not been tampered with after cleaning is complete. Wall signage and floor markers encouraging physical distancing and reminding people to follow recommended health and safety practices will demonstrate that your property values following guidelines from local health departments, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
- Clean from top to bottom. In addition to cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces like elevator buttons, door handles and counters, it’s important to address the condition of your flooring as well. Another survey by The Harris Poll found that 93% of Americans say dirty carpet in a facility would negatively impact their perception of that business. Regularly addressing spots and stains can keep carpet consistently cleaner. Consider a sustainable, productive and effective low-moisture encapsulation method.
- Don’t lapse as pandemic fatigue sets in. Almost half of prospective travelers (47%) say strict observance of social distancing in public areas would make them feel comfortable in a hotel. Many also feel that it’s important for staff and other guests to continue wearing masks. As the pandemic stretches on, some people are forgoing frequent handwashing and social distancing, but these precautions are still essential. Businesses that continue to enforce these health and safety measures will make guests feel more at ease.
What’s Next for the Hospitality Industry?
There have been many changes to the hospitality industry in the pandemic. The crisis has resulted in estimated losses of $424 billion for the U.S. travel economy. Thankfully, some travelers are eager to get out into the world again.A study published in August 2020 found that 39% of affluent travelers were ready to travel within the next three months, and 66% were ready to travel immediately. Luxury customers are making future plans, booking trips for Q1-Q3 2021.
With another wave of COVID-19 occurring in many areas, it’s possible that the public may pull back on travel plans. While the hospitality sector will undoubtedly rebound, it’s unclear when the majority of travelers will feel confident boarding a plane and staying in a hotel room again. Fortunately, many hotels are taking steps in the right direction to protect guests, which will inevitably help bring more travelers to their properties. Hilton even reported that they surpassed their third quarter earnings predictions and Wyndham is witnessing improved performance metrics as well.
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