COVID-19 Provides New Challenges and New Opportunities for Hotels

People are starting to make future travel plans but are still concerned, as we all are, about returning to a sense of normality while staying safe and healthy.
Photo by Sara Kurfeß on Unsplash

Now more than ever, during these times of uncertainty, travelers want to feel confident about their choices, health and safety throughout their experience with your hotel even before they arrive. This is just as important for independent hotel owners to embrace as it is for leaders of larger, more recognized hotel brands.

As you anticipate an increase in hotel customers and traffic throughout your business, how can you prepare a safe environment for them while still providing the engaging experience they have come to expect and appreciate?

1. Commitment - Your mindfulness and commitment to the health and safety of your guests has to surpass any level of commitment you embraced in the past. Your awareness and level of commitment will show in the details of cleanliness and transparency you share with each guest. This has to be ongoing. As you know, the COVID-19 pandemic is not going away any time soon, and neither are the valid concerns of travelers.

2. Expectations - It is important to recognize that the expectations of travelers might be different as well. If they have one question for you it might be something as this: "Will I be safe at your hotel or is it too risky to make a reservation to stay there?" That can seem like a heavy burden and a unique challenge for you as hotel owners and employees. Travelers need to feel that their health and safety is important to you just as it is for them and their families. Some hotels are displaying cleaning checklists in each room for items sanitized. Others are simply detailing their ongoing efforts on their website. Just keep in mind, travelers will definitely be letting you know what is most important to them as we continue to evolve in this new way of life.

3. Flexibility and Options - Revisit your own website and booking process. How can you provide more flexibility for guests when it comes to making reservations, changing reservation dates, and even canceling reservations? Some major brands are offering multiple booking options, with at least one rate option allowing for more reservation flexibility, with other options clearly listed as non-refundable or with their standard cancellation policy. Be willing to be flexible whenever possible, which involves educating your staff on how they can best assist guests. This will empower guests to have a sense of control when they experience unexpected changes with their travel plans.

4. Transparency - This is very important for the future success of your hotel business. Be transparent with your hotel guests in every way possible. Acknowledge their legitimate concerns. Genuinely state your commitment to provide a clean and safe place to lodge. What changes have you made to your cleaning practices? What can guests expect at your hotel? Guests are asking and looking for that information. Be transparent with your booking/cancellation policies. Be willing to be flexible whenever you can. However, make sure your policies are stated in a clear manner. Update your website as needed so information is up-to-date and accurate. Travelers want to be informed.

5. Adaptability - It is very important for you to stay informed with local, state and federal guidelines as they may change periodically. Also, more attention to maintaining an extra clean, sanitized hotel facility (including frequent touch spots and key cards) requires effort from everyone - every day, every shift. Consistency will go a long way in travelers recognizing all of your efforts and will help them relax and simply enjoy their stay at your hotel.

People and businesses will be reappearing as travelers with a new mindset. As you probably already know, some things within the hotel industry will never change, such as the beauty of genuine hospitality. These uncertain, challenging times provide new opportunities to engage even more, to reassure your guests, and to invest in the future success and reputation of your hotel.

Hotel Owners: I would like to hear from you. Has your hotel business been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic? What changes have you experienced? Have you modified your business practices?