The updates from 15.05.2020 are highlighted below according to the European Commission's guidance “COVID-19: EU Guidance for the progressive resumption of tourism services and for health protocols in hospitality establishments”.
In light of the new standards of cleanliness, hygiene, and social distancing, HotelFriend, as a global IT company and the only one solution provider on the market can help every hotelier reopen safely and fast after coronavirus lockdown.
Today, people-to-people industries like hospitality are in dire straits as people fear to spread or contract an infection so that they overwhelmingly engage in social distancing. In addition, the health ministers don't relax the restrictions and allow hotels to reopen. The reason is that it is currently unclear how to maintain hygiene, clean-up staff computers, or clean the menu on the tables the right way.
Anyway, all these issues are here to stay and every hotel should be ready to address a broad spectrum of viruses, including coronavirus. Otherwise, it will not reopen. This is especially true if we remember one striking real-world example of how a single infection can make hundreds of people sick.
Ischgl was the first resort in Austria to announce it was closing after a 36-year old bartender at Kitzloch tested positive for COVID-19. It is claimed that this little town turned into “the breeding ground” of coronavirus and is linked to outbreaks in five other countries.
Fortunately, COVID-19 is coming to an end. However, there appeared new demands for hotels in moving ahead with scheduled openings. Not only does the World Health Organization’s guidelines for accommodation providers resulting from the pandemic dictate new requirements, but also the guests’ expectations for hygiene, cleanliness, and safety are markedly different than before.
Following the shifts toward the above-mentioned expectations, Booking.com sets a minimum cleanliness threshold to enforce quality and safety standards. According to it, each property receives the cleaning scores to meet minimum cleaning quality requirements. If accommodation providers fail to complete the COVID-19 checklist, they are at risk of getting delisted.
So, as we see it, the unexpected outbreak of COVID-19 is one of the toughest challenges hospitality and tourism businesses face today. The consequences of quarantine measures are disastrous for the travel industry. Our sector is experiencing huge financial losses all around the globe.
Apart from that, hoteliers are concerned about ensuring safety for their customers and staff. Talking about the latter, employees are messing around as they don't have a set of necessary tools to work from home. Some hotels have become shelters for guests who need to self-isolate. And their top priority now is finding an efficient way to both protect their guests and maintain regular workflow.
In response to the above, HotelFriend brings together relevant and practical guidelines and general recommendations from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control to help hoteliers meet new requirements and prepare for the return of guests.
The Role of Remote Hotel Management
To start with, telecommuting is a convenient way to run a business. Hotel managers can keep everything under control from any device, and there is no need for them to be present in the hotel. This solution allows conducting business while reducing personal contact of customers and staff. The whole Property Management System is running on cloud-based technology. That means that there is no need to use a particular device and you may access all the information needed via smartphone or laptop.
This mobility is crucial during the times of the pandemic. Hoteliers are free to relocate from their actual workplace to remote, and it will not have any negative impact on their working routine. They will still be able to administer reservations, rates, taxes, etc.
This type of conducting business keeps safe not only the owner but also employees. According to The WHO, regular cleaning and social distancing are two main preventive measures for COVID-19. It is necessary to decrease the number of direct contacts between customers and staff, and that could be achieved by implementing shifts in work and at meal-times, by using phones and digital means of communication. As soon as every member of the staff has, for example, online access to the updating list of the rooms that need cleaning, these requirements will be easy to meet.
1. Using Automated Cloud Technologies as a Preventive Measure
We live in an era of technologies that became the norm for each of us. Sometimes we are not even aware of their presence. But now it’s hard to imagine what our world would be going through right now if there was neither Internet nor digital devices. In other words – no opportunity to continue business administration online and many more cases of closures and job loss as a result.
Yet, technologies are here and they are developing to make life easier for both hoteliers and customers. We should use them to our best, as they can also serve as a protective measure implied by hotels to self-guard the health of their guests.
Here are some tips on how to do it with the help of automated technologies:
By introducing mobile check-ins and check-outs
Fast check-in/check-out option means that guests do not have to spend their time queuing up at the reception. This can be achieved by submitting a photo of documents through the app beforehand. All they have to do after arrival is to say their unique code and unlock the hotel room door with a phone without interacting with the reception desk staff. It is the number one feature for maintaining a safe distance between guests and staff in the hotel.
By implementing contactless payment via smartphone
No-cash payment via smartphone is the fastest and easiest way to make purchases, and it gains popularity all around the globe. Besides, paper bills and coins are potential vectors of Coronavirus transmission. Thus, shifting to POS Hotel System to pay for all provided services with ApplePay or credit card must be a safer option. Customers can install the app by scanning a QR code.
By offering an opportunity to order anything via a mobile special app
If there are guests, who are on self-isolation, they will need a delivery service to provide themselves with food and necessities. The best way to fulfill their needs is by ordering meals and beverages through the Concierge Mobile App. To secure both customers and staff, both sides are recommended to wear protective masks. Moreover, the order should be left outside the room for guests to collect.
By meeting guest’s needs via Direct chat
This suggestion is connected with the one mentioned above. To add any special preferences to one’s order, a customer does not need to address personally to the staff. All the communication needed can easily be done through the Live Chat. The main benefit of this measure is the possibility to communicate with guests in real-time with no personal contact involved. Hoteliers can provide support in urgent situations or discuss any extra requirements on their stay.
By keeping your guests informed with Digital Information System
Hotel management has to provide its guests with relevant information about COVID-19 to prevent the spread of the disease. It must be delivered in a simple and accessible manner. Apart from putting up informational posters with WHO recommendations and instructing staff, hoteliers can use Digital Information System to educate their guests. They can also add emergency contact numbers and evacuation plans in the Info block of the Portfolio. The content will be translated automatically into multiple languages.
That said, it is not the best time to adopt solutions that require additional equipment like iPads or old fashioned telephones, as all the objects in the room that are frequently touched (e.g, handles, buttons, switches, etc.) should be cleaned and disinfected after each guest.
2. Creating or Updating Your Crisis Communications Plan
When an emergency occurs, communication strategies become more important than ever. The business should be able to respond rapidly and unhesitatingly while facing any unexpected event. To be prepared for that, hoteliers need to create and constantly update their crisis communications plans.
Now is the best time to host a meeting with your team to evaluate all of the potential risks that may threaten your business and the health of your guests. The main principle when dealing with this matter is being proactive. That means providing your audience with accurate information, without sugarcoating reality.
The other important thing is understanding your audience. These are not only your employees and customers but also key stakeholders, local community, news media, and suppliers. Include contact information for each audience in your crisis communications plan, so that you can easily access it. The same applies to contact information of your local health department.
Hospitality businesses must constantly keep in touch with local public health authorities in order to receive the latest updates on rules and regulations. There should be ongoing cooperation with governmental bodies to ensure the effectiveness of your approach.
Creating a database of contact details also proves essential when it comes to contact tracing. This measure is required by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and implies using personal information strictly for the purposes of managing the COVID-19 situation.
Another great tip is to prepare instructions on how the work will be organized in case hotel management should work remotely due to the quarantine measures. Being prepared for such a situation is the best way to prevent the risk of spreading the disease in your hotel, as well as reduce confusion.
Be sure that guests receive all current guidance concerning precautions that are implemented in your hotel and that affect their arrival, stay, and departure. You can hang specific signage with necessary information near the entrance to the hotel building (including a version for visually impaired guests). This signage must contain information about symptoms of Coronavirus disease and action for in case they develop symptoms during their stay.
Besides, you must prepare and present a plan for staff and security with the details concerning their roles and duties if there are infected guests in the hotel. This plan should include the whole scenario of actions from the decision to reopen up to 14 days after customers have departed. It must be available at all times.
Finally, hoteliers should prepare “holding statements”. These are messages prepared in advance to be immediately spread after the crisis occurs. To create them, try to think about questions that each audience might want to know answers to. Those statements can be pre-scripted with blanks to be filled in when needed.
3. Providing Special Training for Staff
What is known about COVID-19 for now is that it may remain viable for 2 hours to 9 days on surfaces made from different materials. Regular cleaning and disinfection of the surfaces are vital to help combat the spread of viruses. To feel safe, your guests need to be sure that your hotel meets normative guidance on hygiene and cleaning.
The main recommendations on this matter are:
● Educate your staff on how to clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces. Remind them about wearing disposable gloves and surgical masks. Instruct them on which cleaning solutions they should use and how to do it properly. These can be, for example, diluted bleach solutions or alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol.
● Tell your staff how to do laundry properly. Suggest using the warmest appropriate water setting. They must also wear disposable gloves when handling dirty laundry from a person who is ill.
● Monitor the condition of air-conditioning filters and the proper functioning of ventilation, air exchange, and dehumidification equipment, as well as maintain the proper replacement rate of indoor air. Teach your staff to properly ventilate the room after guests who have departed.
● Insist on the importance of washing hands frequently with soap and warm water for at least 20-30 seconds. Place information infographics concerning hand hygiene at key areas. Ensure easy access to soap and alcohol-based hand rub solutions.
● Insist on the importance and obligation of following the respiratory etiquette. That means that customers and staff must sneeze or cough into a one-off paper tissue or elbow bend.
● Implement targeted measures to ensure maintaining physical distancing (of 1,5 to 2 m.) in the areas, where customers and staff tend to gather for prolonged periods of time. For example, establish the maximum number of people allowed in the restaurant or lobby.
● If maintaining social distancing cannot be properly controlled, consider using barrier methods of protection such as the use of plastic teller panels. Hoteliers should also make special arrangements that allow applying disinfection measures and physical distancing in outdoor and indoor areas. All events and concerts should be postponed until further notice.
● Train your staff to listen at the door for signs of coughing before entering the guest’s room. If the door is already opened, they should look for markers such as medicines or used paper tissues. If they suspect that a person is ill, they must leave immediately and report to security management. The security manager is to make a call and offer to arrange medical support.
● The same applies to room service. In case they hear a cough, they must leave food at the door and report to security.
● If there is a suspected case of Coronavirus disease among employees or guests of the hotel, this person must self-isolate and get tested in a local medical facility.
● If there is someone who proved sick, cleaning personnel must clean their room in a Hazardous Material suit.
● Adopt HotelFriend Digitization Package as it includes a number of tools that will help you maintain social distancing and adjust your hotel to new requirements:
1. Marketplace - commission-free room booking.
2. Voucher sales - immediate revenue generation.
3. Cloud-based hotel software - every employee can work remotely, including a home office.
4. Information app - everything you need to know about the hotel.
5. Service order app - social distancing is achieved with any customer orders.
6. This Package is FREE for hoteliers for the next 2 years!
7. The claim of 9000 € from the federal government - the assumption of the costs for the provision of this solution.
A Matter of Trust
Businesses are going through the hardest times in their history, and it is global. Still, “this too shall pass”, and an important thing during this time is staying humane towards each other. Be responsible and support both customers who may be stuck in a foreign country, and staff who risk their health, going to work daily.
This whole situation will end, but relationships will last, and hoteliers have to do everything they can to keep them trusting. Implementing automation and training for staff will help you to maintain social distancing in the hotel. Creating a crisis communications plan will help to minimize the chances of misinterpreting information about your business in the media. And all of that combined together will definitely build an impeccable reputation for your business.
Stay tuned and connected during and after the outbreak. The list will be updated as new measures are announced.