Visible cleanliness cues will be vital to rebuilding trust in the hospitality sector as hotels reopen.
That is the view of an industry leading panel assembled earlier for the new In Sync online trade show from Questex.
Keith Barr, chief executive of InterContinental Hotels Group, said there had been a shift in recent weeks, with owners asking which hygiene standards would be needed as properties return to market.
“The dialogue has moved on in recent days, we had been asked to lobby governments and secure what support we could, but now we are being asked about hygiene standards, and how to protect colleagues and customers.
“The collaboration we have seen in this area has been great so far.
“We have partnered with Cleveland Clinic, Ecolab and Diversey to develop a world-class offering.”
Speaking to Questex Hospitality editor-in-chief, EMEA, Katherine Doggrell, he added: “Our owners want to know we are able to offer that added security, for us to show we are taking this seriously, that we are able to source personal protective equipment, for example.”
Barr added that larger hotel brands had an advantage, as they were able to leverage an existing reputation for cleanliness.
“Customers believe in us; in the institutional cleaning processes we have.
“But those visible cues will be key – highlighting social distancing, having cleaning staff visible more often in public areas – customers will want to see more of this.
“In the rooms, we are looking at adding cleaning wipes, sanitiser – this will help us develop our already strong reputation for hygiene.”
Federico González, chief executive with Radisson Hotel Group, agreed hygiene would be vital moving forward, but stated any standards must be industry wide.
“We are getting ready to reopen as soon as the situation allows – but a high level of uncertainty remains.
“To build confidence, new standards need to be across the industry, standards that the consumer can understand,” he explained.
González pointed to the protocol recently developed by the World Travel & Tourism Council as a good starting point.
“This common reference will be key, and if we fail to deliver it, we will be punished,” he said.
Pointing to the star rating system, the Radisson chief said it means “nothing” to the consumer, due to large variations in international standards.
“What we need is a standard from a third party to offer a trusted reference point, without marketing or gimmicks,” he added.
While the immediate impact of Covid-19 is expected to lessen in the coming months, the shape of travel is unlikely to be the same.
The leaders emerging stronger from the crisis will be those who will have learnt the lessons quickly and adapted to a new world scene in which travel, and hospitality, call for a more conscious mindset.
In the view of David Kong, chief executive of Best Western Hotel Group, hygiene will dominate in the new normal.
“We are getting into a war about cleanliness, and this is a good thing – cleanliness is going to be extremely important,” he said.
“Our guests will want to see visual cues, explaining the cleaning protocol that has been put in place – this includes signs, social distancing marked on the floor.
“They will want to see sanitisation stations throughout the hotel, a decluttered guest room.”
He added that costs may rise as a result.
“There will obviously be more cost, the time it will take thoroughly clean a room on checkout will be 50-100 per cent longer.
“But there maybe be some cost saving, too, if hotels to do not have to service the room fully each day, then it will take fewer staff, so it will be about working out how to implement these things as hotels reopen.”
Questex Hospitality Group is hosting In Sync, a virtual event that commits to uniting senior leadership across the global hospitality sector.
The event programme looks at the global hospitality investment landscape and how to plan for its future.
Find out more on the official website.