When COVID-19 hit across the globe, people were given strict orders to stay home and avoid all unnecessary travel. Even necessary business travel was grounded for a time as companies found ways to handle seminars and meetings virtually instead of requiring their people to travel. As a result, the hotel industry suffered.
Yet 2021 marks a year since the pandemic began, and people are starting to venture out. As vaccination rates rise and people feel more confident exploring the world again, the demand for hotels is expected to increase. Yet many people still fear accidental exposure to the virus while traveling, so today’s hotels are taking measures to protect their guests and lure them back again.
Are Hotels Open?
Hotels are open during the pandemic. In fact, few have completely closed, though some have had temporary closures due to exposures or cases among staff. Even during the main shutdowns at the start of the pandemic, hotels were considered essential businesses.
However, hotels have struggled because of the pandemic and COVID travel restrictions that kept people home. Fewer people were taking vacations, and telecommuting meant fewer people were taking business trips. This has caused serious financial trouble for hotels.
Even though they are still open, hotels find they have fewer guests due to the pandemic. The Hyatt chain posted a $304 million loss in the three months of 2021 that ended with March. Fewer people are traveling due to the pandemic, and those who are traveling do not wish to stay in hotels.
Are Hotels Safe During COVID?
People are choosing not to utilize hotels due to the pandemic, but are they safe? Can hotels keep hotel amenities free of contamination if a sick person stays in them?
The truth is that any travel does create a risk of exposure to the virus, but hotel safety measures are in place to reduce this risk for guests. Staying in a hotel that is using safety protocols, such as requiring masks and increasing the frequency of cleanings, is considered very low risk, even in the pandemic, provided the individuals are staying in rooms with members of their own families only.
What Hotels Are Doing to Lure Travelers Back
Hotels are struggling because of the pandemic. However, as vaccine rates rise and we pass the one-year mark of the pandemic and related shutdowns, more and more people are wanting to get out and start traveling again. As a result, hotels are trying to entice travelers back to their doors, instead of pushing them to home rentals and other accommodations. Here are some ways hotels are working to get their customers back.
1. Increased Sanitation Measures
Sanitation protocols are one of the biggest ways hotels can help make people feel safe again. Now, when someone leaves a hotel and the staff cleans between guests, every surface in the hotel room is likely sanitized, including all light switches and tabletops. Some hotels are using aerosol sanitation to clean rooms, as well. Some have even invested in air filtration to help reduce any risk for their guests.
2. Flexible Booking Policies
No one wants to book travel that’s non-refundable only to test positive or have an exposure in their family and have to lose that money while quarantining. The hotels that are the most appealing to travelers right now are those that have extremely flexible booking policies. This may mean fully refundable reservations or reservations that are easy to transfer to another date if someone needs to quarantine or otherwise feels unwell.
3. Strict Mask-Wearing Policies
Hotels that want to draw travelers back should enforce strict mask-wearing, even in parts of the country where the governors do not require mask-wearing. Guests and staff wearing masks in common areas can greatly reduce the risk of exposure even while using the hotel’s amenities.
4. Room Blocking
Some larger chains are using a technique called room blocking. This involves keeping rooms empty for a few days between guests to allow for better sanitation. Back-to-back guests increase the risk of exposure. However, this may be hard for a small hotel to do and pay the bills.
5. Minimal Contact
Checking in and checking out is often when the hotel can put a positive face on the stay for the guests. However, minimizing contact during these processes is important right now. Plexiglass shields between staff and guests can help, as can contactless payment options or simply having the guest swipe his or her own card. Contactless checkout, which would mean nothing more than a call to the front desk to say you’re leaving, is possible and helpful.
6. COVID-Focused Advertising
Having these policies in place is vital at this time, but if potential guests don’t know what a hotel is doing to protect them, the policies may fall flat. Many hotels are focusing on their sanitation procedures—especially those that may seem unique to their chain—when advertising right now. COVID-focused advertising will make guests feel more comfortable staying at a hotel and increase the chances of a booking with that hotel rather than a competitor.
7. New Loyalty Rewards
Not every step a hotel takes to entice travelers back involves sanitation and COVID-focused changes. Sometimes it is simply about adding perks to make a specific chain more appealing than a competitor. Improved loyalty rewards programs, increasing the number of points awarded to program members and improving the benefits of staying with that particular hotel are all key to building business in a post-pandemic world.
8. New Discounts
A hotel room with a guest always earns more money than one that sits empty. To lure back COVID-weary travelers, some hotels are offering new discounts. Like airline flights, some hotel rates are the lowest they have ever been, particularly in low travel seasons. Other types of discounts, like a free night if you stay a certain number of nights or tickets to an attraction included with your booked stay, are also viable incentives to draw travelers back.
9. Partnerships with Other Travel-Related Companies
Some hotels are partnering with others in the travel industry to lure customers and guests. For example, a local restaurant and a local hotel chain may offer a package deal, or a tour company may partner with a hotel to create an adventure package. These packages offer some sort of discount to the traveler while bringing new customers to both the hotel and the attraction.
10. Staff Health Checks
Having a staff member bring COVID to the hotel will not create a positive image among the travel community, so most hotels are having strict staff health checks. Temperature taking and health screenings before staff checks in to work are becoming commonplace. This is yet another way that hotels are protecting travelers.
11. Health-Focused Signage
Throughout hotels, signage encouraging guests about steps to take to stop the spread, and outlining those steps, helps people feel more confident. Signs on doors stating masks are required, hand sanitizing stations that recommend staying clean, and posters outlining the sanitation process for rooms are all part of bringing people back to hotels during and after the pandemic.
12. Changed Breakfasts
Finally, many hotels are changing their hot and continental breakfasts from a buffet-style serving method to a grab-and-go method with pre-packaged breakfast foods. This allows the hotel to continue offering this perk, which travelers often rely on in the mornings, without exposing them to the threat of contamination from a buffet. Prepackaged, individually wrapped breakfast items and utensils taken to the room and consumed in private are becoming the norm in the hotel industry.
Even in Challenging Times, Hospitality is Alive and Well. Start Your Hospitality Career!
COVID-19 has created some changes in the hospitality industry, but it has not eliminated it altogether. People are still traveling, and they need places to stay when they do. Getting a degree in tourism and hospitality will prepare you for this new world and the need to welcome COVID-weary travelers to a healthy and safe hotel experience. JWU Online offers a number of programs students can complete 100% online for those interested in a career in this industry.
A career in the travel and tourism industry awaits. Earn your bachelor’s degree in tourism and hospitality management. For more information, complete the Request Info form, call 855-JWU-1881, or email [email protected].