Hotel cleanliness has always been a core concern of travelers, but COVID-19 has driven its importance to unprecedented levels – and that means trusted travel agents must be more informed of a property’s cleaning and disinfecting procedures than ever before in order to confidently sell leisure and business travel.
The expectation is that hotels will be following guidance from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), but consumers want to know more specifics. Here are the top five questions travel agents should ask hotels in order to gather that crucial information for their clients.
#1 – What elevated hygiene measures are you implementing?
Query hotels about how they are reinforcing the cleaning and disinfecting of all spaces. Ensure that hand sanitizer dispensers are available in all rooms and throughout the property. See if temperature checks of all employees, guests and anyone entering the property are routinely being conducted, particularly for pools, gyms, spas, children’s play areas, restaurants, entrance areas and any public spaces. Is there mandatory staff-use of gloves, masks and disposable paper items, and are these items available in guest accommodations? Are expanded medical services offered for staff and guests, and what is the plan for containing anyone who exhibits symptoms?
#2 – How are you leveraging technology in order to operate as safely as possible?
Advanced use of technology that results in minimizing person-to-person contact while enhancing service is becoming top-of-mind for travelers. Online check-in and check-out are likely to become standard operating procedures, but how else is a hotel innovating with technology? Consumers are inclined to favor properties that promote digital information via their apps, in-room TV and web portal – with the goal of eventually eliminating all unessential in-room stationary, printed menus and brochures. Companies like Grand Palladium Hotels & Resorts and TRS Hotels are leveraging these digital channels so guests can easily make restaurant reservations, access bar menus, receive pertinent hotel information, be informed of hygiene and cleaning protocols, and query staff through a real-time chat feature.
Properties addressing enhanced air quality – from installing ozone and mist disinfection systems to purify the air to the possibility of incorporating allergen-free purified rooms to improve guest well-being – may also appeal to consumers.
#3 – What changes are being instituted in order to ensure a safe dining environment?
Dining experiences are being re-imagined for optimum safety. Ensure that hotels have established a pre-determined number of individuals to be allowed in restaurants and bars in order to reduce capacity. Are tables being set with fully disinfected or disposable tableware, glassware, cutlery and napkins? Ask if properties are prioritizing individual portions, a la carte service, single-use packaging and table-side drink service. See if room service and personalized show cooking are being promoted.
#4 – How will you encourage social distancing?
“Social distancing” is now a part of your clients’ everyday vocabulary. Question properties about how they are monitoring typically high-density spots, like pools, beaches, restaurants and the front desk area. Are markers placed on the ground to keep people six feet apart? Are reservations encouraged or mandatory for restaurants, gyms, water areas and children’s areas? Do social distance rules apply to guests, staff and anyone coming on-property?
#5 – How are staff being trained so that all cleaning and disinfecting measures can be successfully carried out?
With cleaning and disinfecting protocols in place, staff execution of those procedures is critical. Make sure the hotels where you book your clients are training their staff to the highest levels so all protocols are carried out effectively. Ask about training details. Is there a reference manual of best practices and instructions on all cleaning and disinfection regulations? Are measures being carried out and shared with guests through multiple channels (and is guest compliance requested)? Are staff provided with all the necessary protective equipment, and are they fully trained to resolve any questions from concerned guests?
For an added level of consumer comfort, Palladium Hotel Group has partnered with SGS, the world's leading entity in the sector for the certification and implementation of a new safety and welfare protocol. Additionally, the hotel company has launched the Palladium Hotel Group Global Customer Experience and Safety Council, which is responsible for ensuring strict compliance of the new standards in all hotels. Giving further peace of mind, guests staying at all Grand Palladium Hotels & Resorts and TRS Hotels are covered by a new complimentary health insurance policy that protects them during their vacation against unforeseen circumstances related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Informed agents are always best positioned to most effectively sell travel, especially in a world forever changed by COVID-19. Asking hotels the right questions means agents can be the reliable information resource that consumers need, so they can travel with a deeper degree of comfort.