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Article by HNS
Posted on 13 June 2020
Hotels, bars, restaurants and pubs have reopened in a few countries around the world. If you think that our biggest challenge will be to encourage guests to come to our hotels after lockdown, we warn you: The challenge is a little bit different.
Right now, there are people travelling by car and plane and checking-in at hotels for both business and leisure. We've spoken to ten people who had the opportunity to eat at restaurants and stay at hotels in different countries in the last couple of weeks.
To our surprise, every single one of them stated that they couldn't wait to travel again but once they did and experienced hotels and restaurants which are of course following their government guidelines, they realised they would rather not travel again for the next few months.
We all know that when lockdown is over, things will look a bit different at hotels and restaurants. In fact, they already do. We will all get used to following arrows, using hand sanitisers every time we touch a door knob, we will get used to following regulations, guidelines and being constantly careful how we interact with one another.
The biggest issue we have in the hospitality sector is that if we overdo on health & safety to the extent that the quality of guest and diner experience is damaged, people will simply prefer a more relaxing environment: Their own homes.
All ten people we spoke to have stated that their experience at hotels and restaurants overseas was so controlled and formal, that they didn't feel they could fully relax. "It felt like going through security at airports" said regional saler director Camilla Roberts. "You have to go through the discomfort of being told what to do and how to behave until you can relax in your bedroom. You don't really feel like going out of the bedroom after that", she continued.
"The biggest problem for me was engaging with staff wearing masks, you can just tell it's uncomfortable for them to wear them for long periods of time and you feel a bit self conscious not knowing when they are smiling", said John Dean. "The whole experience felt sterile, you are afraid to cough or laugh in case it bothers the guy eating nearby, you just end up eating quickly and leaving".
Speaking to Russell Imrie, managing director of Queensferry Hotels, he said:
"The challenge for hotels is to create a visible safe environment for guests who will understandably be nervous about restarting travel and not diluting the essential welcoming atmosphere of a hotel stay. Hotels will have to put in place the guidelines for cleanliness & safety which are about to be published this coming week. Hotels will only be able to open and operate with these protocols in place. Many corporate agents are requiring hotels to put verifiable standards in place and to publish these standards. Agents and large corporate customers will not place business into hotels without these protocols and standards in place. It’s all about reassurance, standards and certification for these clients. On the other hand, hotels whose market is predominately independent leisure travellers may not need to be so ouvert in their cleanliness, hygiene and safety and will probably not need to bother with independent certification. These independent leisure travellers probably do not want to see hotels change too much from the past. However it’s inevitable that hotel operations will change, its just that they will change more in the branded, corporate market sector than they will in the unbranded, independent leisure sector. In relation to cleanliness, hygiene and safety, everyone has a duty of care to clients and staff. Agents will want to see heightened cleanliness, hygiene and safety, perhaps at the expense of hotel aesthetics. They will want highly visible standards to give their clients reassurance that the agent has selected a safe hotel. The individual, independent guest will be less influenced by a third party and although wanting to feel reassured and safe, they will also want the hotel stay experience they know and love to not become too diluted. The strategy for hotels will be how to satisfy both guest segments: ouvert standards of safety and cleanliness for corporate customers who principally want a functional stay and subliminal standards for independent leisure customers who want an experiencial stay."
Hotels will have to follow guidelines but what can we do to make guest experience feel less controlled and sterile? Think about body language, sense of humour and ways in which you can make people feel welcome and relaxed despite the new procedures in place.
We should embrace Scottish sense of humour to humanise and personalise guest experience as much as possible. Treating everyone as a threat to other people's health could make everyone simply prefer staying at home.
The sudden boom in staycations will happen as people can't wait to travel, but if their experience isn't as enjoyable because of the way we enforce guidelines, this could affect our sector dramatically in the long run.
Remember the sign below, shared by the NHS via email.
Food for thought by @EditorFiveStar
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Article by HNS
Posted on 13 June 2020