How Will the US Hotel Experience Change Post COVID-19?

As hotel occupancy ticks up ever so slightly, the lodging industry is putting new standards in place to enhance cleaning and ensure guest safety.

One organization working overtime to make sure that these new measures are clear and communicated effectively to the public is the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA), which has created Safe Stay guidelines for the industry.

“Safe Stay was developed specifically to ensure enhanced safety for hotels guests and employees. While hotels have always employed demanding cleaning standards, this new initiative will ensure greater transparency and confidence throughout the entire hotel experience,” said Chip Rogers, president and CEO of AHLA. “The industry’s enhanced hotel cleaning practices, social interactions, and workplace protocols will continue to evolve to meet the new health and safety challenges and expectations presented by COVID-19.”

Travelers in states where shelter in place and stay at home orders have been lifted may be looking to travel and stay in a hotel soon. What will that look like in the “new normal?”

Hygiene will be the number one priority. The Safe Stay guidelines promote frequent handwashing for employees, hand sanitizer dispensers, signage, instructions for mask-wearing and more.

Major hotel brands have launched their own programs, too, partnering with brands such as Clorox and Lysol and the Mayo Clinic.

Hilton CleanStay was launched in partnership with the makers of Lysol as well as the Mayo Clinic. Marriott announced a Global Cleanliness Council, a panel of experts on everything from food and water safety, infection prevention and hygiene, and hotel operations.

Visitors will have a much more contact-less experience when they visit properties while maintaining social distancing guidelines and new standards of cleanliness.

Hilton will have a CleanStay room seal on guestroom doors and guests will no longer find shared amenities such as pens and paper in the room and room directories will be made digital.

Travelers are also likely to find keyless entry to rooms and disinfecting wipes for touching elevator buttons. Room service menus and ordering will likely be done on mobile apps.

Guests should also arrive expecting to self park their vehicles. Resorts such as Omni have limited valet services and instituted social distancing protocols where self-parking is unavailable.

There will also be limits on the number of people allowed to congregate in different areas with limited seating in lobbies, bars and restaurants in order to observe social distancing guidelines. The days of buffet dining may also be a thing of the past. AHLA guidelines say that room service should use contactless delivery and that buffets should be limited and served by an attendant in personal protective equipment. Pre-packaged and grab and go options are encouraged.

Guests may have to plan out their visits to the gym. Expect fitness centers to close multiple times per day for cleaning as well as socially distanced pool areas with lounge chairs six feet apart.

Behind the scenes there will be new cleaning technologies utilized.

One example is Marriott’s deployment of electrostatic sprayers and the use of the highest-grade disinfectant products. Electrostatic cleaning really gives a deep clean to surfaces, the spraying is a method where a device is used to apply an electric charge to a disinfectant, enabling the disinfectant to more effectively cover a surface than traditional cleaning methods.

One of the aspects of hotel stays that remains unknown is how many properties will institute temperature checks but travelers should expect the practice may become quite common.

The Venetian in Las Vegas said that it will use thermal scanners at entry points for a non-invasive temperature check.

Many properties will screen the health of their employees and include temperature checks.

Caesars Entertainment said that it will institute health screenings for all employees that include taking temperatures and COVID-19 testing.

While most hotel guidelines call for near-constant cleaning and disinfecting, travelers can also do their part.

Hand washing and the use of hand sanitizer should be frequent when traveling. Many properties plan to provide face masks and disinfectant wipes, but it doesn’t hurt to bring your own and wipe down surfaces, doorknobs and buttons.

Wearing a face mask is also recommended to protect both you and those around you.

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LEGOLAND Florida Resort Will Reopen to Guests June 1

LEGOLAND Theme Park, LEGOLAND Waterpark and the all-new LEGOLAND Pirate Island Hotel will open with enhanced health and safety protocols in place on June 1.

“As part of Merlin Entertainments, our leaders across the globe have been sharing best practices daily, and we’ve been able to apply what we’ve learned from other successful Merlin attraction reopenings to be confident with our Resort’s reopening plan. In addition, we have also sought guidance from our partners at AdventHealth,” said General Manager of LEGOLAND Florida Resort Rex Jackson. “We’re ready to play, and we look forward to reopening LEGOLAND Florida Resort as a safe and memorable place for families to play again.”

The reopening of LEGOLAND Florida Resort, and its extensive new measures concerning the health of employees and guests, has been approved by the Polk County Commission and Winter Haven Mayor Bradley T. Dantzler and fully complies with Governor DeSantis’ Executive Order 2020-123.

It’s highly suggested that guests should plan their visits in advance – including purchasing advance tickets, reviewing new procedures and downloading the resort’s mobile app. Some measures guests should be aware of for visiting the parks include:

—The resort will operate at only 50 percent of its capacity.

—Guests driving to the park should always leave one parking space in between cars.

—Cash will not be accepted on property; guests should pay using only credit or debit cards.

—All employees and guests will be required to partake in noninvasive temperature checks. Should one person in your party have a temperature of 100.4 F or higher, no one in your party will be admitted.

—Complimentary masks will be given and highly encouraged to be worn – to all guests over the age of three.

—Increased cleaning and sanitization processes will take place throughout the day, especially for high-frequency touchpoints (i.e. door handles, ride restraints, service counters).

—Social distancing markers have been placed throughout the park compatible with the resort’s theme.

—Not all attractions will be open including character meet and greets – since they cannot comply with physical distancing measures.

—The resort will see abbreviated park operating hours, with LEGOLAND Theme Park open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and LEGOLAND Waterpark open daily from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Through the park’s mobile app, guests can view locations of the 200+ hand sanitizing stations that have been installed. LEGOLAND Florida is also working on a virtual queue system that will be rolled out to its mobile app in the coming weeks.

Guests can review all new protocols and procedures on LEGOLAND Florida Resort’s website.

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What Will the Future of Business Travel Look Like Post COVID-19?

The coronavirus pandemic has driven business travel to a halt, but what will it look like when workers hit the road again?

A late April study from the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) found optimism about a return.

“The global business travel industry remains at a standstill, but we are finally beginning to see some light at the end of this very long tunnel,” said Scott Solombrino, GBTA CEO. “GBTA members are planning their post-coronavirus recovery plans and most expect to be operational in 2020. This is a positive sign. The majority of GBTA member companies expect domestic business travel to resume in the next two to three months and most expect employees will be willing to travel. We have waited a long time for there to be optimism around the pandemic in our industry, and it should continue to grow as we get closer to halting the spread of this disease.”

While many see business travel resuming before year’s end, it’s unclear what shape that may take. One important aspect is how comfortable workers will feel about traveling.

In the latest wave of MMGY’s Travel Intentions Pulse Survey (TIPS), there was the slightest uptick in the number of travelers who felt safer about attending off-site business meetings.

In March, 16 percent of respondents felt safer, but in early April that dipped to 11 percent. However, in its latest wave of the survey ending on April 24, that number ticked back up to 17 percent.

GBTA found that a number of benchmarks need to be met before travelers feel comfortable traveling for work once again.

Ninety-two percent said that they needed to see a decline in new infection rates, and 91 percent said that governments needed to lift travel restrictions or advisories. Ninety percent noted they would need to see guidelines or statements from public health agencies such as the WHO or CDC and eighty-nine percent said there needed to be effective anti-viral treatments.

Many business travelers noted that stay-at-home orders would need to be removed before they would participate in business travel and that they would want a vaccine.

However, like leisure travel, business travelers are looking forward to getting back on the road. Twenty-six percent said they were eager to travel again for business in the early April TIPS survey and more, 28 percent, replied the same in the latest wave of the survey.

A major hurdle for getting business travelers back on the road is getting people to feel comfortable again in more crowded spaces such as on airplanes and in airports.

Already, airlines such as American, Delta, Lufthansa and United are blocking middle seats to create more distance. Airports could institute new measures such as temperature checks in the future, as well.

There will also be a lot of promotion and reassurance of customers regarding cleanliness. Hotels are already rapidly updating and promoting new policies on cleaning and disinfecting spaces.

The American Hotel & Lodging Association is working on new health and safety standards. “Safe Stay” measures include guest health protocols, employee responsibilities, cleaning guidelines and social distancing requirements. In addition, the rules will be updated in accordance with all federal, state and local laws.

“Hospitality at its core is an industry of people taking care of people,” AHLA CEO Chip Rogers said in a statement. “The safety of our guests and employees has always been our number one priority. Now as we work to reopen our nation’s economy, we want to ensure travelers that hotels will be cleaner and safer than ever before when they are ready to resume traveling once again.”

While many people have been connecting via Zoom, WebEx and GoToMeeting, experts say that face-to-face meetings will not disappear altogether, necessitating business travel in the future.

“People will still need to network, learn, build relationships,” Evan Konwiser, executive vice president of product and strategy for American Express Global Business Travel told the New York Times. “None of this will change. There will probably be less density and more hand sanitizer.”

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How the Hotel Industry Will Bounce Back After COVID-19

The resiliency of the hotel industry will help it rebound as the effects of the coronavirus ebb, according to GlobalData, a data and analytics firm.

“It is imperative that hotels across the globe remember how they have overcome a range of past crises, such as natural disasters, the SARS outbreak and acts of terrorism when thinking through their strategies to handle the COVID-19 crisis,” said Ralph Hollister, a travel and tourism analyst for GlobalData. “As the impact of COVID-19 lessens and demand increases, it is crucial that hotels act in a proactive manner by effectively managing room rates and marketing offers to maximize revenues.”

He added, “Hotels that are the fastest to drop their room rates and who provide the heaviest discounts will often be the last ones to recover when demand eventually returns. Many hotels will not be able to return to their normal rates instantly after demand for travel returns.”

In the view of Becky Lukovic of Bella Travel Planning, it depends on how deep the discounts are and how many properties are offering them.

“The public is expecting discounts so they will be drawn to the properties offering [them], provided they are in an [properties with] acceptable levels of comfort and service,” she said. “That said, those who discount may take longer to recoup their lost income and it might be difficult to stay afloat. We also need to keep in mind that a good portion of the traveling public may also be hurting financially, so travelers may need these discounts to even consider traveling.

Claire Schoeder of Elevations Travel noted that in the past, hotels were the fastest at dramatically dropping rates subsequently had issues in obtaining new bookings when demand increased and rates were raised significantly.

“Travelers saw that and selected hotels that did not appear to have substantial price increases when demand increased,” she said. “A number of hotels lowered prices a bit and then simply raised rates as demand increased. There was not a substantial decrease or increase,” she said.

Meanwhile, Susie Chau of Carpe Diem Traveler believes that hotel rates will need to be adjusted going forward, and in all likelihood, increase based on supply and demand.

“Some hotels may offer initial discounts to lure the first wave of travelers, but that’s likely not financially sustainable after such devastating losses over the period that the travel restrictions will last,” she said.

Travel advisors, meanwhile, were mixed on how and when the hotel industry will make a recovery.

“If this ends relatively soon (like before summer), then I think people will trickle back into travel in the summer and many will keep their reservations for fall,” Lukovic said. “That said, we have an election coming up, and historically, from my perspective, the uncertainty an election brings keeps people home near those months.”

Said Chau, “Some travelers will have very itchy feet and want to leave home as soon as possible, while others may be more cautious in the beginning and/or will not have the same financial means to travel as they did before the crisis.”

For her part, Schoeder is of the opinion that the hotel industry will indeed be one of the first travel segments to bounce back. “I think we will see hotels offering very attractive promotions that will not damage their brand to get people booking again,” she said.

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