It is almost surreal to realize that we have been living with the global pandemic for a year now. Almost one year ago to the day international travel was halted, the NBA suspended its season, and Tom Hanks & Rita Wilson contracted COVID-19. So much has happened since then that it seems like the past year has been a decade if not longer! But we have persevered, and we should take heed of what we’ve been able to accomplish and how our operations have changed over the past year.
Last year at this time we were still figuring out the logistics of cleaning, staying healthy, and operating amidst the uncertainty. Today, hand sanitizer stations, plexiglass barriers, face masks, and social distancing have become normal. And while we hope that the rollout of the vaccines means an end is in sight, there have been a number of changes that may well carry forward once the pandemic is over.
The first of these is a commitment to extreme cleanliness and health & safety standards. While we anticipate being able to congregate once again, we are recommitted to the basic necessities of cleaning, cleaning, and cleaning some more. Hand washing, face masks, wiping down surfaces, and other effective solutions have not only reduced the spread of COVID, but they’ve also significantly reduced the number of flu cases. Recommitting to the health & safety of our team members and guests alike is an important part of keeping smooth operations running.
Similarly, we’ve been reevaluating housekeeping needs for stayover guests. For some time now there has been a trend to reduce housekeeping labor by incentivizing guests to decline daily housekeeping. As health & safety continue to be an ongoing concern coupled with upward wage pressure, there may be a shift in the way many hotels provide housekeeping services. This isn’t to say that regular cleanings of common areas and for checkouts won’t occur but rather that just like most of us don’t have daily cleaning in our homes, we may not need this in our guest rooms.
On a related note, we continue to explore effective staffing models post-pandemic. While many of our team members have been furloughed and may still not be back to work, we’ve had to adapt and provide as effective of a guest service opportunity as possible given local health restrictions and financial constraints. But as we are an adaptable industry, changes to staffing levels coupled with the introduction of additional technology solutions may make us reconsider what an effective guest experience looks like moving forward.
And for those of us with Food & Beverage (F&B) offerings, it goes without saying that this department has gone through a wholesale change. Whereas grab ‘n go was considered niche, it has now become mainstay. And many of us converted outdoor spaces to provide for seated dining experiences. We’ve had to reconsider what effective F&B offerings are so they are tasty, cost-effective, and still aesthetically pleasing. Plus, many of us are keen on alcohol delivery services and this may continue post-pandemic!
One thing to realize is that we are resilient. While the past year has been a struggle and our financial positions continue to be tenuous, the pent-up demand for travel and the need for people to engage in face-to-face contact provide rays of hope for the future. And as we continue to adapt to the new normal, it also provides us with an opportunity to reevaluate the guest experience thus providing greater returns.