As people all over the world consider booking hotels once again, hygiene, safety and flexibility have become of paramount importance. We’re looking at the future of hotel stays after the coronavirus outbreak and what new measures are there in place to keep guests safe.
Sanitisation and social distancing are now the primary concerns
“It is still early days for the industry’s recovery, but travellers have already determined that hygiene and flexibility are the new necessities in the face of COVID-19.”Ulf Waschbusch, Director of Hotels Product, Skyscanner
Not so long ago, two factors were top of mind: price and location. Of course, these things are still important (after all, COVID-19 has affected our travel budget along with everything else). But they’re not your top concerns anymore. Skyscanner’s latest survey data, collected from 2,300 global travellers, shows that sanitation protocols and social distancing measures are now your primary concerns — and understandably so. Here are some more findings from our survey:
- Nearly half of you will avoid shared amenities and common areas.
- About two in five travellers will opt for outdoors dining.
- About three in four travellers say that hygiene and sanitation practices have become ‘more important than before’.
- 30% of you say that loyalty programmes have become ‘less important’.
This marks an important shift. One that, if approached right, might present opportunities for accommodation providers to re-invent the hotel experience.
Curious to see how hotels are currently responding?
How will check-in change
As hotels all over the world are getting ready to welcome guests once again, the need to reconfigure the hotel stay experience from the ground up has become clear.
Greater flexibility for reservations
Although the specifics will vary somewhat from hotel to hotel, as a general rule most hotels are extending their “no-charge” change or cancellation period up to 24 hours before scheduled arrival day. This applies both to existing and future reservations. Some hotel groups, like InterContinental, offer new “Book Now, Pay Later” options that eschew deposit completely.
Paperless/contact less check-in and check out
To avoid unnecessary face-to-face interaction, most hotels are expanding their digital amenities. Some, like the Hilton Group, are offering contactless check-in and check-out with Digital Key, while others, like the Hyatt and Marriott hotel groups, are reimagining their mobile apps as a new “digital lobby”. Their apps are used for check-in, as a room key and for ordering room service. Contactless payments, already poised to become de rigueur before the pandemic to facilitate speedier check-ins, will now most likely become the main payment option.
Social distancing and hand sanitiser from the get-go
Upon your arrival, you will have to follow social distancing protocols — hotels will have clear signage of the distance you need to maintain from other guests. Some hotels are implementing check-in prior to arrival in order to avoid clustering in hotel lobbies. Others are adding partitions at check-in as an extra level of precaution. You should expect to find hand sanitiser stations at entrances and lobbies, new spacing rules at elevators and the front-desk agents themselves wearing masks. In some hotels, like the Shangri-La properties, there will also be disinfectant floor mats and masks available for guests as well.
Sanitised guest rooms
Far from being an invisible process, cleaning is now carefully monitored (many rooms now include “last cleaned” charts) and outwardly celebrated through prestigious partnerships between hotel groups and medical centres. Some examples of that include Hilton joining forces with experts from RB, maker of Lysol and Dettol, as well as with the Mayo Clinic, while Johns Hopkins Medicine International is consulting the likes of Four Seasons on health and safety decisions.
In general, hotels are taking great care in implementing (and communicating) their revamped cleaning protocols. There are blacklight inspections and electrostatic technologies (charging the droplets of solution that are being sprayed to make them cling to the surfaces, a process used by airlines to disinfect cabins between flights) making sure everything is up to par. In many cases, the time a room remains vacant between guests is extended to several hours to promote aeration and more thorough housekeeping.
Finally, gone are the days when the most coveted bathroom amenities were lush shampoo and conditioner bottles. Complimentary kits including face masks, hand sanitiser and disinfectant wipes are now being placed in guest rooms of several prestigious hotel groups like the Four Seasons, while others focus on removing high-touch and difficult to disinfect items (such as pads, throw pillows, guest directories and even mini-bars) and even reducing indoor furnishings.
Public spaces VS room service
Will swimming pools, gyms and spas be open?
Hotels’ public spaces are being dramatically reshaped. And it’s a welcome change: Skyscanner’s latest survey showed that of the 2,300 global travellers asked, nearly half (46%) aim to avoid shared amenities and common areas such as fitness facilities. But for those who want to enjoy the amenities available, they can rest assured knowing that pools and spas are undergoing increased health and safety measures. All sessions will have to be booked well in advance. Lounge chairs at the pool and beach, as well as gym equipment, will be placed further apart and thoroughly cleaned between uses. There will likely be a strict cap on the number of people allowed on the premises at a certain time. Amenities that are hard to disinfect (like headphones) may disappear. And although some hotels are opting to close down their gym, spa and pool facilities, for the time being, most are happy to keep catering to guests’ wellness needs under this stricter, more structured regime.
This shift in the usage of hotels’ public spaces is expected to bring a shift in the room service experience as well. Which is just as well, as nearly one in five of you stated you will be looking out for in-room experiences such as private spa treatments and indoor workout videos when asked in our survey. Many hotel groups like Wyndham are prioritising in-room exercise, bringing exercise machines with integrated screens that emulate that “instructor-led studio” feeling at the comfort (and sanitary safety) of one’s guest room. As for in-room eating and drinking, your mini-bar may no longer be available, but room service menus will likely be revamped and expanded, with the ordering taking place via your hotel’s mobile app. A “knock and drop” room service delivery may slowly become the norm.
Hotel dining post-pandemic
What about restaurant dining then? As hotels are revamping their food and beverage service to be in accordance with current food safety recommendations, things like breakfast buffets may become extinct. Instead, the focus may be turned to al fresco dining where possible (40% of you said you would also prefer to dine outdoors, anyway). At indoor restaurants, expect increased distancing between groups as many tables will be removed. This practically means that seating capacity will be reduced — and you’ll likely have to book a table well in advance. Partitions will probably be installed for communal tables and contactless ordering and payment (via mobile apps) will be implemented.
What precautions can you, as a guest, take before and during your hotel stay?
It’s great to see that the hospitality industry is taking serious steps to reduce risks of infection and cater to guests’ health and safety needs. But short of doing a super thorough research of every hotel’s COVID-19 policies (which you probably will do anyway), in this crazy new world of travelling you need to be able to quickly tell if a hotel’s cleanliness is going to cut it or not.
Thankfully, now you can! We’ve added cleanliness scores for all hotels bookable through Skyscanner. The ratings are currently retrieved from TripAdvisor’s reviews in real-time, so you know they will reflect any changes in the hotel’s policies as they happen. This way you can make your travelling decisions easier — and perhaps save a few hours of research and spend it on getting excited about your trip and destination instead.
“The cleanliness rating provides a clear indication of the accommodation’s hygiene standards, allowing travellers to make more informed accommodation choices.”Ulf Waschbusch, Director of Hotels Product, Skyscanner
Will hotels ever go back to normal?
As travel restrictions are slowly being lifted, perhaps some of the more drastic measures currently implemented in high-risk areas (like taking temperature checks of both employees and guests) will phase out. But it is very likely that this new, pared-down version of hospitality is here to stay. A new bond of trust will have to be created between hotels and guests, as we all navigate these strange new waters together.
“Moving forward, it is imperative that travel providers not only implement measures to instil consumer confidence but also find new ways to inform the holiday booking experience.”Ulf Waschbusch, Director of Hotels Product, Skyscanner
What are hotel groups doing to prepare for after lockdown?
Take a look at some of the specific measures hotel groups are taking across their properties.
- Hilton – Apart from offering greater flexibility for new and existing reservations, Hilton is also working with RB and the Mayo Clinic to implement a new standard of hotel cleanliness and disinfection. Contactless check-in and check-out with Digital Key is available, while new technologies like electrostatic sprayers and ultraviolet light are being utilised.
- Hyatt Hotels – Hyatt Hotels are working on an international cleanliness and training accreditation process, with a trained Hygiene & Wellbeing Leader or team being present at all locations. Wellness and temperature checks will be taken according to local guidance, while several high-touch and hard to disinfect items are being removed from the guest rooms. Extensive contactless care and services are available through the World of Hyatt app while extensions at both cancellation policies and World of Hyatt benefits (like points and earned rewards are being offered to guests.
- Edition – Flexible cancellation services, ongoing training on housekeeping and hygiene protocols, disinfecting protocols in guest rooms after departure, and increased cleaning frequencies on high-touch areas are some of the measures Edition Hotels are implementing.
- Four Seasons – Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts are working with Johns Hopkins Medicine International to implement their Lead With Care program worldwide. Some of the program’s highlights include hourly cleaning for public areas, personal safety kits placed in guest rooms, and daily room disinfection with EPA approved products. The Four Seasons App and Chat will further allow guests to perform a variety of actions from checking in to ordering room service.
- Marriott Hotels – Marriott Hotels are rolling out enhanced technologies (including electrostatic sprayers and ultraviolet light technologies) throughout their properties. Hospital-grade disinfectants are being used in guest rooms and disinfecting wipes are available for all guests. Hand sanitising stations, social distancing signage, and partitions are being installed at key places throughout the hotels, while the Marriott phone app can be used to check-in, access the room and order room service.
- InterContinental – Response teams (ready to provide around-the-clock assistance), increased frequency of cleaning public areas, reduced contact at check-in, and revised food and beverage services are underway, while some hotels of the chain are temporarily suspending operations. In guest rooms, new laundry protocols, use of electrostatic technology, and the addition of in-room IHG Clean Promise cards with cleaning procedures are being implemented.
- Wyndham Hotels – Wyndham Hotels are offering disinfecting wipes with your key card at check-in, complimentary travel-size hand sanitiser for each room, more frequent cleaning, and disinfecting of high-touch areas and enhanced social distancing measures in public spaces. They’re also investing in expanded in-room offerings like dining and exercise.
- Shangri-La Hotels & Resorts – All Shangri-La Hotels are taking measures such as face masks for employees, social distancing signage, enhanced cleaning and sanitation policies, and mandatory temporary screenings for all colleagues before entering the premises. For hotels in South East Asia and Australasia, additional measures like disinfectant floor mats, face masks for guests and documentation of guests’ temperatures, health & travel declarations, and contact details will be implemented, while self-care packs are being placed in all rooms. Restaurant seating capacity is capped at 50% and digital menus and contactless payment options are encouraged.
“Health, hygiene, and safety are now top of mind for travellers looking to explore the world again. Measures like increased frequency of deep cleaning, use of medical-grade sanitisers and disinfectants, and physical distancing for enhanced food and event safety, ensures our guests have complete peace of mind when they stay with us.”Nichlas Maratos, Executive Vice President, Sales, Shangri-La Group
So there you have it! A look at the future for hospitality and some thoughts on what the new normal might look like.
Here are the latest Skyscanner coronavirus updates you may want to check out as the world slowly reopens to travellers:
Our coronavirus travel advice is updated daily with changes to travel restrictions.