We must be innovative during this national pandemic. As a Vendor Member of the Association of Lodging Professionals, I attended their Virtual Development Day that they hosted on May 6, 2020. Many different topics and issues were discussed.
Above all, innkeepers want to do everything they can to protect the health and safety of their guests. That is their highest priority. The people who embrace making changes have a better mindset and are more likely to succeed. Small properties will welcome the first travelers. The perception is that smaller is safer.
Safe Cleaning Practices
People will not stay at places they do not think are clean. One guest review that says your place is dirty (regardless if they have reason to claim that) will kill your reviews. The public expects you to be safe. Be very proactive in your efforts to provide clean, safe hospitality accommodations. Communicate the changes you are making both to staff and to the public.
- Housekeeping should wear gloves and masks.
- Use extra equipment to clean (such as black lights, UV wands, and ozone machines).
- Turn on ceiling fans to get air circulation in the room while cleaning.
- Now is the time to clean and get rid of any clutter in your rooms.
- Strip rooms down to the things you are regularly cleaning. Remove items such as decorative pillows, magazines, notepads, pens, etc.
- Bedspreads must be removed unless you wash them after each guest checks out. The trend is to replace with duvet covers (that get washed after each guest leaves).
- Good: Blanket only (fitted sheet, flat sheet, blanket)
- Better: Triple sheeting (flat sheet, blanket, flat sheet, fitted sheet)
- Best: Sheet duvets (fitted sheet and duvet with no flat sheet)
- Use single pillow protector with double pillowcase or double pillow protector with single pillowcase.
- Check commercial cleaner recommendations (e.g. amount of contact time for cleaner to stay on surface). Do not mix different cleaners together.
- Be sure washers reach at least 165 degrees in heat.
- Don't shake linen and make pathogens airborne. Transport linen in linen bags. Use water soluble bags when washing linen.
- Have a safety data sheet (SDS) binder for any cleaning products you use on site.
- Use personal protective equipment (PPE) including safety goggles, protective gloves, and masks, etc.
- Follow the wall when cleaning (light switches, doorknobs, etc.).
- Frequently clean remote controls, stair railings, banisters, etc.
- Articulate what you're doing, why you're doing it, and why it's a benefit to your guests.
- Share photos of cleaning staff.
Modifications You May Implement
- Touchless check-in and check-out.
- Gyms on site may require reservations for a specific amount of time (such as an hour) followed by a specific amount of time for cleaning by staff members.
- Sanitation/disinfectant stations available on your property.
- Wear gloves when handling guest food and drinks.
- Deliver breakfast to your guests' rooms. Add 2-person cafe tables to guest rooms.
- Weather and space permitting, give guests the option to dine outside.
- Separate dining tables at least 6 feet apart in a common breakfast room.
- Scheduling dining times.
- Give out individual sweetener packets (vs. keeping them all together on the table).
- No more "bottomless" cookie jars--wrap up cookies and deliver them to guests.
- Wine tastings and teatime experienced from personal guest areas.
- More relaxed cancellation policy. Many guests will remember your flexibility and come back. Refund their deposit or do a room voucher for a future stay. This allows guests to book with complete confidence.
- Length of stay restrictions as appropriate. Restricting the number of guest rooms to allow for more space.
Marketing During (& After) The Pandemic
- It's important to continue marketing. Keep your name top of mind.
- More guests will be calling by phone so they can speak personally with you. Keep track of the questions you are asked.
- They want to know if you are open, if your inn is clean and safe, their local restaurant options, local activities, etc.
- You must track your analytics to make educated decisions. Use the data to guide you.
- Use search engine optimization, pay per click marketing, and email marketing. Target more locally (since travelers are less likely to travel by plane right now).
- Now's not the time to hate online travel agencies (OTAs). If you want to fill rooms, people will be using them.
- Your website should look modern and current. An old website may leave guests wondering if your rooms are clean. Your website should convey confidence and trust.
- Website should be designed for mobile first and be responsive to the device it is viewed from.
- Your professional photography should avoid featuring large tables, buffets, and shared bathrooms.
- Share pictures of large spaces, separate entrances, and spaced out seating.
- Rural country inns (out in the middle of nowhere) as well as inns with lots of (indoor and outdoor) space are in. Individual cabins and cottages are cool. (Big hotels don't feel safe to guests right now.)
- Promote staycations.
- Avoid using words like intimate, cozy, shared areas, etc.
- "Stay small, stay safe."
- "Dream up a future getaway."
- "Me time and pet time."
- "The best view comes after the hardest climb."
- "For our fellow daydreamers."
- "Cheers to staying safe."
- "Dreaming of good times and tan lines."
In conclusion, this is an unprecedented time in history. Now is the ideal time to set up and deliver an effective plan for your marketing. You are welcome to contact me for a complimentary phone consultation. I'm a great listener and a trusted advisor. Together, we will be innovative and improve your hospitality business success.
Image by Marcus Berg of Unique Angles Photography