8 Ways Hotel Stays Will Be Different To Meet Demands Of Post-Pandemic Guests

Hotel stays are going to be different in the future as people start to travel again. The sorts of people who make up a lot of travelers – middle and upper middle class professionals especially – are likely to be especially conservative in their personal behavior and the experiences they’re looking for. Social distancing, masks, and avoiding situations that expose them to health risks are likely to be key customer preferences at least in the medium-term (and for some, they’ll persist even farther out).

For hotels to attract guests they’re going to need to be responsive to these customer demands. They need to give guests confidence to stay, and hotels will compete to offer a product that appeals to these sensibilities.

Marriott’s CEO Arne Sorenson gave an interview where he, in effect, served as a human starting gun for this conversation. Marriott followed with a press release outlining their plans for increased health and safety for both employees and guests.

  • They named a Global Cleanliness Council to develop “norms and behaviors that are designed to minimize risk and enhance safety” chaired by their Chief Global Officer of Global Operations (which sounds like a title conferred by the American Dodgeball Association of America) and includes outside representatives from food safety, infectious diseases, hospitality management, and food sciences.

  • Use of electrostatic sprayers to sanitize surfaces throughout the hotel using “the highest classification of disinfectants” to “rapidly clean and disinfect entire areas and can be used in a hotel setting to clean and disinfect guest rooms, lobbies, gyms and other public areas.” They’ll also use UV technology for sanitizing room keys and shared employee devices.

  • Increased frequency of cleaning for high touch surfaces and requiring all guest room surfaces to be cleaned and disinfected.

  • Guest rooms will all include disinfecting wipes.

  • Lobby signs to remind people to social distance and change furniture layouts in common spaces (or remove furniture) to accommodate these practices.

  • They are considering “adding partitions at front desks to provide an extra level of precaution for our guests and associates” and they are working on making masks and gloves available to employees (but not, it seems, guests although admittedly sourcing approved PPE is hard).

  • Installing more hand sanitizing stations at hotel entrances, front desks, elevators, fitness centers and meeting areas.

  • Redesigning buffets and room service practices (expect more packaging and fewer open trays).

So is Marriott on the right path here? I do think there’s finally a real use case for mobile check-in and especially keyless entry and Marriott points out that this is available at an increasingly large percentage of their properties (though not half).

Airbnb actually finally has a use case for travel too, at least where they’re offering homes rather than condos in high rise buildings. Those are great for social distancing. However they need to get the check-in experience to be automated, consistent, and with low transaction costs. Ideally all listed properties would be accessible via app, if not using keyless entry than to access a lock box.

The next challenge that Airbnb faces is ensuring consistent and strong cleaning practices. What Marriott has above all else is a brand and they can message consistent practices across their hotels. When Marriott says ‘this is what we’re doing’ most people will assume that means everywhere and always, while that’s a tougher hurdle for more boutique experiences to not just promise but convince consumers is real.

Assurance is key, and brands like Marriott, Hilton, IHG and Hyatt have challenges,

  • At the individual hotel level
  • And especially at franchised properties

There have been myriad stories about hotels not changing the sheets between guests (including at a Marriott property in New York) and housekeeping using toilet bowl scrubbers to clean glasses in the bathroom.

Obviously these practices need to change, but they were already against corporate brand standards. They illustrate how difficult compliance can be, but stories like these in the new environment can cause brand-wide damage. A Marriott spokesperson acknowledges, “Training and compliance will be critical in executing.”

Ultimately changes that need to be made are more fundamental than just better cleaning of rooms.

Brands like Moxy that were built with tiny rooms, with the promise of getting people out into social spaces where they’d spend money on hotel food and beverage seem suddenly anachronistic. How bad of an investment Does Hyatt’s new Caption brand seem right now, or Hilton’s Canopy?

And how will W hotels work in socially distanced environments when they’re aim has been to create dense partying atmospheres in lounges and at their pools? Marriott assures that “social distancing will be implemented across all brands” though some things they’ll need to do “are currently being developed for execution soon.”

Meanwhile the idea of shared bath amenity dispensers seems so six months ago, but Marriott suggests “it’s too premature to comment on what’s happening with toiletry amenities.” Surely at the very least Marriott needs to suspend its lobbying efforts to force other hotel chains to drop single use toiletries for everyone’s good.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I think the first stop will be cleaning their rooms and how they go about it. Will the hotels like the airlines adopt a mobile sanitizer ? I think so, maybe not what we see today but innovation will provide us a means/method of doing this efficiently/effectively. One good thing is Marriott and others moved several years ago to wooden flooring making it easier to clean, as many of us have experienced even in the best of hotels ugly stained carpeting, countertops and other fixtures in rooms have also evolved and will continue to, bottom line are the cleaners themselves. No more blow and go cleaning.

    Will we become a society of mask wearers?

  2. And still simple hand washing remains the most effective thing anybody can do.

    Disinfecting wipes in the room are nice. Partitions for desk staff are good. None of the rest this means much.

  3. I was reading the article and was shocked you weren’t using this to lobby for your silly pet peeve of doing away with bulk dispensers but bam, you got it right in the nick of time at the end.

    Come to VFTW for diatribes on bulk dispensers and casual race-baiting and you won’t be disappointed.

  4. We stayed at a Hyatt Place in San Antonio right at the time when the lady with the first case of COVID-19 was reported in that city. Our room smelled like a chemical bath. We were comforted by that!

  5. Agree many of these will be implemented initially but as the virus fades (both from hear immunity or a vaccine) and the incidents of severe illness and death fade some of these will go away. I can see the focus on cleaning and hand sanitizers remaining for the future (like all cruise ships focus on hand sanitizing after the Norovirus incidents) but I long for the day when I don’t hear the words “social distancing” any more. It has take the place of “first world problem” as my most hated expression.

    BTW, I assume everyone understands that recent studies have shown the number of people testing positive understates those infected by 50-85 times (based on several local and CDC studies) which would indicate, based on 800,000 positive tests in the US, that 10-20% of the population has already been infected (the vast majority with no symptoms or very mild ones). A random check in Massachusetts showed 30% positive in random tests.

    Don’t be afraid – all this is VERY good news. It shows the virus is much more widespread than previously thought which means the mortality rate (and rate of severe illness) is a much lower percentage. Also head immunity is a viable way to stop the spread well before there is a vaccine and it will also allow the economy to be opened up again. Yes there will be deaths (people die from a lot of stuff every day) but we are truly reaching a tipping point where the economic risks outweigh the public health risks which is a very good thing!

  6. Having recently retired from the hotel business .

    Will cash strapped owners really spend the additional money to clean thoroughly.
    I doubt it

  7. I know quite a few people who are allergic to various cleaners, something else hotels will have to also be mindful of.

  8. I really don’t think you can catch coronavirus off of an infected person having showered 24 hours before and putting their dirty hands on a communal shampoo dispenser. But I’m not an infectious disease specialist.

  9. I read this post in the hope that I might see Gary work in yet another rant about shared bath amenity dispensers. Thanks for not letting me down

  10. These are all very costly measures. Considering demand will not be snapping back and there will be excess supply (thus they won’t easily be able to increase prices to compensate for increased costs) hotels will not be eager to increase their expenses. So these measures will only be around as long as this is this is the overwhelming public concern, but they will cut in lots of other areas to compensate, reduce service/staffing levels, fewer toiletries, amenities, reducing the quality and selection in breakfast buffets to compensate for the higher costs, etc.. Then it’s back to business as usual, but with the cost cutting measures remaining.

  11. Why not leave a hotel room unoccupied for 4 days before allowing the next guest in? Cuts capacity by 75% but hey, occupancy isn’t so high right now…

  12. Hotels can have their rules for cleaning but will housekeeping actually follow them?

  13. First thing to do is reverse the stupid PC decision to do away with personal amenity bottles of shampoo etc. It was crazy before and is crazier now.

  14. Great article, Gary and agree with your points. My hubby and I are in a high risk group and will only travel when there is a vaccine.

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