By Ruben Mejia Executive Vice President, SportsArt
Article featured in Hotel Executive
As individuals around the world gear up to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, many are starting to have their sights set on future travel plans. While the hotel and travel industry will slowly begin to see these plans emerge, travelers will still expect hotels to adapt to our changing times by sticking with the new approaches to social distancing and cleaning protocols.
The lingering impacts of COVID-19 has caused a shift in how hotels will need to operate moving forward, as travelers are continuing to demand responsible travel policies from the hospitality industry as a whole.
While hotels across the world have implemented strict protocols to adhere to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) regulations, we should expect to see these operations stay well after COVID-19 and the vaccine. Hotels will begin to see a rise in demand for additional trends and services to ensure guest stays are as comfortable, safe and enjoyable as possible.
This largely comes from continuing to adapt to trends and changes, such as contactless experiences, technology advancements, green initiatives and of course, continuing with the new standard for cleaning protocols and safe distancing. Currently, hotels have a unique opportunity to define what guest satisfaction looks like and apply new methods to ensure guests continue to come back – below are four services hotels can expand on to adapt to modern times.
Hotels and experts in this industry are beginning to see a spike in demand for contactless experiences as more and more travelers begin to stay at hotels again. This shift from personal conversations and experiences to a more remote approach has started to be adopted by hotels across the globe, starting with online check-in through a hotel website or app. This not only promotes safe distancing between hotel guests and staff but ultimately gives the guest the option to interact with staff when necessary. While this option has been prevalent since the beginning of the pandemic for essential stays, this should be expected to be a staple in hotel services as leisure travel begins to pick up again.
These contactless experiences will need to expand further to truly reach the level of completely contactless, such as promoting more “touch-free” options as well. One in particular hotels should consider would be smart locks on rooms, where guests can unlock their door through an app. If you check in virtually through a website or app, this is most beneficial if it allows guests to go straight to their rooms without stopping by the front desk first to grab a room key/fob. These two protocols together allow for the most seamless integration of a contactless stay.
Room service and fitness amenities can expand on contactless experiences as well. Along with placing a room service order over the phone, hotels can offer ordering capabilities through their website or app. The hotel staff can place the order outside the guest’s room, and any gratuity can be added to the room bill directly to avoid any contact with the server.
Similarly, if a guest would like to exercise without leaving their room, they could order cleaned dumbbells and other small items to be left outside their door so they can enjoy working out in the comfort of their own room. To take this one step further, hotels can also station actual fitness equipment in a handful of individual rooms, which can be booked by those that plan to exercise during their stay. This could include equipment such as indoor cycles or items that provide personal training streaming services.
Using these types of contactless options will slightly shift guest experiences since hotels will not have traditional contact to offer personal touches and friendly relationships. To combat this, hotel staff can act as more of a concierge – calling guests after settling into their rooms to see if they would like a drink from the hotel bar or offer recommendations on what to do or where to eat while staying in the area. Hotel staff can still ensure their guests feel welcomed, helped and accommodated, even in this new way of servicing customers.
Incorporating new technology will be another key component in attracting past, current and new guests. Technology such as an all-encompassing app and smart locks are a great way to start the transition. A specific area in hotels that should become more equipped with modern technology is the fitness space. As a result of the pandemic, health and wellness have become a popular topic – individuals are more concerned than ever with staying as healthy as possible. This concept will stay true when people begin to travel again, meaning fitness offerings have to be at the forefront of any hotel. That said, guests need to be made to feel safe when exercising at hotels.
Not only should hotels consider including fitness equipment in specific hotel rooms or offering “room service” to access small workout accessories as I mentioned above, but these offerings can become more advanced as well to add a more personal experience. Rather than installing any standard piece of workout equipment in the rooms, hotels should consider installing equipment that pairs with fitness tracking, as this technology adds an additional level of modernization.
Fitness tracking first became popular by counting steps through phones – this quickly evolved into wearables and streaming workouts which provide personal metrics to better understand our health and fitness on a much deeper level. Tracking this data has helped people push themselves to exceed their goals through measuring heart rates, intensity levels and impact, leading to sustainable changes in their fitness regimen. Hotels can also partner with fitness apps and offer a reward program for fitness accomplishments, such as a free breakfast for completing a 10-mile ride.
In recent years, sustainable fitness has become increasingly more popular and can even be a form of unique fitness tracking. With equipment from SportsArt that incorporates green technology, users can jump on a treadmill, bike, etc. to produce electricity and track how much energy they have generated through their workout. This not only tracks their fitness metrics, but offers insight into the reduction of their carbon footprint simultaneously.
This fitness tracking technology can be stationed in a traditional hotel fitness center or in individual rooms to further elevate the personal experience while keeping up with new safety guidelines. Bringing in these added fitness offerings and unique technology will help hotels adapt to changes due to the pandemic and stand out from the crowd.
Staying in line with the installation of green fitness technology, hotels should consider all of the ways they can “go green” as another way to modernize and entice guests to book stays with them.
According to Booking.com, 73 percent of global travelers intend to stay at least once in an eco-friendly or green accommodation. While most traveling was on hold in 2020, these statistics will likely be seen across 2021 travel plans as guests prefer to travel more consciously and stay at eco-friendly hotels. If hotels implement some of the protocols mentioned above, they are already on track to becoming more sustainable. Contactless experiences for example, will help reduce waste dramatically. Online self-check-in will help the hotel go virtually paperless, while smart locks remove the need for guests to have several plastic key fobs.
However, if hotels do not have the means or bandwidth to make those two accommodations, switching all paper and plastic items to be used from recycled materials is a step in the right direction. Bringing in green technology such as energy- generating fitness equipment is also a fast way hotels can begin to reduce their carbon footprint, while also giving guests the interactive experience of helping to make that change.
Staying at certified green hotels is a growing trend amongst traveler. Hotels that make small changes or big moves in this space are influencing the travel industry. Whether you’re a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified hotel or taking the steps in that direction, this is a great marketing tactic that will encourage more travelers, especially millennials, to choose your hotel as a responsible travel choice.
Continuing Safe Distancing and Cleaning Protocols
Adding contactless experiences, technology fitness advancements and green initiatives are great to help differentiate hotels while the industry has to modernize and find new ways to attract travelers moving forward. However, the general rule of thumb for bringing in hotel guests will be expanding the new cleaning and safe distancing protocols currently in place. Travelers will expect to continue to see these stricter regulations, especially the cleaning protocols, for years to come. With that in mind, here is a refresher of ways hotels can keep these practices in place:
- Continue to remain up-to-date on any country, state, and local guidelines and follow recommendations from trusted agencies such as the CDC for protecting all facility users and staff members – this can easily be maintained for a long period of time by subscribing to the CDC’s email messages and choosing relevant topics to receive updates on.
- Educate the entire staff on the importance of getting the vaccine once eligible.
- Continue to provide personal protective gear such as face masks and gloves for staff to wear until regulations on this lift – once they do lift, continue to keep these on hand to use on a needed basis.
- Continue to limit occupancy in amenity rooms such as fitness centers, locker rooms, pool/spa areas, computer room, meeting/conference spaces, etc.
- Establish set times for closing each of these amenity rooms to complete deep cleans between uses.
- Ensure that cleaning includes deep cleaning – not just wiping down a treadmill or conference room table, but examining all small items within the space. For example, a fitness center deep clean should include dumbbells, functional trainer attachments, bands, mats, weight pins, grips, light switches, etc. The same goes for all other rooms.
- Consider investing in electrostatic sprayers to quickly and effectively clean every surface and product of an area in the desired cleaning room.
- Offer training courses for all hotel staff across new protocols, so everyone is knowledgeable and on the same page on how to properly clean, interact with guests, etc.
To come back stronger than ever, hotels need to reevaluate the needs of current and potential customers. With the anticipation of travel picking up in 2021, hotels can focus on new methods and operations to regain their loyal customer base and draw new customers.
About Mr. Mejia Ruben Mejia, Executive Vice President for SportsArt Americas, has more than 24 years of collective experience across the technology, ecommerce and fitness industries. Mr. Mejia joined SportsArt five years ago, beginning his career as IT Director, maintaining the technology for SportsArt America to ensure all employee technology was running smoothly. Shortly after, he became the Vice President of Innovation where he implemented internal analytics to make sure employee time was spent more efficiently. Through this work, he saved over 200 man hours a year that could be redirected to more impactful duties. Mr. Mejia worked his way to Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at SportsArt where he became more involved working directly with product technology through client installations. As CTO, he worked hard to make SportsArt products and software more user friendly and efficient. Mr. Mejia was recently promoted to Executive Vice President in December of 2019 where his focus continues to be on product software and technology. Additionally, in this new role, he is the direct contact for external customers and manages the SportsArt marketing and sales departments