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Virtual Coffee Chat — Takeaways from April 29

On April 29, Pegasus welcomed Alex Shashou, Co-Founder and President of Alice Platform, and James Harris, Executive Director of Sales at Pegasus, to our virtual coffee chat to discuss guest experience coming out of the pandemic. Here are some of our key takeaways:

The “new luxury” of the coming year is going to be about providing a safe, frictionless, contactless guest experience for your hotel, powered by technology wherever possible. 

The definition of the five-star experience has evolved over the years. It used to be about amenities and the space, and now it’s more about the experience. The question that many luxury properties are asking now is, “How do we use technology to go above and beyond to enable a safe experience?”

These properties are rethinking every step, from how you enter and check-in, to how you can open the elevator and room door without touching everything, to how you order food or request amenities or service. In the past, guests may have been able to ask a housekeeper to come back to clean a room, but this may not happen moving forward—once the housekeeper is in the room, the cleaning must be completed. Hotels will need to work through these scenarios to see how they are communicating with the guest to ensure a smooth process.

Hotels should consider now the technologies that can help facilitate this new guest experience. That’s what will be seen as the “five star experience” in the near future—giving the guest the ability to control their stay. That’s the sort of thinking that will cascade down to the other types of hotel segments as well.

Winning back consumer confidence through hygiene and cleanliness standards will be necessary to get travel moving again.  

While travel restrictions play a big role in how travel demand will return, consumer confidence is also extremely important. Guests want to feel safe and confident that traveling will not be a risk, and they will want to feel in control. For example, despite hotels making every guarantee that a room has been cleaned to the highest of standards, guests may still want to clean their own room upon arrival. It’s the same psychology as travelers going on an airplane and wiping down their seats. Hotels may want to consider things like providing wipes and cleaning supplies to guests to win that extra vote of confidence, as well as providing clear choices about services that may have been promoted as “eco-friendly” before, such as daily housekeeping and changing of sheets and towels. These are now choices that guests may want to make for health and safety reasons.

The hospitality industry is already quickly mobilizing on standardized health and safety protocols. In addition to programs like SG Clean and Marriott’s Global Cleanliness Council, the American Hotel & Lodging Association has just come out with their Safe Stay Guidelines and other checklists and resources for reopening. As these standards become widely adopted, hotels will need to think about differentiating their individual value proposition in other ways.

As an industry, however, hotels have an opportunity to get ahead of alternative accommodations like those offered by Airbnb. Hotels, with their ability to quickly adapt and standardize operational processes, may be seen as the safer choice by the traveler. This is especially true for business travelers where companies may not want the liability of having their employees staying in places that don’t have these protocols in place.

Certain ancillary revenue may be going away for now, but there may be ways to replace that revenue with other upsells and new amenities. 

The biggest hit in ancillary revenue will likely be in the areas of spa and dining. For spas, not only will guests not likely want treatments, but exposing spa employees unnecessarily to guests is a risk that hotels likely don’t want. Dining rooms will be running at severely reduced capacity in order to maintain social distancing rules, which some hotels may not even be able to afford. Hotels that do want to keep their dining rooms open are considering technology that would allow guests to book the time that they would like to take their meals. This allows them to limit the bookings and track guest flow. In-room dining will also likely see an uptick.

Some hotels are exploring opportunities to replace that ancillary revenue with other amenities. Private transfers, for example, may become more in demand as travelers try to avoid public transportation. In-room fitness will become popular, with some hotels offering access to fitness apps or interactive machines like Pelaton and Mirror. And though spas may no longer offer treatments, wellness is still a big draw for travelers, and hotels may consider offering in-room meditation apps and sleep guides.

The new guest experience will inevitably have costs associated to them. Will they be absorbed by the hotel or passed onto the consumer? 

Hotels will need to find the balance between the duty of providing a great guest experience, and ensuring that hotel ownership will still be able to achieve that return on investment for their asset. This will be difficult as travel demand is expected to take 12-24 months to recover to pre-crisis levels, but hotels may find some ways to pass certain costs onto consumers in the form of taxes or fees.

For example, some hotels charge each guest a mandated fee that’s required by the destination; the funds from these fees are then used to market the destination itself. We may see more of these fees as cities or states work to win back consumer confidence in their destination again.

Hotels may also consider reworking their resort or facility fees to include their additional cleaning costs. Guests are already wary of these fees, however, so hotels will need to communicate clearly exactly what is included.

Have checklists in place for implementing new procedures, training, and preparing for your hotel reopening. 

Creating SOP checklists may seem rudimentary or simplistic—after all, shouldn’t it be obvious that the housekeeper needs to wipe down all surfaces when cleaning the room? The truth is, even the most experienced of professionals can easily forget a step even if they’ve repeated the same processes hundreds of times. Research shows that checklists truly help to minimize errors, especially in the areas of health and safety where it matters most.

Develop your checklists now across all team areas (not just operations, marketing and sales should as well), so that you can easily get your team up to speed when you reopen, even if they’ve been on furlough. While old-fashioned pen and paper work for checklists, new technologies can help you not only easily create checklists, but also track completion and keep records for compliance. Alice Platform has developed a free checklist tool that you can take advantage of at your hotel.