From implementing strict cleanliness procedures to re-shaping the way services and amenities are offered, it’s clear the hotel industry has experienced a seismic shift and will look very different as the threat of COVID-19 subsides and guests begin to return.
Recent survey findings from consulting firm Oliver Wyman show approximately three-quarters of business travellers surveyed expect to travel the same amount post-pandemic as they did before, due to an improvement in market conditions. Yet, while this demographic represents a reliable source of revenue for hotels, there will also be a great deal of com- petition in attracting their business. Not only will guests now be carefully analyzing a hotel’s ability to ensure enhanced health-and-safety standards before making their booking decision, they’ll also be looking at a hotel’s ability to meet their basic needs and preferences, since many hotels have scaled back on staff and services during the crisis.
Further supporting the need for hotels to adapt are recent findings from GlobalData, with three quarters of global travellers indicating their purchasing choices will be influenced by how the world around them is changing. With this in mind, hoteliers will need to strategize on how to address the new demands for contactless and physical-distancing-compatible services, meet guest needs and still ensure a steady flow of revenue. The solution to this dilemma can be found in the place that many changes are already being made to enhance cleanliness and guest safety — in the guestroom itself.
GlobalData’s research reveals 85 per cent of global travellers indicated a significant amount of concern over possible exposure to COVID-19, so will likely seek to avoid public spaces, such as a hotel’s restaurant or bar, and will opt instead to spend more time inside their guestrooms to minimize health risks. Yet, although seemingly representing a loss of revenue, avoidance of public areas does not mean guests don’t expect their food-and-beverage needs to be met at the property. Instead, they’ll expect more options to be made available to them within the safety of their guestroom. With remote-management capabilities, online minibars and monitored dry-goods trays can allow hoteliers to provide flexible options for guests, while respecting their desire to maintain physical distances. With the addition of enhanced cleanliness measures that ensure minibars and its products are sanitized before each new guest arrives, a guestroom-centred minibar food-and-beverage strategy can enhance guest satisfaction and confidence while allowing hoteliers to recoup profits that may have otherwise been lost due to the declining use of other property amenities.
“As hotels welcome back guests during this unique time, it’s critical to project safety and cleanliness at every touchpoint and creating an environment of confidence and trust in your F&B operations yields strong results, reviews and return visits,” says Deana Kay, managing partner at California-based gourmet-food supplier Torn Ranch. “At the property, communicating and taking visible steps to enhance guest comfort and safety is central. The in-room offering is a key part of the equation.”
Forbes Travel Guide reiterated Kay’s stance in a recent post, adding tips on how to accomplish a safe and healthy guestroom environment for guests, suggesting hotels offer pre-packaged, outer-sealed, multi-snack item delivery options as part of their full or limited room-service program; have packaged snacks available in the room and let the guest know at check-in; and add non-food items, such as a PPE welcome kit.
Sharing a similar viewpoint on the importance of revising food-and-beverage operations to incorporate a more guestroom-centric approach is Ray Burger, president and founder of U.S.-based Pineapple Hospitality.
“Hoteliers are now beginning to recognize solutions such as minibars provide an ideal means of addressing the decreasing use of restaurants and bars by guests and are increasingly becoming open to exploring new options as a way of maintaining physical-
distancing abilities while still generating revenue.”
Guestroom minibars can also be tailored to meet a wide range of guest-consumption needs, including full meals or even customized alcoholic beverages.
“Properties could offer pre-made meal options that a guest can purchase via a hotel’s website at the time of booking and that could be brought up and stored in the guestroom minibar prior to arrival,” says Burger. “This ability can even extend to making popular items such as cocktails available for order online by providing guests with an easily accessible menu of options. By providing these updated service alternatives, hotels can demonstrate their commitment to cleanliness, while still ensuring that guests have everything that they need to experience an enjoyable stay.”
More recent advances in minibar technology have provided hoteliers with even greater flexibility in making products available for in-room purchase that go beyond refrigerated items or even food and beverages. With guests likely to avoid onsite or offsite retail outlets as they would restaurants and bars, such items can include electronics, toiletries, hand sanitizers, gloves or face masks.
“The ability to monitor door openings on an automatic minibar system is an ideal tool to combat the spread of COVID-19 and other potential contaminants, as it provides electronic contact tracing,” says Bruno Agrario, VP of Sales at U.S.-based Bartech Systems Inter- national. “Once a minibar is sanitized, guests can be assigned to rooms that are certified as safe, since it’s possible to ensure that the minibar door has not been opened since the last sanitation. With automated minibar systems, this information is collected by a central server, instead of requiring a staff member to visit all rooms in order to check. This not only helps to ensure guest safety by limiting guestroom entry by staff, but also minimizes labour costs.”
By considering the benefits a minibar solution can provide, hoteliers can strike a balance between prioritizing the health and safety of guests and staff, while fulfilling essential-service expectations and ensuring their ability to increase their revenue-searning opportunities.