Is your hospitality business prepared for a post-pandemic world?
The past year or so has been a turbulent time for most industries. However, few have been hit quite so hard by the COVID-19 pandemic than hospitality. The need to maintain social distances, and for consumers to stay at home has severely limited the use of hotels, travel agencies, and tour providers.
This has reduced income and caused many companies to lay off staff and in some cases shut down entirely. A recent study by the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) found that 71% of hotels won’t be able to continue operating for more than 6 months without additional government assistance.
The good news is that there is some light at the end of the tunnel. With the rollout of vaccines, many people are starting to look toward life in the new normal, and there is a lot of enthusiasm for making travel plans. However, this doesn’t mean to say that businesses will be able to shirk safety responsibilities.
Indeed, it’s key to rebuilding the trust of both consumers and staff alike that hospitality business leaders take steps to improve and maintain the standards of health protection in their spaces.
As this is still very much a new situation for most, it can be unclear where you should be placing your focus to best protect your business, staff, and consumers. Let’s take a look at a handful of important aspects to consider as you emerge into a post-pandemic world
As there have been many adjustments to the way companies do business to reflect the needs of consumers, now can be an important time to undertake some remodeling. This doesn’t have to be undertaken all at once if your budget doesn’t quite stretch to it. But at least taking a holistic approach to planning your schedule of adaptations can put you in the best possible position.
Begin by auditing your workspace and your practices. Review how each of the activities that are undertaken by staff and consumers present risks to ongoing health and safety. Take into account whether routes around your premises allow for workers and visitors to keep reasonable distances from each other — it won’t be necessary to keep six feet away, but many people will still want to exercise caution around strangers. Consider whether there are spaces for permanent sanitation stations near doors, elevators, and restaurant facilities.
One of the focuses for your remodel is limiting unnecessary staff contact with customers. We live in an increasingly technological world, and business process automation can be a great tool for both efficiency and safety.
Explore the potential for automated check-in and invoicing services, as well as behind-the-scenes elements such as human resources (HR), marketing, and order processing where physical contact can be reduced. It’s worth noting that this can take some significant initial investment, but it can be instrumental in protecting your business, consumers, and staff from exposure, not to mention boosting productivity.
During the pandemic, remote working has risen in popularity. While this was part of the COVID-19 response to maintain social distances between staff members and customers, companies have noted that it can be a boost to productivity and staff morale.
As such, flexible operations are likely to become a long-term feature of many businesses. It might not be immediately obvious, but this approach can be useful for protecting your hospitality business after the pandemic.
Consider the range of tasks or occupations that don’t require staff to be on your premises — at least not all the time. Work with your staff to arrange training, equipment, and scheduling to create a fully remote or blended approach.
Some areas to consider may include:
- Booking and Customer Care
Until guests are on your premises, there is little need to take their inquiries or payments on site. As such, these tasks can be handled by workers operating from their own homes. Remote access to booking software would of course be a necessity, and any additional customer information and documents can be shared with the main business via cloud platforms. You’ll also need to set up any necessary phone lines or call redirecting to workers’ cell phones to make certain they can be reached by dial-in customers.
While it is traditional for in-house marketers to operate from an office on the hospitality business’ property, this is certainly not necessary. Most marketing tasks can be undertaken remotely; reaching out to advertising partners, working with local tourism agencies, connecting with search engine optimization (SEO) experts. Project management software — such as Asana and Trello — can also ensure that multiple colleagues in the same department know exactly what the progress of team tasks is, even when they’re not in the same room.
If the past year of a pandemic has taught the world anything, it’s how vital knowledge is to mount an effective response. As such, one of the important ways that you can protect your business in a post-pandemic world is to focus on education.
This begins with having senior hospitality management gain insights into the full range of risks their staff can be exposed to on the job. This doesn’t just apply to COVID-19, but to how blood-borne diseases and pathogens can spread through the course of workers’ duties. Look toward the advice of experts in these fields, and use their knowledge to inform your processes, and also provide accurate information to staff members.
Indeed, sending more of your employees on safety-related courses can help to bolster your ability to prevent problems and react to emergencies in the future. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) can connect you to preparedness courses either online or in your area.
However, making simple first aid and sanitation standard certification available to as many staff members as is practical can be a step forward. This also ensures that there are skilled, knowledgeable personnel on hand whenever an issue arises.
Your hospitality business may have experienced some setbacks during the pandemic, but there is a positive outlook as the world emerges from this period of crisis. However, to remain productive, you must place some focus on keeping your business, your staff, and your customers safe.
Look into how to optimize your environment for safety, consider the potential for remote workers, and invest in educating everyone about emergency prevention and response. With some additional effort, you can put your business in the right position to recover successfully.
Jori Hamilton is an experienced writer residing in the Northwestern U.S. She covers a wide range of topics but takes a particular interest in covering topics related to the hospitality industry, business productivity, and marketing strategies. To learn more about Jori, you can follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.