Impact of Epidemics and Pandemics on Hospitality

(Editor: Article is a bit dated, from March 2020, but still very relevant. It recommends:)

  • Formalize containment strategies addressing safety/health, revenue, and expenses/ cost containment measures.
  • Monitor the situation and keep owners/shareholders informed, especially in case of needing funds to operate.
  • Have a plan B, and be prepared for the worst-case scenario.
  • Waive cancellation fees and allow guests to cancel or change reservations with no penalties.
  • Loyalty/recognition programs; offer club points relief and extend benefits.
  • Assess if it is safe to hold large guest functions/MICE at the property, including staff activities.
  • Assess if it is necessary/appropriate to renegotiate group contracts, packages and promotions.
  • Obtain the past 14 days of travel history from all checking-in guests and of staff as well. Do not accept guests who have been in infected locations. Isolate/quarantine staff who have been in infected locations as defined by the WHO.
  • Conduct temperature checks for guests and customers in and out of the hotel.
  • Conduct temperature checks for all staff on reporting to work and every 4 hours thereafter.
  • Daily communication/meetings with staff addressing safety measures and personal hygiene in general with the objective to limit the spread of infection.
  • Daily messages/communications with in-house guests and arriving guests on safety and hygiene in general.
  • Provide sanitizers to all guests and to all staff including alcohol-based disinfectants.
  • Provide face masks for all staff (policy if must use or not) and to all guests if they wish to use it. Note that the wearing of a mask is a useful preventive measure and a cultural habits in some countries/locations in particular if one has a cold or flu, but it must be accepted that the mask does not provide an adequate level of protection when faced with an infected person.
  • Use proper disinfectant products and disposable cleaning tools.
  • Regularly disinfect anything that guests and staff would touch frequently (lift buttons, light switches, door handles, toilets, telephone, all surfaces, tabletops, chairs, crockery, cutlery, tableware, floors, disinfectant rugs at the entrance/exit, etc…
  • Apply strict food safety processes.
  • Time to wash those bed comforters/duvets and pillows? Plus keep them clean. Note: the in-room TV control is normally one of the dirtiest items in the room.
  • Continuous reminders to all guests and staff to wash hands with soap for at least 20 seconds, to avoid handshakes, and not to touch eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Closing of outlets or facilities based on demand and on safety.
  • Special attention to sport/recreation areas and facilities; adequate chlorine for the swimming pool, clean gym equipment after each use, close saunas/steam/Jacuzzi. Assess if spa treatments are appropriate. Continuous cleaning of children areas if any.
  • Closing of room floors if appropriate and if there are savings.
  • Reduce labor costs without retrenching staff; clearance of all leave for all, advance leave, splitting of functions/multi-tasks, unpaid leave from top executives down, reduction of working days/pay, freeze all hiring as per location/needs.
  • Elimination of all travel.
  • Strict instructions to all staff with signs of cold or flu symptoms not to report to work until they are well. Also not to report to work if there are confirmed virus cases in their housing complex/communities or they had to visit hospitals, attended funerals, or assisted sick people.
  • It is an appropriate time to review and update the staff vaccination policy and ensure compliance.
  • Sharing of good practices as received from the authorities/health officials, from the industry, and from colleagues. How to better manage through crises.
  • Ensure that the hotel central and individual air filtration and purification system is clean and it works well. Assess if there is a need for UV air sanitation and where it helps.
  • Look at speeding up any planned renovation/product upgrade work during the low period (if funds are available).
  • Look at the possibilities to renegotiate with vendors and suppliers with the objective to reduce some costs.
  • Create a strategy for the brand image and for tactical advertising activities.
  • Prepare a welcome-back campaign/package ready to go and to implement as soon as the situation improves.
  • Inform business partners, suppliers, and office visitors of the hotel measures to ensure compliance.
  • Coordinate with local health officials for advice and updates on the situation.
  • Consult company policies for quarantining guests and staff if needed, and take advice from appropriate medical services/authorities.
  • Take further measures as appropriate.

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