How do you protect public health and safety while delivering extraordinary guest experiences? That’s the million-dollar question for hotel managers, particularly at boutique properties where limitations and other conditions affect the segment’s signature small-scale style. As parts of the country begin to reopen, it’s critical that boutique hotels establish clear guidelines for delivering on the experience guests expect while keeping everyone – staff and guests – completely safe and healthy.
Reopening the industry will require careful planning, a hyper focus on cleanliness, and unprecedented adaptability. The challenges surrounding this work are not insurmountable, and we can all do our part to reopen while reducing the risk of exposure to COVID-19. Here are my best recommendations for boutique hotels to learn and pivot their approach to improve and be successful in the delivery of guest experience in this “new normal”:
- Appoint a dedicated Hygiene Officer to oversee the operation and ensure that policies align with existing public health, occupational health, and medical recommendations, laws, and regulations.
- Prepare staff to be a jack of all trades and trust them to make sound decisions. Now more than ever, it’s critical that employees are able to hit the ground running and just “take care of it.” If you see the main entrance of cars piling up waiting to be parked, back up on room service, or other guest touchpoints that need support- just do it. Keep a balance of your primary role first and be creative to adjust. Guests don’t need to know how things gets done, so long as the hotel organization is delivering on its brand promise.
- With reduced staff and changes happening so quickly, managers would be wise to promote employees’ increased involvement in decision-making processes. At many hotels, there’s no longer the time or internal resources for decisions to go up the traditional chain of command. Remember that this isn’t forever. The industry will recover in time and evolve where staffing levels and coordination will improve. Until then, we must all embrace a new temporary reality.
- As a manager, always set the tone and be positive – especially when training and developing new team members. Believe it or not, your new associates can see right through you. It’s evident if you’re stressed and not giving your best, and that will affect team performance and morale. At the same time, it’s important to be open and transparent with employees. No one is perfect and we all have our moments. Be honest and bring associates into the fold when possible, knowing it will promote stronger connections and deeper loyalty.
- Have brief meetings each shift to discuss what the plan is for the day, and always let your team express their concerns, frustrations or challenges. Use these meetings as an opportunity to create immediate and long-term solutions together.
- Support your team with questions on how to enforce mask coverings and other conditions of reopening. Establish a singular language across all teams and departments to maintain consistency, and make sure guests clearly understand expectations on wearing a mask based on your specific resort or state.
- Make it clear to guests which services and amenities are open on a daily basis. The availability of amenities can quickly change due to evolving CDC or company guidelines. Be empathetic and remember that guests are paying you to deliver on your brand promise.
- Have medical resources for guests during and even after their stay. You are responsible for building trust and will make people feel more comfortable if you have a plan in place.
- Ensure guests know that the processes you have in place are to ensure their safety. Also have touchless processes and systems in place when possible (i.e. mobile check-in/check-out, mobile room keys, QR menus in restaurants to avoid passing menus between guests).
The boutique hotel segment is resilient and will bounce back as the impact of COVID-19 lessens, but it’s vital that leaders take proactive measures and be cooperative in accordance with rules and recommendations from government and public health organizations. Together, we can safely welcome guests back and create memorable and caring experiences as we navigate the “new normal.”