Tips & Resources to Help You Welcome Guests Back to Your Property
Sales Manager, North America
American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way that everyone does business and ushered in a new era where training isn’t just something nice to have, but can be a matter of life and death.
The hotel industry has always made guest safety a priority through risk management and high standards of cleaning and sanitizing throughout the property. Now, its duties to guests have expanded to ensure that no one is catching or spreading the virus at their properties.
“Cleanliness and safety have been at the core of our industry since its beginning,” said Chip Rogers, the president and CEO of the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA). “Taking care of our guests’ and employees’ well-being is the essence of what we do. Long before the coronavirus, hotels were dedicated to cleaning at the highest standards.”
As vaccines are made available, the day is in sight where properties can reopen and those who have been open will be able to start welcoming more guests. But even with vaccines, the danger is not past and there are several things that need to be a part of a hotel’s training plan as they welcome guests back.
Employee and Guest Health
AHLA released Safe Stay Guidelines, created by an advisory council comprised of leaders from all segments of the hotel industry in accordance with best practices from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). These guidelines dictate how a property can keep both its employees and its guests safe.
Face coverings and other protective steps
These include such things as requiring face coverings, setting up social distancing, avoiding contact with people who are sick, and washing or sanitizing hands. How can a hotel support this? It can make sure there are adequate soap products available in restroom sinks, employee washing stations and other areas for hand washing. It can make sure there are hand sanitizer dispensers at key guest and employee entrances and contact areas.
All team members should know the symptoms of COVID-19 and watch for those symptoms in themselves, co-workers, and guests. They should stay home if they are experiencing symptoms and report it if they witness symptoms in others. Anyone with symptoms should self-isolate from the onset of symptoms until they have been symptom-free for at least three days without medication.
Workplace health and safety plan
Hotels need to do a property-wide hazard assessment to find out whether they have any specific hazards that relate to COVID-19. This will help a property establish such things as well-being checks for all employees. Once the assessment is done, a workplace health and safety plan can be developed.
One critical way to stop the spread of COVID-19 is to have good case tracking. Hotel managers should report any confirmed cases of COVID-19 immediately to their local health authority.
To be a safe destination, hotels must properly and thoroughly train their employees to follow COVID guidelines.
AHLA partnered with the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute to create “COVID-19 Precautions for Hotels.” It is an online training program that takes about 25 minutes and addresses the necessary measures hotel employees should take according to the CDC.
The training ends with an online assessment which employees must pass with 80 percent or better. Once completed, the employee will receive a record of training.
Cleaning & Disinfecting
Cleaning is more important than ever and in public areas must be done more frequently. All high-touch areas need to be frequently disinfected and such things as pens, door handles and elevator buttons wiped down often.
Managers need to set up cleaning schedules and train on the new protocols and any new cleaning products that meet the CDC standards. AHLA has released information about protocols for public spaces, communal areas, guestrooms, laundry, back of house, guest elevators, stairwells, shared equipment, room recovery protocol, food and beverage, and ventilation and water system checks. All of this information is available in the free Stay Safe Initiative.
Consult the enhanced industry-wide hotel cleaning checklist made available as part of the Initiative. When a property manager is able to check off all items on the list, he or she can sign it and return the form to be sent a Safe Stay Certified window decal that can also be used on a website.
The CDC recommends that people stand six feet apart from anyone that they are not traveling with. Hotel managers can help with this by doing such things as limiting the number of people in an elevator, marking stairways as one direction and marking floors in areas where guests queue to help them stay six feet apart.
It’s also a time that calls for a change in housekeeping protocols. Room attendants should not enter a guestroom unless they are specifically requested by the guest to do so. After a guest checks out, room attendants must thoroughly clean and disinfect the guestroom.
Conferences and meetings are under new restrictions. There should be limits on the number of attendees, space between chairs and tables established and masks required. Hotels can also explore contactless service offerings.
Signs can play an important role in ensuring both guests and employees understand and remember COVID guidelines. AHLA offers several decals, signs, and posters that are available at AHLA.com/SafestayResources. They include such things as a guest checklist and a mask required poster.
With all these guidelines, which are continually updated, the Safe Stay Initiative exists to support properties across the industry. It has been endorsed by leading scientists, physicians, and public health experts in epidemiology and infectious disease.
The initiative is available to support the crucial training and preparation work that hotel managers need to do to make their property safe for guests to return to and to inspire confidence in guests eager to once again stay at their hotels.