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Is this the end of the minibar? How COVID-19 is changing hotel stays

by | 14 May 2020 | News

Some hotels are reopening but a lot is different. (Photo from Unsplash by Humphrey Muleba)

Hotels welcoming guests today are doing away with some of the staples travellers have come to love.

As some hotels are reopening or welcome medical staff to stay while they fight against COVID-19 rages on, things on-site have changed.

We look at which guest favourites have been done away with and how hotel stays could be different in the future.

New safety procedures are implemented

The Four Seasons Hotel in New York has implemented some of the CDC’s recently recommended safety precautions for hotels.

Since the property welcomes healthcare workers fighting the virus, these measures are of additional importance to keep both the medical and hotel staff safe.

New practices include virtual check-ins and check-outs, solo elevator rides, and no more room service. There are also nurses on duty measuring every arriving person’s temperature.

“We now have almost no touchpoints in the entire hotel, which is completely against a hotel’s nature of being hands-on and kind,” Rudy Tauscher, the hotel’s general manager recently told NBC News. “We used to be known for the human touch — but now we’re all about no touch at all.”

Hilton is offering guests similar options. “Once registered, guests have the ability to check-in, select their room and use their phone as their room key, without ever having to interact with the front desk,” said Phil Cordell, Hilton’s global head of new brand development.

A different stay experience

Apart from limiting human interaction, the Four Season has made some other interesting changes too.

For example, non-essential room content has been removed to reduce the chance of germs spreading. As a result of this, minibars, excess hangers, linens and pillows have been taken out of rooms.

In-room housekeeping is also on hold during a guest’s stay. Now, rooms get deep-cleaned only between arrivals and they always stay empty two to three days.

Hotel teams are also rethinking buffets. Now sneeze protectors are up everywhere, and hotel staff serve guests instead of them serving themselves.

A new focus on cleanliness and hygiene

One good development this pandemic has brought is that many hotels are now renewing their focus on hygiene and safety.

“Hotels tend to be a reactive business,” said Chekitan Dev, a professor of marketing and branding at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration. “It’s taken COVID-19 for a lot of hotels to take a harder look at safety procedures and to up their game.”

“Hotels have not taken cleanliness seriously enough in the past,” he went on to say. “Duvets should always have been washed between guests. Minibars were always sources of germs. Sneeze guards [at breakfast buffets] were always very old-school. These things needed to be changed.”

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