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What does getting back to travel feel like?

What does getting back to travel feel like? I spent some time with fellow BARE International colleagues and CX experts, Michele Jowdy, Director of Business Development, Melanie Cihak, Director of Client Services, Alicia Myers, VP of Operations to hear their personal impressions of recent travel experiences. Keep reading for key conversation insights with some sage considerations.

The American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) commissioned a national study to learn if the revisions made to safety protocol improved the trust by guests staying in hotels. The top three improvements, all scoring 85% or more, that positively impacted guest trust were staff wearing of face coverings, guest request only for room cleaning, and use of non-contact technology. You were recently traveling…

Did you have any reservations about going on your planned trip?

Michele Jowdy: Since it was the first time traveling there was a bit of “fear of the unknown” regarding safety and how standards would be followed in other places. I was mostly concerned with rooms not cleaned to standards, service being limited.

Melanie Cihak: Yes, largely around what health and safety standards were being enforced in other areas, especially in places to stay.

Alicia Myers: I had reservations regarding putting my family at risk because I knew, even though we would be socially distanced, we would be in the company of others. We had not been anywhere since the lockdown began in March and I questioned if this trip was worth it. Mentally it was.

Were any of those fears realized?

MJ: In one of the hotels, the room was not cleaned to standards. There was a spill left in the refrigerator and one of the beds had some little bugs near the headboard. So didn’t even seem to be cleaned to pre Coviid. The other hotel was completely up to standards and the room was even sealed off before entering letting you know the room was clean.

MC: We visited two hotels. The first hotel we stayed one night and it was less than satisfactory. I think it was also related to the hotel being older so that added to the health and safety expectations left quite a bit to be desired. The second hotel, where we stayed multiple nights, was night and day. It was clean, smelled clean (not a chemical smell) and inviting.

AM: Compliance to local regulations was limited. While there were signs that required guests to wear a mask, this requirement was not being reinforced. This was especially concerning as you were traveling in the evaluator.

What do you think the travel, hotel, hospitality industry needs to do better to gain public trust?

MJ: Consistency. I think it’s important that throughout each property standards are all being met. All employees should be carrying out the same procedures and complying with all CDC guidelines. Each room on property should be the same.

MC: While posting / signage what’s being done to help with health and safety is nice, it’s one of those “I’ll believe it when I see it” type responses. I think those in this industry need to verbally share what they are doing, rotate out signage to show that it’s not becoming stale. The more ‘they’ can communicate to the customer, the more comfortable it may be customers to visit / stay.

AM: Guests who did not comply with the mask requirement was worry some. Monitoring compliance would help make us all feel safer.

Can you share an example of a travel experience that was positive, they did all the right things?

MJ: My stay in the hotel in Las Vegas was positive. They adhered very closely to all standards including contactless check in unless you requested assistance. The rooms had stickers on the door letting guests know that they had not been entered since cleaning. All employees adhered to mask wearing, cleaning the counters after each customers and even the elevators had floor markings to note where guests should stand in the elevator for social distance. Before checking in guests walked through a temperature check to ensure they did not have a fever. Guidelines were posted throughout the hotel and the check in area.

MC: When visiting the second property there were sanitizing stations around the lobby as well as the room floor that we were on. There were signs posted about social distancing. There were tables in front of the lobby check-in desk to prevent guests from getting too close, even with plexiglass up. There were return containers on these tables for those who needed to drop room keys. There were also flyers about how the hotel / brand was maintaining help and safety standards. Elevators had signage about “one person or one family” only and, lastly, there were social distancing (6 ft) ‘stickers’ on the floor. Our suite smelled fresh and clean and there was a seal on the door to confirm that the room had been cleaned and sealed until the new guest arrived.

AM: Check in was seamless, they had a full plastic sneeze guard placed between the front desk staff and guests. They had two sets of pens available and separated; sanitized and used.

Can you share an example of a travel experience that was negative, there opportunities that needed attention?

MJ: In the one hotel the front desk employee took my phone to the backroom to check her records, she wasn’t wearing gloves and held on to it while she was trying to figure out the confirmation information and the room.

MC: The first hotel’s room was overpowered with a chemical smell. We were there less than 12 hours and if we hadn’t been we would have checked out. We opened the ice bucket to find leftovers of fruit peels and beer bottle caps and other trash. We saw staff walking around with masks hanging down or only partially covering their face (i.e. mouth not nose). I’m not going to speculate that they weren’t following rules because maybe they had good reason, but it wasn’t a good look for guests to see.

What would you say to those who may be embarking on a trip?

MJ: Double check that procedures are in place, make sure you take your own sanitizer and mask with you, if there is anything you are not comfortable with when you check in be sure to say something to management so they know and be mindful of other travelers around you and their behavior.

MC: All you can do is take care of yourself. If you have any concern about traveling then don’t do it. If you think you may be put in an uncomfortable situation then don’t travel, even if it’s local. And, as with anything or anytime, keep your common sense with you. Don’t feel obligated to put yourself in a situation to prevent embarrassment or conflict. Above all – be nice. Know that staff at many hotels and restaurants are working longer hours and they would appreciate your kindness and patience.

AM: Do as you would were you home. If you clean and sanitize, then pack cleaning supplies and prepare to quarantine in your room just as you would at home.

What would you say to hospitality persons who are working to deliver exceptional experiences during this time?

MJ: Be patient with guests as you would expect them to be patient with you. Everyone is trying to adjust to a different way of traveling. Also, be sure that you explain all procedures and information to guests for best compliance.

MC: Thank you. We may only be one very small percentage of the guests with whom you interact, but hopefully we’re also doing ‘our part’ to keep you safe.

AM: Thank you to the staff that are going above and beyond to make guests feel as comfortable as possible.

What parting advice would you give to the hospitality industry at this moment in time?

MJ: People want to travel! Be sure you are keeping locations as clean as possible and always upholding standards so that guests feel safe. If you see a guest not adhering politely and in an upbeat way ask them to comply. Be patient with guests and help them to understand what’s being done for them and what expectations are.

MC: Keep standards high as always, but even more so now go above and beyond. People are still very much ‘freaked out’ when traveling but some have no choice. Maybe there is a medical reason they are having to travel or an essential need for their work and their scared as well so everyone just needs a little empathy with one another. A smile (even under a mask) goes a long way.

AM: In lieu of offering travel items such as shampoo/body wash/lotion, offer hand sanitizer and travel wipes.

Linda Amraen, Global Director of Client Services, Hospitality – BARE International

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