Year-over-year hotel occupancy rates in the U.S. have increased steadily since 2011. That is of course until COVID-19 entered the picture in March 2020. Non-essential business closures, reduced capacity, travel restrictions, and stay-at-home orders have led to the lowest occupancy rates of the past decade.
As restrictions lessen, occupancy rates have bounced back some, but it’s still evident that leisure travelers aren’t traveling like they used to. Travel patterns are changing too with more people traveling domestic or local. Given changing travel restrictions and safety concerns, hotel goers just don’t feel comfortable traveling out of the country or too far from home.
Hotels and travel rental properties must address traveler’s concerns and follow CDC guidelines to show guests that it is safe to travel during COVID.
Top 4 Concerns Travelers Have About Staying at Hotels During the Pandemic & How to Address Them
1. The hotel won’t be clean enough
Guests always want a safe hotel experience. But now they expect more in terms of cleanliness and hygiene. Follow all CDC and American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) guidelines for hotel operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of these include:
- Regularly cleaning and disinfecting common areas, elevators, stairwells
- Quarantining a guest room for at least 24 hours after a presumed COVID case
- Display guest and employee hygiene guidelines throughout your hotel
- Setting up hand sanitizer stations throughout the hotel
- Provide guests with a welcome kit that includes an overview of hygiene protocol, disinfectant wipes, and hand sanitizer
2. I don’t feel comfortable being around so many people
Being in a single building with so many other people over can feel unsafe in coronavirus times. It might feel tough to remedy that concern when providing lodging for people from all over is a core function of the hotel, but it’s doable.
One measure that can go a long way is requiring face covers for guests and employees. A survey from AHLA found that the majority of guests would feel a lot more comfortable if that were the case.
Other ways to increase guest comfort include:
- Staggering check-out and check-in times or allowing contactless check-in and check-out
- Reconfiguring common areas to adhere to social distancing
- Eliminating buffet-style meals in favor of cafeteria-style or grab-n-go
- Allowing guests to eat hotel meals in their rooms
- Limiting elevator usage to a single party at a time
- Spacing out gym equipment to ensure physical distancing
- Letting guests know ahead of time if a conference or big event coincides with their stay
3. I don’t want a housekeeper touching my stuff
In the past, the idea of daily housekeeping service pleased guests. Now, it’s off-putting, given health and safety concerns. The CDC even recommends against daily cleaning unless a guest requests it. Adjust your housekeeping policies accordingly.
Leave extra towels, extra blankets, and extra toiletries in the room before guests check-in. Provide disinfectant wipes too for guests to wipe down their doorknob, remote control, and elevator buttons.
4. I’ll lose money if I need to cancel last minute
Money is tight for many Americans, and COVID-19 regulations are unpredictable. Guests don’t want to spend money on a trip that they might need to cancel for reasons outside of their control. Providing flexible cancellation policies can alleviate this concern. Plus, those policies can help increase the likelihood of symptomatic guests postponing their trip.
Keep Guests Informed to Ease Their Travel Fears
Are hotels safe during COVID-19? That’s the core question travelers want answered. Along with implementing the safety measures outlined above, hotels also need to focus on communicating health and safety protocols with guests.
Ways to Communicate with Guests Before Their Stay
- Outline your coronavirus health and safety plan on your hotel website and social media pages. Make it readily available to guests who visit the site.
- When confirming a booking online via email, provide the guests with information about what to expect during their visit. This includes hotel policies and guest expectations regarding mask-wearing, social distancing, common spaces, housekeeping, check-in, and check-out.
- Write a script for employees to follow when answering guest questions about COVID-19 safety protocol and guest expectations.
- Create new video and print advertisements that illustrate the new protocol. Show employees in masks. Show contactless check-in and check-out. Show the ultraviolet light sanitation wands you’re using to clean rooms.
Ways to Communicate with Guests During Their Stay
- Add pamphlets to guest rooms that describe hotel health and safety protocol and updated local COVID-19 restrictions.
- Provide guests with the front desk’s number and encourage guests to request needed items over the phone rather than in person.
- Require employees to keep 6-feet of distance between themselves and guests whenever addressing questions. Consider installing transparent shields for more comfortable, personable face-to-face communication.
- Put signs up throughout the hotel and in the elevator that remind guests of expectations regarding mask-wearing, hand-washing, and social distancing.