How hotels are making changes in the age of COVID-19

In the wake of COVID-19, the tourism industry has ground almost entirely to a halt. Many airlines, including regionally-based Emirates and Etihad, have grounded the majority of their fleet, while those that are operating a heavily discounted number of flight routes under strict new measures. For hotels, the impact has been just as damaging. Some hotels have closed their doors entirely, others have transformed into temporary accommodation for those on the frontline of the global pandemic. In Abu Dhabi, over 1000 hotel rooms have been donated to healthcare workers, while on the international stage iconic hotels including Claridge’s and the Four Seasons New York have also turned into homes for medical staff. Those hotels that have remained open, have been operating with significantly fewer guests as travel restrictions, lockdowns and social-distancing measures are enforced around the world. But while hotels have always maintained strict health and hygiene standards, these are inevitably going to need to be amplified in the wake of coronavirus to encourage guests to return when the time is right. 

Marriott International was among the first to announce plans for new global cleanliness standards, to be rolled out across its portfolio of over 7,300 hotels over the next few months. Within the multi-pronged platform, the hotel chain will enhance cleanliness standards and hospitality norms throughout all of its brands, which include W Hotels, The Luxury Collection, The Ritz-Carlton, Westin and St Regis Hotels. 

To spearhead the new measures, the brand has created the Marriott Global Cleanliness Council, chaired by Ray Bennett, Chief Global Officer, Global Operations at Marriott International. ““We want our guests to know that we are doing everything we can to welcome them back to a safe and clean hotel environment when they start traveling again,” Bennett explained. 


The principal focus of the council will be to develop cleanliness standards and amplify the norms and behaviours executed to minimize risk and enhance safety for both consumers and employees. This will include introducing electrostatic sprayers with hospital-grade disinfectant to sanitize surfaces throughout the hotel rooms, lobbies, gyms and other public areas, as well as adding disinfecting wipes to all guest rooms. Furniture across hotel lobbies will also be rearranged to help guests adhere to social distancing protocols, hand sanitizing units will be installed at more touch points across hotels, and the company is even evaluating adding partitions at front desks to further limit person-to-person contact. 

Hilton is also set to redefine its cleanliness standards with a partnership with RB, the makers of Lysol and Dettol, which it will roll out in June. Through the collaboration, the hotel chain has outlined plans to develop elevated processes across more than 6,100 properties across 18 brands around the globe. While full details for the programme are still in development and expected to be announced soon, hotel brand standards under consideration include adding a Hilton CleanStay room seal to signal guestrooms have not been entered since being deep cleaned, contactless check-in and extra disinfection of 10 high-touch areas. New disinfection technologies and supplementing paper amenities with digital ones are changes that are also being considered. The end aim, the brand stresses, is to ensure a seamless and safe stay from check-in to check-out. 

Across its portfolio of 41 hotels across Asia, the Middle East, Indian Ocean, Africa and Europe, Anantara has unveiled plans to implement heightened health and hygiene measures to provide peace of mind to future guests. Lead by a newly appointed health and safety committee, the ‘Stay With Peace of Mind’ programme will be monitored by a ‘Guest Guardian’ at each property. Within the new programme, enhanced sanitization of public areas, including lobbies, reception, fitness centres, pool areas and guest rooms will be frequently carried out and an electrostatic spray technology will be used when applying cleaners and sanitisers for maximum coverage during surface disinfection. To comply with COVID-19 protection standards, guests arriving by Anantara’s limousine transfers will be transported by a driver wearing a face mask, while any pending guest details will be completed during the transfer to limit the time spent in the lobby during check-in. 

The hotel brand synonymous for its focus on wellbeing will reduce fitness classes and personal training to individuals, couples and small groups only, while breakfast buffets will be replaced with a la carte offerings and tables will be set up to comply with social distancing guidelines. 


Avani hotels are also introducing new health and safety standards, a series of initiatives named AvaniSHIELD, at all properties. Within the new measures, the hotel group is introducing a dedicated AvaniSHIELD agent, responsible for implementing new cleaning protocols, as well as ensuring the latest health and safety guidelines are communicated to staff, replacing buffets with a la carte options and allocating a 24-hour “breathing room” period between guests checking in and out of rooms. The brand is also putting a focus on digital services, including a digital pre-check in that can be done enroute to a hotel, allowing guests to simply collect keys on arrival. A digital concierge will offer live chat throughout guests’ stays, and prior to check-out, travellers will be able to settle your bill via a secure online payment system.

As it begins to reopen some of its previously closed hotels, Kempinski Hotels has launched the “Kempinski White Glove Service” to meet the highest levels of safety and guest comfort for travellers. The upgraded health, safety and hygiene measures will be outlined to hotel teams through a 50-page guidebook and cover everything from the arrival of the guests to set-up of public areas, food & beverage to housekeeping as well as spa areas to meeting spaces. Team members will carry gloves and masks covered in Kempinski’s signature flower print will now form part of the uniform. Additionally, furniture in public areas will be rearranged to abide by social distancing rules and guests will have the option to choose not to allow hotel employees to enter their room throughout their stay through a new privacy sign option. 

At Accor, an ‘ALL Safe Officer’ programme is set to be rolled out in the coming weeks, and will see a health and safety officer appointed at every single one of the hotel chains 5000 properties worldwide, who will oversee the cleaning and hygiene standards throughout the hotel, as well as serving as the point of contact to put guests concerns at ease. Programme highlights include tailormade operating protocols, cleaning products technology and team members training developed in partnership with hygiene solutions specialist Bureau Veritas. Guests will be required to wear a mask and gloves when checking-in to a MENA region property, while in-room amenities will only be provided upon request. Social distancing rules will be applied throughout public spaces, elevator capacity reduced to one person or family and virtual restaurants and in-room dining menus will allow guests to browse and order with minimal touch points. 

A partnership with global insurance giant AXA will, as of July 2020, offer free medical support that includes consultations with medical professionals by phone or in the location where they are staying to guests as required.  

Earlier this month, Radisson Hotel Group also announced its new Radisson Hotels Safety Protocol, a detailed new set of procedures validated by SGS, the world’s leading inspection, verification, testing and certification company. As outlined in the new guidelines, hand sanitizing stations will be implemented at all entrances, PPE and protective screens installed and social distancing measures actioned across all public areas of the hotels. Radisson Hotel Group will also be introducing an official label of cleanliness and disinfection issued by SGS, which will allow individual hotels to receive an approval label upon completion of a comprehensive local audit.

The latest hotel chain to detail its enhanced health and hygiene plans is IHG Hotels & Resorts with the launch of the IHG Clean Promise, redefining their global cleaning protocols alongside partners Cleaveland Clinic Ecolab and Diversey. To ensure guest confidence when returning to IHG properties, the brand is implementing enhanced cleaning procedures, social distancing signage and protocols and the introduction of guest amenity cleaning kits as well as hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes in guest rooms and at touch points throughout the portfolio of over 5,900 hotels.  

Source: Conde Nast Traveller