Reopening During the New Normal

    By Jennifer Flohr, CAE, CMP, Senior Vice President, California Hotel & Lodging Association

    As we hear that it might be awhile before things are really “back to normal”, will they ever truly to be normal again? What the “new normal” will look like is anyone’s guess, it could mean no handshakes, less hugs, social distancing is expected and no more buffets!

    We have had many members ask for guidelines, check lists and ideas on how they should prepare for reopening. The government might come out with standards, some hotel brands will come out with standards or procedures and some law firm or insurance companies will probably come out with check lists from their perspective. While every hotel is different, I have been thinking about what hoteliers should be thinking about in terms of their operations. On the following pages are some things to think about.

    Bellmen/Valet

    Let’s start with the first person a guest might encounter at a hotel—the bellman or valet. Do you even still offer valet parking? If you do, do you have your parking attendant wear gloves and change them between getting into each car? What about self-parking and self-paying machines on the way out of the parking lot? Plan to wipe down and clean those buttons, and schedule someone to do it often.

    Does your bellmen open your doors with gloves? How often are the door handles being cleaned, and who is doing that if you don’t have someone opening the doors for guests? Perhaps it is time to consider more automatic doors. If you loan out your bell carts, make sure someone is responsible for keeping them clean. Perhaps having disinfecting wipes handy for people to use for themselves, like they do for the carts in the grocery store, is the way to go.

    Front Desk

    I believe that social distancing will still be in effect when hotels reopen. Do you have room for your front agents to spread out?

    If your check-in line becomes long, do you have room for guests to stay a minimum of 6 feet apart or whatever government mandated rules are? Should you mark the lines on the floor or have signage about social distancing?

    Consider gloves and masks for front desk agents. I have heard about hotels ordering embroidered fabric ones for their staff. Are front desk agents taking guest credit cards and swiping them or do you have POS machines for guests to use themselves? Have your front desk agent clean it after each use. Be sure to use an approved disinfectant and make sure it will not harm or damage your machine.

    Lobby

    Previously, have you offered cookies, fruit or water from a common container in your lobby? These treats will probably need to be discontinued or individually wrapped. In terms of water, is someone cleaning the spicket/handle to the common water container regularly? Perhaps you don’t want to offer small plastic water bottles. Do you have a water fountain with a water bottle filling station, so people are able to fill their own bottles? Don’t forget to have your water fountains cleaned regularly and often.

    Does your property have elevators? Decide how often the elevators buttons need to be wiped and who is in charge of that.

    Lobby Common Areas

    It might be time to rethink your common areas. Do you have clusters of large sitting areas with couches? Should seating areas be smaller, and should they consist of tables and chairs that are easy to wipe down versus fabric chairs or couches? Again, who is responsible for this and how often do they do this? If you are running with a slim staff, perhaps you have a disinfecting station available with wipes for people to use for themselves. This would make me feel more comfort when sitting down in your lobby. Do you restrooms have automatic doors? This might be a good time to consider adding them if you are able to.

    Breakfast

    Buffet breakfast may be a thing of the past. Most hotels that have remained open already went to prepackaged and easy-to-go food like yogurts and muffins, etc. Do you have the space to remove half your tables, so everyone has the state mandated social distance between them?

    When someone gets up from eating breakfast, is your staff immediately wiping the tables and chairs down? Again, this might be a great place to have a disinfecting station available with wipes for people to use for themselves. In the past, have you had large qualities of silverware out where people are touching many when grabbing one? Consider providing utensils pre-wrapped in napkins or provide disposables prewrapped plastic or green silverware packets.

    Do you have a self-serve beverage area in your breakfast area? Are there handles to pour yourself juice or coffee? Are those being cleaned regularly? What about individually wrapped handy wipes, so when a guess is ready to sit down and eat, they can disinfect their hands at the very last moment?

    Housekeeping

    After someone exits a room, it has been suggested by a risk management expert to leave it open for three days before cleaning, for the virus to die. If you have the inventory available, you might want to consider how to schedule this. If your rooms are being cleaned for a quick turn over, are your housekeepers using separate cleaning cloths and items for each room so as not to spread anything from one room to the next?

    Look at the design of your rooms. What can be removed that is not easy to clean? Perhaps you limit the items in the room, such as robes and extra linens, and deliver them on request to eliminate wondering if they have been used or touched. It has often been reported that the tv remote control is the dirtiest item in a hotel room. Is it time to consider remote control covers? I’ve heard of some hotels using black lights to inspect their rooms. How else can a room be inspected to ensure cleanliness?

    Employee Safety

    First and foremost, encourage symptomatic employees to stay home and to not come in if they are sick or have been exposed to someone who is sick. In some cases, it may be acceptable to take employees temperatures before their shifts starts. Always follow local public health recommendations and continue to reinforce hand washing and cough etiquette to all.

    Is someone keeping up on the cleaning of your employee areas? Are the doorknobs for the employee entrance, the employee restrooms, time clocks, other shared items and common areas being cleaned as regularly as they should be? Are there plenty of handwashing and sanitation areas for your employees? Encourage social distancing, especially in team common areas. If desks or work areas are very close together, rearrange them or stagger shifts now more than ever.

    Click here to review EcoLabs Cleaning and disinfecting guidance for hospitality for the Novel Coronavirus, which includes a list of disinfectants approved by the EPA for use against the Novel Coronavirus.

    These are just a few things to think about as we start to get ready to go back to normal and travel again. I personally am looking forward to that day!