With COVID-19, hotels have to rethink safety for when guests return
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Quarterly results from Marriott out today show the hotel operator’s profit for the first three months of the year was well below expectations. It did, however, beat on revenue, and the company says lodging demand has stabilized.
Like most industries, hospitality has been turned upside down by COVID-19. And to make people feel comfortable staying in hotels again, companies are going to have to rethink the experience.
Some of the things people love about hotels — the pool, the spa, housekeeping — can make folks feel uneasy these days.
“Hotels have always been about clean. But now it’s going to be about clean with a double exclamation point,” said Phil Cordell, global head of new brand development at Hilton.
Cordell says the company is paying special attention to “high-touch” areas like light switches and TV remotes. Starting in June, when guests get to their rooms, there will be a sticker seal on the door that says the room has been cleaned with Lysol.
All this is about keeping people safe. But Robert Cole at market research firm Phocuswright says it’s also a bit of theater, “to demonstrate we’re doing everything we can to keep you safe.”
Safety and perceived safety is going to be the most important piece of getting customers back. And a lot of this will fall on who Cole says is the industry’s most important employee: “It’s not the general manager, it’s not the chef, it’s not the concierge. It’s the housekeeper.”
This is another business where the coronavirus has put a light on just how valuable hourly workers are.
COVID-19 Economy FAQs
What’s the outlook for vaccine supply?
Chief executives of America’s COVID-19 vaccine makers promised in congressional testimony to deliver the doses promised to the U.S. government by summer. The projections of confidence come after months of supply chain challenges and companies falling short of year-end projections for 2020. What changed? In part, drugmakers that normally compete are now actually helping one another. This has helped solve several supply chain issues, but not all of them.
How has the pandemic changed scientific research?
Over the past year, while some scientists turned their attention to COVID-19 and creating vaccines to fight it, most others had to pause their research — and re-imagine how to do it. Social distancing, limited lab capacity — “It’s less fun, I have to say. Like, for me the big part of the science is discussing the science with other people, getting excited about projects,” said Isabella Rauch, an immunologist at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. Funding is also a big question for many.
What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?
Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”
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