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7 key criteria to navigate the ‘new normal’ in travel and hotels

7 key criteria to navigate the ‘new normal’ in travel and hotels

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With the start of summer right around the corner and restrictions being amended nationwide, it’s natural for people to start thinking about traveling again.

With the standards for hotel selection being more important than ever, consumers will be more diligent in their research when deciding on where to stay. As a result, hotels will need to be able to assure consumers that their properties uphold the most effective standards of cleanliness to prevent virus exposure, while providing high-quality hospitality and services.

CompareCards turned to boutique hotels across the country to understand what the new normal of accommodation and travel will be like for future hotel guests. Both travelers and hotels will need to navigate new safety implementations to reduce exposure to the virus. Here are some key criteria to look out for, as well as some expert tips on ways to seek safe travel accommodations.

7 key criteria to consider for travel this summer

Here are the key criteria to consider when researching a hotel for a summer trip both in the U.S. and internationally:

Making cleanliness and safety a priority

Hotels are well aware there will be short-term and long-term implications that need to be addressed due to the coronavirus pandemic. In the short-term, they need to do damage control. They understand that guests feel tentative about staying at a property due to the fear of virus exposure.

As a result, resorts will need to modify services and amenities to minimize exposure risk and to abide by state and local guidelines. For example, hotels may find the need to close down some of their “high-touch” amenities, such as buffets, bellhops, spa treatments and gyms.

In addition, cleaning protocols will need to be at the forefront in preparing a hotel to reopen or maintaining operations throughout the coronavirus pandemic. Requiring staff to wear masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) and reducing maximum occupancy to maintain social distancing are different forms of short-term adaptations.

More robust cleaning protocols will likely become a new industry standard. The American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) already outlined a new safety and cleanliness initiative, called Safe Stay to align with the Centers of Disease Control (CDC). With Safe Stay, AHLA provides detailed practices to follow, such as providing hand sanitizer dispensers at guest and employee entrances, contactless food delivery and social distancing.

Ways hotels ensure social distancing

Ensuring social distance guidelines are encouraged in a naturally social space can be challenging.
The Bristol Hotel, located in Bristol, Va., transformed their space to follow social distance guidelines and help their guests feel safe.

The Bristol Hotel

Here at The Bristol Hotel, we’ve transformed our outdoor rooftop bar, Lumac, into traditional dining space for guests and have shifted our restaurant operations as a result of social distancing requirements and open-air dining preferences to meet the demand.

Our diners are seeking open-air seating in the lounge area and stand-alone tables, as no one is interested in sitting at a bar next to strangers right now. Since everyone has been stuck inside for the past two months, we are seeing tables occupied anywhere from 1.5 to 3 hours with guests enjoying dinner and then staying for drinks.Here at The Bristol Hotel, we’ve transformed our outdoor rooftop bar, Lumac, into traditional dining space for guests and have shifted our restaurant operations as a result of social distancing requirements and open-air dining preferences to meet the demand.

Our team is getting constant thank you’s from diners for following the safe distancing guidelines, and we expect that to pay off in the future in terms of loyalty from locals and repeat business to our on-site restaurant and bar.
— Sean Copley, general manager at The Bristol Hotel in Bristol, Va.

Other unique ways hotels are adapting new standards:

  • Deer Path Inn , located in Lake Forest, Ill., reopened for overnight guests and outdoor dining in late May 2020 after rolling out significant updates with a goal of maintaining a sense of health and safety without sacrificing hospitality or luxury. One of the most notable: Travelers can feel safe knowing that every room is left vacated for 48 hours after the previous guests depart, while linens are removed, disinfected and stored in a hazard bag.

Deer Path Inn

  • The Roxbury at Stratton Falls, located in Roxbury, N.Y., is not only using cutting-edge, easy-on-the-skin, hospital-grade sanitation products, but is administering a disinfectant system throughout each guestroom, using an electrostatic gun to kill germs and viruses in seconds.

The Roxbury at Stratton Falls, Fantasy Themed Tower Cottages

Privacy and minimal contact

For the long-term, hotels will need to embrace the concept of “contactless.” Contactless check-ins, contactless payments and contactless room services will help the industry better prepare to serve its future visitors.

Inns of Aurora, E.B. Morgan House

The less visitors are required to interact with staff, the more peace of mind and trust they will have in the property. For example, The Wayfinder Hotel, located in Newport, R.I., adopted contactless check-in by allowing guests to skip the lobby curbside check-in service and get keyless guest room entry. Reducing contact even further, they also give guests the flexibility of dining options with bagged or boxed options for beach trips and picnics at the local parks.

Privacy and seclusion are also key concepts for the future of hotel accommodations. Inns of Aurora , located in Aurora, N.Y., made three of their five Inns exclusively available for private rental. Guests are able to customize their experience with add-on amenities, such as private chef service, grocery delivery for a fully stocked fridge and take-out meals from the on-site restaurants. Inns of Aurora also changed its policy to allow pets, making it easier for families to book travel with their four-legged friends.

Reservation flexibility and budget-friendly accommodations

The recent pandemic has taught consumers the importance of having the ability to modify or cancel reservations. Moving forward, hotels need to provide their guests with the flexibility to cancel or modify reservations last minute and obtain full refunds. With the uncertainty of the course of the pandemic, flexibility to cancel and the assurance of a full refund will give visitors peace of mind.

Financially, there are both short-term and long-term implications for hotels that could help customers’ wallets. Guests should consider accommodations that have loyalty programs established or perks for frequent travelers to reduce costs. It’s also helpful to look out for hotels that have special deals in light of reopening.

Checking accommodations outside of the U.S.

Although it may be a while before nonessential international travel can resume to pre-coronavirus levels, hotels outside the U.S. are also adapting to the “new normal.” The pandemic impacted travel and accommodations on a global scale, and travelers can utilize initiatives implemented outside the states.

Hotel Metropole Monte-Carlo

Though the European Union kept restrictions on nonessential travel for foreigners, lockdown restrictions have eased enough to allow interunion travel.
The Hotel Metropole Monte-Carlo
in Monaco focused on “local” visitors through new programs and special offers. These programs include a “Happy Days” experience, with free parking to welcome the rise in road trip travelers and the flexibility to check-in at the time of guest’s choice and choose late check-out until 4 p.m. on the day of departure. They also extended the cancellation/modification limits to 6 p.m. on the day of the guest’s arrival.

Alaia Belize

Hotels like Alaia Belize, located in Ambergris Caye, Belize, are still prioritizing personal connections all while ensuring cleanliness and safety. Now, guests are all greeted with a “hand to the heart” welcome signal in place of the traditional handshake, warmly welcoming them to their establishment.

Understanding the importance of travel and tourism in a local community

Despite how much the pandemic disrupted the travel industry, hotels create an organic small business ecosystem with the food, drink, tourism and entertainment industries. Boutique experiences can provide tourists recommendations on where to see the best sites and how to “live like a local.” These recommendations, in turn, create revenue for more local businesses and boost the economy within the community.

As people start to consider traveling again, they may begin with local adventures before planning larger trips. Shopping and staying local means more than supporting a favorite restaurant — it could mean visiting a nearby getaway town, discovering hidden local gems and supporting multiple local businesses at once.

The future of the boutique hotel industry depends on the future of the travel industry overall. In terms of transportation, visitors may favor driving over flying for domestic vacations. This preference may blossom out of the “new normal” for airlines that may include increased fares, increased wait times and the loss of amenities. Knowing that air travel will take time to adapt, travelers may opt for a “staycation” or road trip this summer instead.

Another trend to watch in the future is more robust travel insurance. Travelers will want the peace of mind to know that their travel plans can be changed or canceled without repercussion, should another breakout of the pandemic occur. Boutique hotels that can adopt a lasting form of flexible reservations or travel insurance will be more attractive accommodations to travelers.

The aftermath of the pandemic could also lead to accommodations making more room for social distancing and less occupancy. Hotels will need to keep these considerations in mind for potential renovations or new facility designs. The more “pandemic-proof” a hotel can be, the better it can serve guests through any situation.

Travel tips from experts

With the expected long-term shifts in the travel industry, travelers will need assistance with adjusting to and navigating the new norms. Turning to boutique hotel leaders, here are some expert tips for future travelers:

  1. Consider less populated cities. When considering a vacation spot, it is easy to think of the largest, most popular cities. However, considering the pandemic, those cities may not be the best choice if social distance is a concern.

Michael Cady

“We’ll see second and third tier cities become more popular because of their accessibility by car and abundance of outdoor, socially distant-friendly experiences. Combining both examples, The Wayfinder Hotel in Newport, R.I., which opens in June, is putting more emphasis on outdoor programming by offering guests the chance to reserve destination activities like private sailing excursions and oyster harvesting.”
Michael Cady, vice president of marketing, Charlestowne Hotels

“We anticipate travelers will become more discerning when they begin to travel abroad again. Now more than ever, safety and lower population density will become key motivating factors. Instead of gravitating towards large, urban cities (such as Paris), travelers may seek out a similar, less populated destination such as Monaco instead, which provides visitors with access to outdoor excursions (beaches, boat charters), exceptional dining and numerous options for privatizing experiences.”
Serge Ethuin, general manager of Hotel Metropole Monte-Carlo 

  1. Try a staycation. Now is a great time to explore the hidden gems within your local community. Staycations are often more cost effective because transportation is less of a concern. It provides a change of scenery without venturing too far.

“We expect hotels will also begin to encourage ‘staycation’ travel with their local audience through specific programming and packages, which might include complimentary parking, late check-out and food and beverage credits. For your first trip, check out some of your nearby hotels to see if they’re offering any specific offers for locals.”
Michael Cady, vice president of marketing, Charlestowne Hotels

  1. Use private modes of transportation. Public spaces are prime hotspots for virus exposure. Driving a car instead of using public transportation can mitigate exposure risk. For places overseas, private aviation and yachting may be a consideration.

Serge Ethuin

 

 

“As travel restrictions are lifted, we expect that, to start, international travel will be most accessible to those with access to more private modes of travel — via private aviation and yachting, for instance. Destinations like Monaco, which are well-suited to welcome this form of travel, may benefit first.”
Serge Ethuin, general manager of Hotel Metropole Monte-Carlo

 

 

 

 

  1. Review cancellation policies.Flexibility to easily cancel or modify reservations is now high on the list when booking a trip. Travelers will need to carefully review cancellation policies to avoid a situation in which they are unable to obtain a refund or transfer their accommodation to a different date.

“Cancellation policies will also be changed due to the pandemic — in order for guests to feel completely comfortable booking during these uncertain times, hotels will be more flexible and accommodating when honoring last-minute cancellations due to specific circumstances. Before booking your stay, double-check your hotel’s cancellation policy to see if it’s been updated in light of coronavirus, and [if] it offers you the flexibility you need.”
Michael Cady, vice president of marketing, Charlestowne Hotels

  1. Pool together to rent a whole floor or private inn. With hotels offering lodging to the general public, there is inherent risk of virus exposure from other guests. Renting out a whole floor or private inn can reduce that risk. While this can be costly for a single family, it may make economical sense if you have a large extended family wanting to reunite or a large group of friends.

“To further encourage social distancing, travelers will want to be presented with lodging options such as full buyouts or privatization of specific corridors or floors. At Hotel Metropole, we privatized the entire top floor of the hotel, which offers seven suites — including the Suite Carré d’Or penthouse. Reserving the entire top floor offers guests a getaway in which they can enjoy social distancing without sacrificing luxury.”
Serge Ethuin, general manager of Hotel Metropole Monte-Carlo


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