COVID-19 has affected every aspect of our lives, from economy and education to socializing and lifestyle. But nothing has been impacted quite as severely as tourism and the hospitality industry. Hotels across the globe have been forced to work at a reduced capacity or even stop working altogether. That led many of them to close their doors forever, unable to withstand the crisis.
But as bleak as this situation may seem, we can now see the light at the end of the tunnel. Countries such as China have managed to overcome this hurdle and still keep their hotel industry running. Of course, things have not been easy there either, but their hoteliers certainly did something right.
So, let’s examine closely how the Chinese handled COVID hospitality. Perhaps we can find some valuable lessons for Western hoteliers as well.
1. Strict Sanitary Measures Are a Must
Even in pre-COVID times, sanitation was of utmost importance to every serious hotelier. But now, with the virus circulating in the population, strict sanitary measures are no longer a matter of choice. They are an absolute must.
So, what do these sanitary measures include? By now, we are all too familiar with them in the West. Disinfectants, protective masks and gloves, airing out the rooms every few hours, thorough cleaning — these measures are commonplace now. They aren’t there only to protect the guests either. Hotel staff safety is ensured this way too.
Aside from that, Chinese hoteliers make sure to leave a guest room empty 24 hours after the previous tenants left. That way, any traces of the virus that may have been present would be gone by the time a new guest comes. Of course, in these 24 hours, the room goes through thorough cleaning and disinfecting.
When we look at China now, it has already largely defeated the virus, and life is slowly going back to normal. Even so, Chinese hoteliers still prioritize hotel safety, keeping all sanitary measures in place. Ultimately, even once the pandemic ends, the rest of the world should follow China’s example in this.
2. Hotels Should Minimize Opportunities for Interaction
Dozens, if not hundreds of people, pass through a hotel every day. There are receptionists, guests, chefs, cleaning and maintenance staff, security, waiters and waitresses, and entertainers. Naturally, that opens up plenty of opportunities for contact, and that’s just the thing we want to avoid.
So how exactly did Chinese hoteliers go about it? Well, they reduced the number of guests allowed in the hotels. At the height of the pandemic, even the staff was cut down to only those who were absolutely essential. That way, hotel owners minimized the likelihood of people bumping into each other in the corridors or the reception room.
On top of that, common rooms such as restaurants and lounge areas were closed. Guests could only spend time in their rooms, isolated from other visitors of the hotel. Things are changing now that the pandemic is under control, but many hotels still have at least some restrictive measures in place.
Also, hoteliers made sure to reduce any unnecessary contact. For example, they installed plexiglass barriers on the reception desks or even entirely did away with reception check-ins. Instead, customers could use apps or websites to check in themselves, as well as check out when they leave.
3. Lower Prices Encourage Travelling
After months of lockdown and restrictions, China finally started opening up in the summer of last year. Of course, it was a gradual process that is yet to be complete, but domestic travel was already beginning to come back to life.
That was great news for hotel owners, but they were still not out of the woods. While people were eager to travel after a long lockdown, many still feared the infection. Others, who lost their income during the pandemic, couldn’t afford expensive hotel stays. Obviously, hoteliers needed to do something to draw in more guests.
And the solution was fairly simple — lower prices. People who might not have left home otherwise decided to seize the opportunity and travel while the prices were low. And slowly but surely, the hotel industry started to recover.
So, is the Chinese hospitality industry back now to what it was before the pandemic? Not quite yet, but its recovery is faster than anyone thought. So if we adopt a similar approach here in the West, maybe the same will happen.
4. Adaptability Is Key
If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that only those who adapt survive. Hotels, restaurants, and cafes that couldn’t find a way to make money have gone out of business. But many are still out there, alive and well, operating almost as if nothing has changed.
And how have Chinese hotels adapted to their new circumstances? Well, they realized that new technology could be of immense help. Aside from the self check-in and check-out apps we mentioned, some hotels offer a fully contactless experience. Instead of a person guiding guests to their rooms and providing room service, now a smart robot can do that.
It may be some time before we get such technology in the West, though. Still, we could start actively incorporating digital technology into the hospitality industry. It’s sure to make a deal of difference!
As tough as this past year has been on the hoteliers, there are ways to turn the situation around. We only need to look at China and its handling of post-COVID hospitality. After all, if their hotels have managed to pull out of the crisis, why shouldn’t ours?