On the launch day of ATM Virtual, industry experts made it clear during a session entitled ‘The Hotel Landscape in a Post-COVID-19 World’ that a global set of transparent hospitality standards relating to health, safety and hygiene are necessary.
The session discussed the importance of hotel brands providing hospitality workers and consumers with confidence that their property and the wider destination are safe and secure.
The panel was moderated by industry consultant Gemma Greenwood, and featured senior area vice president – Middle East & Africa, Radisson Hotel Group, Tim Cordon; head of hotels, Colliers International, Middle East & North Africa, Christopher Lund; president of hotel operations – EMEA, Four Seasons, Simon Casson; and CEO, Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority, Raki Phillips.
Cordon declared: “There has never been a global pandemic of this scale in modern times, building confidence will be key as we look ahead to the post-COVID-19 hospitality recovery. Not only is it important that our workers have confidence that their health and wellbeing is of prime importance, but for consumers too. They will need full reassurance that our properties are safe, secure and following the highest standards when it comes to hygiene and cleanliness.
“Our properties rely predominantly on corporate and business travel. So, having a global standard will be essential before we start to see large organisations send their employees all over the world again. It is important that everyone can understand that what’s being offered is consistent and trustworthy,” he added.
The MENA region alone has witnessed an estimated 42 per cent decrease in occupancy since March, according to data from Colliers International, with many people forced to cancel or postpone their travel plans during H1, 2020.
Phillips noted: “Our industry is very resilient and will recover, and for this reason it’s important that hotels don’t drop their room rates. Tourists will come back, we are already seeing this in Ras Al Khaimah where we are lucky to have large, spacious resorts with some offering private villas, making the implementation of social distancing measures much easier. Hotels need to adapt to a new normal with increased sanitisation at the forefront, while being creative with their offerings and embracing innovative technologies which can help differentiate them from their competitors.”
Travellers are still eager to go on holiday but safety has now become a top priority over price, location, facilities and services.
Lund explained: “One way of achieving this consumer trust, and I believe the hospitality industry in the UAE is leading the way in this respect, is by partnering with accreditation agencies such as the Bureau Veritas to ensure your property is following disinfectant and sanitisation protocols implemented by government bodies and abiding by the highest levels of hygiene. Passing these audits provides your property with a label that guests can view and take reassurance from.
“In addition, the implementation of immersive technologies that provide potential guests with virtual 3D tours of properties, as well as phone apps which allow you to enter your hotel room, change the temperature, call the elevator, book excursions and order room service are going to be vital in helping hotels recover and stand out from their competitors,” he added.
Meanwhile, Casson declared: “At Four Seasons we have been spending a lot of time exploring how the new guest journey, from the moment they arrive to the moment they leave, will look. While we are doing everything we can to ensure the wellbeing and safety of our guests, it’s important that we continue to work with our local partners, such as airlines, airport transfer providers and activity and tour guides, to ensure they are abiding by the same level of santisation and hygiene. Consistency across the entire experience is key.”
The hospitality industry has been a recurring theme throughout the three-day virtual event, which concludes today. ATM Virtual has included a series of roundtables including ‘Will hygiene surpass price, facilities and services, in the ‘new normal’ hotel experience’, ‘Effects that COVID-19 could have on food-driven travel’ and ‘The Changing Face of Luxury Family Travel’.