COVID-19 hit the global economy hard, and most industries will suffer its effects for a long time. This is particularly true in small countries, which depend largely on niche incomes like travel and hospitality. For example, Greek hoteliers already face the hardships of closed doors and empty rooms.
According to Statista, the total contribution of travel and tourism to GDP in Greece decreased remarkably in 2020 – 14.8 billion euros over the previous year when it was 38.1 billion. This was because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Will the industry recover? If they adapt to the “new normal,” hoteliers will stay in business; here are some strategies to guide them.
Clean Is the New Norm
Dirty rooms, floors, bathrooms, bedding, surfaces, and everything you can think about cleaning must be impeccable. Guests will have zero tolerance for dust, stains, and otherwise unsanitary places. To remain relevant and profitable, hoteliers must conform to these increasingly demanding expectations. “Clean” became the most important word in hospitality in 2020. As a result, many hotels and chains implemented strict routines to keep their rooms and public areas clean.
For example, Omni Hotels and Resorts have a safe and clean program involving robust sanitization protocols, EPA-certified cleansers, contactless technology, and cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting procedures for areas serving food and beverages. This hotel chain has a dedicated webpage detailing its process and measures for guests, staff, and associates.
Greek hotels adapted; however, most of them don’t go into such details, although the recommended protocols from the local authorities are clear, and there’s even a “health first” initiative for tourists. As far as cleanliness goes, hoteliers must – among other measures:
- appoint a coordinator to supervise cleaning protocols;
- train staff to respect and follow the protocols and hygiene measures;
- have a plan to manage suspected COVID-19 cases;
- inform employees, guests, and other third parties about their health and safety protocols;
- update their websites with a dedicated COVID-19 section.
After looking at several websites, I’ve concluded that these pages seem to elude the minds of Greek hoteliers. While the term COVID-19 may be off-putting, cleanliness is an industry norm and a reason for pride. Best Western knew it before the COVID-19 outbreak. They had a cleanliness protocol in place since 2012 when they announced their I Care® program.
So, to make this part of the analysis crystal clear: keep a clean hotel for your guests and staff. If you have any doubts, try a Google search for “clean hotels Greece” to see what these keywords deliver. Answer the Public has most of the questions people ask when looking for clean hotels.
Keyless Technology Matters
Changing traditional keylocks to contactless ones will be expensive, but this is another industry norm of the post-pandemic world. Guests expect mobile keys and access apps that deliver a little extra than room entry. For example, with the mobile key from Aero Guest, guests can use their mobile phones to check-in, pay, unlock their rooms, communicate, and check out OpenKey is another service used by hotels worldwide with exceptional advantages. When you upgrade traditional locks, here are some of the things that will benefit your operations:
- reduce costs for RFID key cards or key duplicates in case of lost/misplaced keys;
- improve the check-in process by removing the usual stop at the front desk;
- reduce the workload on the reception staff;
- enhance the guest experience by automating room access;
- reduce your hotel’s environmental footprint (to put this into perspective, a 200-room hotel can use more than “12,000 non-biodegradable keycards each year, creating 1,300 tons (or 2,600,000 lbs) of plastic waste ending up in landfills every year.”)
Statistics – as early as 2015 – show that 60% of guests were “more likely” to choose a hotel that allows them to check-in and open doors with a smartphone than a hotel that doesn’t. With COVID-19 rampant around the world, guests are likely to want less touching objects handled by hundreds of people, and they will appreciate keyless technology.
Contactless technology should be available everywhere else where touching is not always sanitary: restrooms for water, soap dispensers, hand dryers, or in-room for light switchers and media, and the list could go on. Smart rooms are the future.
Package Deals for Added Appeal
Guests will no longer look only for accommodation: they expect an experience. As a result, hoteliers can no longer rely on the “lazy way out” just selling rooms. Instead, they will need to deliver more. All-inclusive hotels and results already go the extra mile to appeal to guests and keep them happy for the entire duration of their stay. Besides room and board, they have entertainment and other incentives.
Smaller hotels could enhance the guest experience with tasting tours, vouchers to museums and local attractions, and other perks included in the room’s price. They could also refine their package offers to incorporate car rental, spa access, and much more: whatever makes the guest journey more convenient goes.
A Skift report on Asia-Pacific shows a consistent inclination for package deals. For example, 73% of the executives they surveyed in the area offered package deals (versus just over 50%t worldwide). In addition, package deals are convenient and save a lot of time for the guests, allowing them to focus on the experience rather than the time-consuming process of researching and booking.
The appeal of package deals goes further: some people will buy them as gifts for friends and family. Naturally, this expands your hotel’s brand footprint further.
To prepare packages, you may want to collaborate with other local businesses. Of course, this will be hard for the highly competitive Greek hotel managers who are usually reticent in promoting others. Still, in the long term, it will be a very lucrative business practice.
Make your package deal something other hoteliers don’t even consider. For example, if you own a seaside hotel, tell your guests to leave their skin care products at home. Partner with a local manufacturer and give them a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 and a moisturizer. To further sweeten the deal, include a candlelit dinner on the beach or a spa treatment. A complimentary tour of the area, free bicycle rentals, and yoga classes are other things you could include to appeal to your guests. Think outside the box.
Fast, Free WiFi
This should be a standard for all hotels, but it is not always the case in Greece.
The speed varies, and if you choose the wrong hotel, you will be dissatisfied. Whatever they tell you, Greece ranks at the bottom in Europe regarding average Internet speed. Only recently, e-Governance Minister Kyriakos Pierrakakis called for a bid to build faster broadband Internet. The Internet is available in hotels, but sometimes it requires login passwords that tend to expire, and the speed is inconsistent across the hotel. Hotels must work with better providers to address these issues.
Guests use the Internet to talk to friends and family, but they also share their experiences – and word of mouth is still the best form of advertising. Fast WiFi will make their “job” easier and more fun. With mobile keyless entry for rooms, a good WiFi connection becomes a requirement too. It is also imperative to note that the harder you make it for a guest to access the network, the more annoying and disappointing this basic service will become. To win guests over, you must address their expectations.
Self-Service in Hotels
Offer your guests the opportunity to choose the level of service they want or need from you. Keyless and contactless check-in should not be the only ways to cut through the crowds. You can use self-service kiosks for check-in and check-out, gather data about your guests, sell additional services, reduce staff workload, and improve the guest experience. With social distancing a new industry norm, self-service kiosks make even more sense.
Make no mistake; you will still have guests: Greece is a charming country, sought-after by tourists. But you can recover faster from the crisis if you put some effort and creativity into your marketing strategies. Who knows? Maybe you will establish yourself as an innovator and hospitality leader.