Author, Tan Ming Luk
Globally, the Covid-19 pandemic has not only brought tourism to a standstill, but is also upending industry practices as countries cautiously try to restart the sector as part of the economic recovery process.
Around the world, concepts like a travel bubble are being explored and tested, in areas like East Asia, the Baltic, the Eastern Mediterranean and Oceania as well as in Southeast Asia. In Malaysia, as we kick off the Recovery MCO period and domestic travel is restarting, many tourism businesses are eagerly looking forward to restarting international travel, fearing that domestic travel may be insufficient to sustain the industry.
With projections estimating that the pandemic may last as long as two years with the virus continuing to circulate beyond that, hospitality businesses are coming to terms with the new normal and finding ways to improve their operating procedures, with Covid-safe stays becoming a basic guest expectation. At OYO, we foresee a number of key transformations becoming the norm, such as minimal contact check-in and check-out processes; hyper-emphasis on sanitised stays; and a new portfolio of value-added services.
Automated, Contactless Check-in & Check-out. Automated check-in and check-out processes with minimal human contact will become common. Hotels may implement airline-style kiosks for the check-in process, where a machine verifies the guest’s identification document and takes a photo of the guest before generating a room number and dispensing a room keycard, which could be a disposable paper card with a barcode for unlocking the room, or the hotel could implement mobile keys as part of the contactless check-in process.
Robotisation of Guest Services. Voice and intercoms will be used for taking room service orders from guests. The delivery will be automated as much as possible, wherein guests will have to pick up food and clean laundry from sanitised, designated points instead of from staff members at their door. Meanwhile, sensor-based remote diagnosis and maintenance of all critical room equipment such as air-conditioners, TVs and bathroom fixtures can be implemented.
Hyper-emphasis on Sanitised Stays. Sanitised stays will be the new norm whereby they are offered as a premium hotel feature. We can expect hotels offering sanitised stays to practise stringent procedures like intensive screening of guests during check-in, the duration of the stay and check-out; disinfecting luggage and supplies delivered to the hotel; training staff on Covid-19 awareness and management; mandatory use of PPE by all hotel staff; monitoring of social distancing practices; strong SOPs around F&B, laundry and usage of guest facilities; limiting visits by non-residents and so on.
New Portfolio of Value Added Services. Hotels will offer new types of value-added services such as hygiene packs of masks and hand sanitiser, transportation options where all vehicles are thoroughly sanitised between passengers, or even a hotline to arrange for Covid-19 testing for concerned travellers.
The “OYO Sanitized Stays” Programme. To offer greater peace of mind to guests at OYO hotels and ensure standardisation in sanitisation procedures, OYO launched the “OYO Sanitized Stays Certification Programme” for all our accredited hotel partners to ensure stringent adherence to all local Health and Safety Guidelines in each market; high levels of guest comfort in Covid-safe stays; and high levels of partner confidence by providing a Sanitised Stay Implementation Framework.
With this programme, hotel teams are trained to run hotel operations in a Covid-safe manner, learning procedures to manage suspected Covid-19 cases and guided on ways to improve awareness of Covid-safe protocols among guests to ensure compliance. The programme promotes a Minimal Touch framework to minimise all possible touch points between the hotel staff and guests, thus maintaining physical distancing at all times.
To further improve confidence, we set up an OYO “Sanitized Stays” Quality Council – an independent body within OYO that provides “Sanitized Stays” certification to all OYO hotels after a 14-day training and certification process, on an opt-in basis. The certification is then used on travel booking sites such as Booking.com, Traveloka, Agoda and Expedia as well as on the OYO app.
At the end of the day, while each travel market and individual government does what it feels is best to keep its people safe and its economy running, the hospitality industry too must actively work on defining Hospitality 2.0 in the new normal. For OYO, we believe that technology combined with human commitment is the key in making all of this possible.
Tan Ming Luk is the Country Head, Malaysia & Singapore, OYO Hotels & Homes