Touchless and contactless hospitality will be the new normal post-COVID

The new normal is likely to be rigid on health and hygiene, as well as safety, for not just guests but even employees

Contactless hospitality, New normal post COVID, Touchless hospitality, Federation of Hotel & Restaurant Associations of India (FHRAI), Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), Roseate Hotels & Resorts, ITC Hotels, Care by Roseate, After COVID, Before COVID

In India, FHRAI is co-ordinating with FSSAI to conduct training for post-COVID-19 awareness drive among hotel employees and staff, besides certifying them based on hygiene and safety parameters, besides conducting hygiene audit. The new normal is likely to be rigid on health and hygiene, as well as safety, for not just guests but even employees.

Hotels are also doing their bit.

In a far-reaching move to instill confidence, ITC Hotels has launched a path-breaking ‘WeAssure’ initiative, which will work towards gaining accreditation by National Accreditation Board for Hospitals & Healthcare Providers (NABH), the leading standards’ organisation for sanitation, hygiene, safety and infection control practices. The accreditation is expected to enhance existing procedures and controls in the area of sanitation, hygiene, safety and infection control, thereby conforming to hospital-level hygiene standards.

ITC Hotels is also partnering with DNV GL Business Assurance, one of the world’s leading certification bodies, to ensure stringent clinical levels of hygiene and safety. The holistic programme will address all facets of hotel operations, from revised protocols for the back-of-the-house activity at the receiving store, back offices, laundry to the public areas with heightened sanitization measures for guest luggage, elevators to room service.

Nakul Anand, Executive Director, ITC Ltd, says, “WeAssure is a unique programme designed in collaboration with medical professionals and disinfection experts to further enhance the existing hygiene and cleaning protocols. The stringent program specifications reassure guests of visibly stringent cleanliness and disinfection processes, which benchmark clinically hygienic standards, offering guests’ unparalleled comfort with peace of mind.”

In a bid to minimise physical contact with guests at their hotels, Roseate Hotels & Resorts has launched 'Care by Roseate', which they term as a “novel approach towards instilling confidence among its customers about their safety, while staying and dining at restaurants across their six properties in India and UK.”

Touchless or contactless hospitality would be the new future and Roseate is already remodelling its standard operating procedures. Dr Ankur Bhatia, Executive Director, Bird Group says, “We are the first hotel chain in India to implement across its six hotels in partnership with its sister company Bird Apps, this initiative to make guests feel more comfortable about availing hospitality services in the new normal, post-lockdown scenario.”

So, what does the initiative involve?

Thermal screening at entry gates of all passenger vehicles; display of “safe’ status in Arogya Setu app for staff and guests; mandatory wearing of masks; all hotel vehicles to be disinfected at entry points and after every use; sanitizers to be placed in all prominent locations within the hotels. To enable seamless, remote check-ins, touchless check-ins would be facilitated via an app, in which all information would already be pre-registered.

After check-out, the same room would be allocated only after 24 hours, post being thoroughly disinfected. Roseate will also follow an alternate room occupancy policy to maintain social distancing. Housekeeping staff are expected to wear Personal Protection Equipment (PPE).

Increasingly, enhanced cleanliness will spur a trend towards minimalism as hotels remove unnecessary items—decorative pillows, extra hangers—from rooms, so there are fewer things that could potentially be contaminated and fewer items to clean. The minibars may be emptied out and guests will have to request for extras such as robes, pillows and blankets.

The After-COVID ‘clinically hygienic’ protocol

All through the last month, several hoteliers, groups representing hotels and other such have held webinars on the kind of steps hotels will have to take to open in a post-COVID or After- COVID world. Some inputs:

  • Hotels will be expected to maintain a ‘clinically clean’ level of hygiene, according to participants of the FHRAI & FSSAI webinar.
  • The participants also suggested appointing COVID-19 officer or coordinator from within the in-house team, who will monitor and report on any health-related issues and get in touch with local health authorities, if required.
  • Hotels may have to test all staff for COVID-19 before they are allowed to rejoin. Besides, the staff will have to be temperature-checked before entering the hotel and will need to be monitored regularly.
  • Every staff member and guest will be expected to wear a 3-layer mask.
  • Hotels will be expected to maintain a sanitisation checklist.
  • All employees will be expected to function as default housekeepers and keep a keen eye out on the hygiene and sanitisation issues.
  • Every guestroom will have an individual hand sanitiser. 
  • The amenities in the guestrooms will have to be junked and cannot be reused by the next guest who checks into the room.
  • In the rooms, FHRAI & FSSAI webinar participants recommended the use of waterproof mattress and pillow protectors. The pillows, too, will be washed regularly at temperatures above 60 degrees.
  • Only designated staff will be allowed to access the guest room.
  • Mattresses will be sanitised daily.
  • Social or physical distancing is a reality we will have to live with for a while, and staff zones will also need to have at least 10 feet distance.
  • Hotels will have to increase the space between each person during social functions such as banquets and meetings. To start with, the government guidelines may only allow for smaller banquets, meetings and weddings to ensure social distancing.

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