How to Choose a Hotel Right Now

Choosing a hotel that wont compromise on your safety is tricky right now. Here are some basics that you should keep in mind before booking a stay
Choosing the right hotel in the present scenario holds utmost importance
Choosing the right hotel in the present scenario holds utmost importance

If you are mindful and spend time on doing some homework, you can choose the right hotel to stay in. Health experts opine that travellers should ensure that the hotel they book is taking the pandemic seriously and find out (before booking) about all the necessary steps being taken by them to ensure your safety. 

According to the recommendations of the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), travellers should opt for online reservations and check-ins, and contactless payment. It is also advisable to call and ask if all the hotel staff are wearing masks at work, before reaching the hotel. The CDC recommendations also suggest looking for any extra prevention practices that are being implemented by the hotel. For instance, putting plexiglass barriers at check-in counters. It's a good idea to read the list of SOPs for hotels released by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare which underlines important safety measures. Given the uncertain times, travellers must also look for hotels offering greater flexibility in their booking policies.

To make it easier for you, we reached out to the representatives of leading hotel chains to see what steps are being taken by them to ensure a safe experience for guests. From launching contactless services and reducing common touch-points to creating personalised fitness routines and implementing digital menus, most major hotel chains are experimenting and coming up with innovative  customer  experiences to adapt to the changing times.

Here are some questions you should seek answers to before booking a hotel right now.

What steps are hotels taking to ensure cleanliness and hygiene
Hygiene and sanitation have now become top priorities for travellers all over the world who are looking forward to experiencing contactless services combined with personalisation. Asking a hotel about its updated cleaning and disinfecting policy comes highly recommended by the CDC. Khushnooma Kapadia, Area Director of Marketing, South Asia, Marriott International Inc. says that travellers should opt for a brand that effectively communicates enhanced sanitation and hygiene protocols. The well-being and safety of the guests is the top priority for most hotels right now.

ITC Hotels has launched a WeAssure initiative. The holistic programme addresses all facets of hotel operations, from revised protocols for back-of-the-house activity at the receiving store, back offices, laundry to the public areas with heightened sanitisation measures for guest luggage, elevators to room service. As a part of the programme, ITC Hotels has also implemented stringent measures and protocols, including mandatory temperature checks for all chefs and food and beverage associates.

Marriott&rsquos focus is on reducing the common touch-points as much as possible and sanitising the remaining ones. &ldquoAcross our hotels, social distancing will manifest for a foreseeable future. We have identified over 23 touch points in every restaurant. Changes such as increasing the space between tables, menu engineering to adapt to digital menus and encouraging digital payments will be our top priority,&rdquo says Kapadia. For elevators, there will be restriction on occupancy, and swimming pools will only be functional as per government regulations. The entire focus is on reducing the common touch-points as much as possible and sanitising the remaining ones.

The hotel chain is seeking help from experts from cleaning and hygiene companies such as Diversey & Ecolab. All the Marriott hotels across the world are following a single global protocol under their Commitment to Clean programme. &ldquoOur clinical partners have provided us with cleaning and disinfection guidance for all our rooms in order to safeguard our guests. Each hotel has also designated a Cleanliness Champion that ensures all safety and hygiene measures are adapted during cleaning of each room. Where possible, our hotels do try a window of 24 hours before next guest checks in to the hotel,&rdquo says Kapadia.

Similarly, Hyatt has announced a Global Care & Cleanliness Commitment to enhance their operational guidance and resources. Additionally, every Hyatt hotel in India has at least one person on property trained as the Hygiene and Wellbeing Leader who ensures adherence to the new operational guidelines. This includes measures such as colleague training and recertification process for hygiene, regular cleaning with hospital-grade disinfectants on all high-touch surfaces, ensuring enhanced food safety, administering sanitation device installation, and overseeing adherence to social distancing protocols in public areas across hotel properties.

The Lodhi, New Delhi, has introduced the Stay Safe Assurance programme with enhanced safety and cleanliness measures across all touch-points of the hotel. &ldquoWe have developed clear verbiage about these new standards being implemented and listed them on our website and social media channels in order to ensure greater transparency for guests throughout the entire hotel experience. We are using specialised, hospital-grade disinfection chemicals from Diversey for cleaning and sanitisation purposes across the property,&rdquo says Rajesh Namby, General Manager at The Lodhi, New Delhi. &ldquoAll our rooms go through the highest levels of deep cleaning and sanitisation. Mattress protectors, cushions, pillow protectors, duvets, towels, bathrobes and all other linen are sent for tumble drying post each departure. After cleaning, a safety seal is placed outside the door to indicate that the room has not been accessed since being thoroughly sanitised,&rdquo Namby adds.

IHCL Hotels have launched Tajness, which aims at enabling heightened safety and hygiene protocols whilst continuing to offer guests exceptional hospitality experiences. As part of the new experience, they have reconfigured layouts to factor in social distancing and adequate space between furniture, tables in restaurants etc. The hotel chain has also suspended self-serving buffets wherever possible. To add to this, all guest-facing employees have been adequately trained on physical distancing norms as well as the latest precautionary hygiene and safety guidelines.

Budget hotel brand FabHotels has introduced its 100% Safe Place to Stay initiative, to address the concern of travellers towards hygiene and cleanliness. As business and leisure travellers get back on the road, their staff is fully trained to provide an absolutely safe experience to everyone who checks-in. These measures go beyond the basic WHO guidelines and local administration recommendations. They have also launched a 100 percent contactless check-in experience whereby a guest can move from reception to room in less than a minute. The users can upload the required details like ID proof and submit self-declaration, all via the app, making the whole procedure totally contactless and safe.

How are hotels using technology for your safety
Apart from developing advanced cleaning policies, hotels are also focusing on using best of technology in hotel operations. Take ITC&rsquos Lavanderia, for instance. The initiative offers impeccable contact light laundry services with strict monitoring of safety and hygiene norms at each step. Lavendria allows guests to hand over the items at a designated point at the hotel. The laundry would be ready for pick up by the customer within 24 hours, where the customer would be intimated via a message which would include a payment link to enable contactless payment. The entire process remains contact light with safe distancing at every point. Anil Chadha, COO, ITC Hotels says that integrating best of technology in hotel operations is key to low contact or contactless services.

Similarly, Marriott hotels have implemented low-touch solutions by adopting contactless technologies. These include using Mobile Key, Mobile Dining, Mobile Chat and guest requests via the Marriott Bonvoy app. The hotel company is also using HEPA/ULPA filtration in air units and vacuums and innovative technologies like electrostatic spraying and UV light disinfection. &ldquoWe have initiated plans to roll out enhanced technologies at our properties over the next few months, including electrostatic sprayers and the highest classification of disinfectants recommended by the CDC and WHO to sanitise surfaces throughout hotels,&rdquo says Kapadia.

The Hyatt group of hotels is exploring audio-visual technology for meetings and events that will offer guests hybrid meeting options&ndashon-property and remote&ndashfor large-scale events with social distancing in mind. They have also installed glass bottling plants at Hyatt Regency Delhi and Park Hyatt Hyderabad. Apart from promoting sustainability, these plants ensure complete hygiene as each bottle is rinsed, cleaned and sterilised with ultra-violet rays without any human contact. Hyatt hotels Alila Fort Bishangarh and Grand Hyatt Mumbai also offer virtual site inspections to the guests while selecting event venues.

IHCL Hotels have launched I-ZEST, their Zero-Touch Service Transformation across their Taj, Vivanta and SeleQtions hotels. From zero-touch check-ins and check-outs, digital invoicing, online payment options and QR codes to digital menus in restaurants, I-ZEST&rsquos digital features will further ensure social distancing for both guests and associates, while maintaining secure and seamless services. At The Lodhi, ultraviolet light technology is being used for sanitising items such as room keys and pens used by guests.

How are hotels dealing with frequently touched surfaces
Even though there has been a growing scientific consensus about surface transmission being less risky than airborne transmission, travellers must make sure to check what steps hotels are taking to mitigate the risk of infection through high-touch surfaces. For example, all surfaces that come in regular contact with guests are regularly disinfected with hospital-level sanitization at Taj. These include fittings, fixtures, furniture, equipment, stationery, vehicles, cutlery, crockery, linen and laundry. Suites and rooms are rested after check-out before reoccupation.

At The Lodhi, particular attention is paid to clean high-touch items like remote controls, handles, door knobs, telephones, switches, temperature control panels, tables and luggage racks.

Hyatt, on the other hand is giving its guests greater control of their hotel journey by providing them with enhanced digital amenities such as scheduling housekeeping, choosing between pick-up or knock-and-go food orders, mobile key entry, contactless check-in and checkout, and more. Guestroom d&eacutecor and amenities are being curated to remove some extraneous high-touch items, while still providing the high quality Hyatt experience, including engaging art and distinguished design.

At Marriott, each room undergoes deep cleaning every time a guest checks out, this helps the staff to ensure that they have sanitized every touch-point in the room.

How are hotels changing their F&ampB offerings
According to Anil Chadha, COO, ITC Hotels, food delivery is being redefined with elevated hygiene norms and contact less service design. &ldquoTakeaway is definitely the new highway,&rdquo he exerts. The ITC F&ampB AppsGourmet Couch and Flavours are responsible dining initiatives rolled out by the hotel group. While Gourmet Couch brings home signature preparations such as the iconic Dal Bukhara, Murgh Angaar, Barrah kebab, Dum Pukht Biryani, Gosht Bohri Biryani, Gilawat ke kebabs and more, Flavours, on the other hand features popular items from the All Day Dining menus featuring the much loved selection of regional delicacies. To complete the selection, there are desserts, fresh boulangerie and ITC&rsquos luxury chocolate brand, Fabelle is also being home delivered.

Marriott is making changes such as increasing the space between tables, menu engineering to adapt to digital menus and encouraging digital payments. &ldquoWe will also be implementing buffet setup revisions. There will be more live stations, smaller single-serve portions, and our hotel associates serving the guests behind the counters,&rdquo says Kapadia.

Hyatt hotels are experimenting with new food and beverage offerings such as individual buffet-style meals that are curated and proportioned for each dining table. &ldquoAt Hyatt Pune we are converting two of our garden suites&ndashwhich include rooms that open to private gardens&ndashinto a premium dining facility,&rdquo says Sunjae Sharma, Vice President of Operations, Hyatt India.

Hyatt Pune has also converted its poolside lawn into a sprawling outdoor restaurant, and the executive lounge into a snacks bar with tables placed as per social distancing guidelines. Other new dining offerings are the buffet-style meals that are curated and proportioned for each dining table at Hyatt Place Hyderabad, Banjara Hills.

Rigorous cleaning and disinfection of restaurants is being done before opening and between each meal period, and tables and chairs are sanitised after every guest use at The Lodhi. They too have have realigned seating to ensure safe distance between tables and all staff members wear prescribed Personal Protective Equipment. &ldquoWe have also introduced a user-friendly virtual menu at Elan offering easy navigation and visuals of our offerings, helping in seamless selection and placing of orders,&rdquo says Namby.

How do hotels plan to address medical emergencies
Finding out how your hotel plans to address any sudden medical and health emergency is important. Hotels must be ready with their plan of action in such scenarios. As an extension of Hyatt&rsquos Global Care and Cleanliness Commitment, they have collaborated with medical experts from Cleveland Clinic among other trusted medical and industry advisors. They continue to engage with them to seek advice on handling COVID-related emergencies.

In case of any emergency, the management at The Lodhi will call the COVID helpline and make all the arrangements with the hospital. They also have a doctor available on call. Additionally they have kept aside one room in the hotel as an emergency room, which is secluded from the rest of the rooms. A suspected COVID patient can be kept here till the time information is gathered from the concerned medical authorities.

All Marriott hotels are also in regular touch with local authorities and they too have an on-call doctor if required at any of their hotels. 

Related Stories

No stories found.
Outlook Traveller