How hotels can prepare for rising operational costs
by KATHERINE GRASS
The first half of 2020 brought unprecedented challenges to businesses around the world. The COVID-19 crisis forced them to adapt processes and models at record speed and has seen many businesses forced to close their doors. One of the most af-fected industries has been hospitality, where hotels have had to close as the world moved into lockdown.
As restrictions begin to ease, the hospitality industry is now looking at the best ways to prepare for operating in the new normal. The path ahead is not clearly defined; however, one thing hotel managers can be certain of is that their operational processes will need to be more efficient than ever and visibility across all aspects of operations will be essential for success.
HOUSEKEEPING IN THE NEW NORMAL
Housekeeping has always been a central part of hotel operations, and in the new normal there will be even greater scrutiny on hotel cleanliness. New cleaning protocols will need to be introduced to reassure both customers and employees that establishments are adhering to new guidelines in a post-COVID-19 world. We are starting to see hotel chains around the world reveal their plans to introduce new cleaning protocols such as the Safe Stay initiative by AAHOA and AHLA.
These new cleaning protocols will inevitably have an impact on the hotel’s costs, as more time and money need to be spent ensuring standards are met. Communal areas, for example, will require even more attention than pre-pandemic, as handrails, elevators, and re-ception areas will be sanitized continually throughout the day.
Alongside this, the type of traveler hotels can expect in the early stages of opening up will change. The industry expectation is that lei-sure travel will bounce back the fastest, with business travel expected to take slightly longer. Hotel operations teams need to take this into consideration, as leisure rooms tend to take longer to clean, which also will be a factor in driving up cleaning costs.
CALCULATING THE COSTS OF CLEANING PROTOCOLS
To help hotels prepare, cleaning costs are expected to rise to account for more supplies due to more frequent sanitizing and a change in the products used. On top of this, hotels might require an additional full-time member of staff for the housekeeping team alongside a member of the service team to meet customer demands. These costs will all need to be considered by hotel managers when calculating operational teams time and processes.
ADAPTING PROCESSES TO MITIGATE NEW COSTS
Although the cost of cleaning and operations is expected to increase, hotels will be able to mitigate against these costs by adapting pro-cesses. It will be more important than ever that managers utilize data to understand where the most time is being spent and where addi-tional services or team members are needed. Hotels will need to embrace new technologies such as AI and machine learning to help op-timize their labor teams and ensure optimal efficiency of teams. Housekeeping is the single-largest controllable expense in a hotel opera-tion so establishing time-based cleaning plans and efficient monitoring systems will be essential to help mitigate against rising costs.
For example, one way to offset increasing costs is to remove stayover cleans for guests and not cleaning on a daily basis if the guests stay more than one night, saving housekeeping times and, in many cases, meeting guest preferences to not be disturbed. Our assess-ments show that cutting out 75 percent of stayover cleans (based on 60-percent occupancy of a 250-room hotel) could save around $110,730 per annum. Ancillary services such as additional deep cleans or stayover cleans also could be offered by hotels in the future to generate new revenue.
It is not clear what exactly lies ahead for the hospitality industry, but things will certainly be different. By assessing processes, embracing technology, and closely monitoring operations, it is possible for hotels to create the same great experience customers expect while ensuring new cleaning standards are met. These next few months will be crucial in planning for hotels, and by working together, we can help rebuild our industry.
Katherine Grass is the CEO of Optii Solutions, the leading hotel operations technology platform. Grass also is a Venture Partner for Thayer Ventures, a firm specializing in the development of technology companies that will revolutionize the travel and hospitality industries.