From COVID-19 to confidence


How the WELL Health-Safety Rating can help hotels


Post COVID, companies will likely be evaluated and defined by their capability to balance performance, their capacity for adaptability. They will advance when and where they can and will have to manage all that they will encounter. Consumer confidence will come through innovation and then the ability to replicate it. They will put in place the right mitigation protocols and support to protect their guests and employees, many of whom are eager to get back to travel and work but worry about the risks.

The companies that can protect people and build the best experience with real agility will create a competitive advantage and accelerate faster out of the downturn.


From now on, travelers will demand the cleanest, safest accommodations – and look for companies that proudly display their COVID-19 and safety policies. In fact, in a recent survey by PwC, three-quarters of travellers said third-party certified sanitation reviews would offer them a sense of security.1 Nearly 85 percent said their travel decisions will depend on the communications they receive from hotels about safety, while 40 percent reported dissatisfaction with current communications.

Hotels have an unprecedented opportunity to step up and meet the uncertainty of this moment with clarity, credibility, and impact. But to do that requires more than cutting gym access, room service, and breakfast buffets; it means investing in the health, safety, and trust of guests.

At the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), we oversee the WELL Building Standard (WELL) – the world’s premier framework for advancing health in buildings of all kinds. From this vantage point, and based on our work in 63 countries, we understand the outsized role buildings can play in promoting human health and wellbeing.

That’s why, over the past several months, we have convened nearly 600 public health experts, virologists, government officials, academics, business leaders, building scientists, and real estate professionals, along with guidance developed by the World Health Organization (WHO), U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), global disease control and prevention centers and emergency management agencies, recognized standard-making bodies, such as ASTM International and ASHRAE, and leading academic and research institutions, to help inform our response to this pandemic. Drawing on these expert insights, we’ve created new resources to help our partners fight COVID-19 – and we’ve identified four fundamental principles that can guide hotel owners, managers, and staff.

  1. Adopt operational policies and procedures that will support the health and safety of guests. These include supporting hygienic handwashing practices, reducing surface contact through mobile key and keyless entry systems, establishing robust cleaning protocols, and using low-hazard cleaning products for safe and effective disinfection.2
  2. Implement management and maintenance protocols that reduce transmission. People spend roughly 90 percent of their time in enclosed spaces.3 Therefore, indoor air and water quality control are critical to identifying and mitigating transmission risks for COVID-19 and other illnesses. Adequate air treatment, filtration and ventilation, and proper management of mold and moisture are key aspects of maintenance that prioritizes health and wellness.4
  3. Develop straightforward, decisive emergency plans to safeguard customers and staff in the event of an emergency such as an outbreak. Intelligent planning will involve enabling guests and staff to respond effectively to diverse emergency situations, as well as creating plans that will allow for business continuity and a healthier re-entry.5
  4. Most importantly, educate customers and staff about the protocols put in place to help support their health and well-being. If previous SARS outbreaks are any indication, COVID-19 may likely have lasting physical and mental health effects.6 In addition to providing clear, timely communication, hotel operators must make educational resources accessible to all guests and empower them with strategies to cultivate and maintain healthy habits long into the future.7

Of course, implementing all of this can be challenging. Without visitors, many hotels have been forced to cut pay and lay off employees. At the same time, the remaining staff are preparing to take on the increased responsibilities that come with guests’ evolving expectations, including the need to communicate new commitments and initiatives.

To help, we’ve developed the WELL Health-Safety Rating. This new rating will give hotel operators the tools to prioritize the health and safety of staff and guests, adopt evidence-based best-practices, and inspire confidence in consumers from the moment they enter the building.

The WELL Health-Safety Rating focuses on interventions that require little to no capital expenditure, allowing businesses to validate and scale their current health and safety efforts without major disruptions to their spaces. Meanwhile, its third-party review process provides the integrity and consistency that today’s travelers demand. Based on this review, eligible properties will be awarded the WELL Health-Safety seal, which visibly illustrates a building’s commitment to safeguarding health for all guests to see.

Just as the current public health situation is constantly evolving, the WELL Health-Safety Rating is designed to evolve and incorporate new evidence and strategies over time. Now owners and operators have the flexibility to apply evidenced backed strategies as the world changes while demonstrating their commitment to health and safety all year round.

Already, the best hotels have begun to adapt to the needs of their guests. As health and safety become paramount, the WELL Health-Safety seal is one way to help guests feel secure from check-in to check-out. AAHOA Members who enroll get 25 percent off when you use your AAHOA Member ID/code.


Tori Shepherd serves as Senior Associate at the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), the organization leading the global movement to transform our buildings and communities in ways that help people thrive. Tori has provided technical support to project teams across the U.S., Europe, Australia, and New Zealand as they’ve created healthier spaces, buildings, and communities through WELL Certification and the WELL Health-Safety Rating. Tori coaches various APAC and global WELL Portfolios as they seek to advance their ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) goals, to enhance building performance, and to improve human well-being at scale. Tori also leads WELL’s sector development for coworking and hospitality, providing high-touch support to meet the needs of these space types, organizations, and occupants.


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