Lockdowns, travel restrictions, social distancing policies, and closures of offices and schools are just some of the measures countries across the world are implementing in response to the rapid increase in COVID-19 cases in order to reduce the transmission of the virus, decrease deaths, and prevent catastrophic consequences for national health systems, which have had a significant effect on employees and businesses. As of the beginning of April 2020, around 81% of the world`s workforce was affected by forced or suggested workplace closures. A drop in economic activity takes time to convert into a decline in employment, but the current crisis had an immediate and broad effect on employment as a result of lockdowns and other measures (Committee for the Coordination of Statistical Activities 2020).
The COVID-19 had a drastic impact on several businesses across the globe, and the hotel industry was among the hardest hit (Krishnan et al., 2020). When looking at the Baltic hotel market, it reflects that RevPAR slid by 64%, 68%, and 72% in Vilnius, Riga, and Tallinn, with occupancy being the primary cause of the decline in RevPAR. Europe saw a similar drop in occupancy, by an average of 70% between 2019 and 2020. It is anticipated that demand levels will reach the 2019 level only until 2023 (Christie & Co, 2020). Many of the countries most severely impacted by the health crisis are important players in the global tourism economy, either as destinations, source markets, or both. The countries with the most reported instances contribute to around 55 and 68% of worldwide inbound and outbound tourist spending, respectively. The impact of the crisis on these countries will spread to other locations, and the impact will be most severe on territories that rely largely on international tourism (Committee for the Coordination of Statistical Activities 2020). The industry`s ability to adapt and innovate during COVID-19 would determine its future operational success. Various hotel brands have shifted their focus to further developing internal cleaning protocols and innovating products in order to attract more guests (Breier et al., 2021). As recent studies suggest that consumers have heightened expectations related to cleanliness and disinfection, as many as 93% of travellers expect hotels to have implemented the necessary safety measures and this is often one of the main factors considered when choosing a property (2021 Housekeeping And Hygiene Study Reveals Guests` Expectations Have Shifted In A Big Way 2021). Over 54% of the travellers felt satisfied with the health and safety protocols implemented in their chosen hotel, and 70% felt satisfied with how the hotel industry has adapted operations in order to provide a more safe environment for their guests (The New Landscape of Housekeeping and Hygiene: Communications and Protocols are Key to Gain Travelers’ Confidence).
Hilton Hotels & Resorts is arguably one of the most recognisable hotel chains, with over 100 years of continued success. Conrad Hilton purchased his first hotel in 1919 in Mobley, Texas, and opened the first `Hilton` branded hotel in 1925 in Dallas. What followed was an extraordinary journey leading to managing and operating over 6500 hotels in 119 countries by 2021. In addition, Hilton shaped the hospitality industry by pioneering innovations such as air conditioning in rooms, minibars, and room service (As Hilton Hotels Turns 100, 2019) and striking again during COVID-19 by introducing CleanStay by Hilton (Meon Valley Travel, 2020). The CleanStay program brings a new level of hotel cleanliness, disinfection, and innovation that builds upon existing high standards of housekeeping and uses hospital-grade cleaning products that are implemented across Hilton’s 18 brands:
- Online: Guests will see a new landing page at Hilton.com/CleanStay that will outline what they may experience throughout their stay, even before they travel. Furthermore, property websites will be updated to reflect the implementation of the new cleaning techniques and processes.
- The Lobby: Guests have the opportunity to skip the regular check-in process at the reception desk and take advantage of the ability to check-in, select a preferred room, unlock the door with a Digital Key and check-out by using the Hilton Honors mobile application.
- The Guest Room: In order to indicate that the room has been fully cleaned and disinfected, a door seal will be applied by one of the housekeeping team members. An additional focus will be directed towards cleaning frequently used areas around the room, such as light switches, door handles, TV remotes, thermostats, and so on. Also, any in-room collateral with information uploaded into the TV’s and pens and papers removed with option to request at reception desk.
- Housekeeping Service: On the top, cleaning and disinfaction, an additional gap of up to 48 hours is left between arrivals and departures, which allows housekeeping to air the room for a longer period of time. Service is based on guest preferences, recognising that not everyone is after a daily clean and would rather allow access to the room only after check out. Additional amenities remain available upon request and are placed outside the guest’s door.
- The Public Spaces: An additional focus is on public space with more frequent cleaning of areas such as the lobby, gym, pool, changing rooms, restaurant, bar, lifts, public restrooms, etc. Additionally, the gym might be unavailable more often due to multiple cleanings throughout the day. Equipment might be relocated to ensure social distancing. Depending on local restrictions, there might be a maximum number of allowed guests per session. Sanitazing stations and wipes are located in primary locations around the hotel.
- Food and Beverage: In the hotel restaurant, the tables and chairs are placed and paired depending on available capacity and to ensure physical distancing is as per regulations 2-3m. Biodegradable cutlery and takeaway boxes are available upon request. During the breakfast service, the restaurant offers a range of breakfast options depending on the operations and hotel occupancy- full buffet, grab & go, plated, and room service. Also, a contactless room service option is available, in which case the order is left outside the guest room.
- Meetings & Events:The EventReady in conjuring with CleanStay program sets a new standard of conferences and events at Hilton which delivers clean and desinfected, safe, creative food and beverage in combination with latest technology meeting options and the main focus remains health and safety. Hilton`s world-class hospitality and the responsiveness of its devoted Team Members support the whole event experience, from planning to execution (Hilton Press Center, 2020).
Hilton hotels are perfectly positioned to provide a new service to consumers who like to work from home. Businesses and individuals looking for a secure and convenient remote office space may now take advantage of Hilton`s hospitality and service by reserving a hotel room for the day, which is supported by Hilton CleanStay (WorkSpaces by Hilton, 2020)