As accommodation businesses start to enter the next phase of managing COVID-19, guests are looking for reassurance that the accommodation they are booking is as SAFE as possible, and the people operating it will be taking measures to protect them. It is important that properties start to put measures in place now to deal with the new way their businesses will be operating. Then, most importantly, communicating that to their guests… do not assume that they know what you are doing… you need to tell them.
Here are the three things we think are worth considering now. Many properties have already done this so there’s lots of great examples out there.
1. CONDUCTING A COVID RISK ASSESMENT OF YOUR PROPERTY
Take advantage of the time you have now to conduct a thorough risk assessment of your business. A risk assessment will allow you to identify the COVID-19 related risks to you, your staff, and your customers. Once you have identified those risks, you can then set protocols to mitigate that risk.
We have seen guidance issued in various countries (some more prescriptive than others) and it looks like similar measures are being recommended across the board. Here in the UK some local government authorities are starting to issue their guidance e.g. Cornwall. Visit your government website or contact your local government authority to see what guidance they are issuing
Guidance that has been issued tends not to be a prescriptive list as it would be impossible to cover all accommodation types, so common sense and knowledge of your own situation would seem to be the best route right now.
Only by conducting a thorough risk assessment of your property will you then be able to clearly communicate this to your staff and your guests. Examples of things to consider are;
- What risk do you and your staff pose to the business in bringing COVID-19 into the premises?
- What risk do your customers pose to the business in bringing COVID-19 into the premises?
- What measures will you take if an infected person has been on your premises?
- What additional cleaning measures will be taken in rooms and communal areas over and above the norm?
- What cleaning materials will you need to source? (Do you need to update your assessments e.g. COSHH for the UK?)
- Where you will position hand sanitisers and the like?
- How you will manage check ins and breakfasts?
- What you will require customers to do when on site and how will you communicate this?
- How will you protect yourselves?
- What can you remove from the property that would be an unnecessary source of contamination? i.e. books and board games.
- Identify frequently touched areas.
This is not an exhaustive list and you can find guidance all over the internet that may be more relevant to your specific situation.
Our own facebook group has plenty of things that people are doing in their own business so make sure you are part of that. Freetobook customers ONLY facebook group
The most important thing is that you DO conduct a thorough risk assessment and are prepared before reopening.
N.B There has been talk of various COVID-19 Safety accreditation or certificate schemes – regardless of who may be issuing these, it is clear that a written assessment will form the basis of obtaining these.
For those in the UK, this Government HSE website Risk Assessment is the place to start
2. COVID-19 INFORMATION ON YOUR WEBSITE
All properties should be looking at their website and finding effective ways to communicate to their guests, now, how they will be operating after they reopen. This could be with a pop-up box on entering the site, a page dedicated to COVID-19 related issues and FAQs or a video. Examples of things that you should consider highlighting are;
- Cleaning Protocols that you have brought in to ensure the property is safe.
- Use of hand sanitiser/masks (Personal Protective Equipment etc.).
- Social distancing measures they can expect from you and you will require from them.
- Changes to breakfast or eating arrangements where those apply.
- Changes to the use of communal areas/equipment.
- Contactless/virtual payments where those apply.
- Check in times and how these will be handled.
All businesses are different so your list will be specific to your property, but the main point here is that the customer is informed and reassured before they even make their booking. People are booking now for the future, so those businesses who have made this information available on their website are more likely to get a booking. This could also be the difference between them booking your property or someone else’s which appears safer.
There are some super videos that properties are posting on their websites and social media and if you can, we would recommend this wholeheartedly.
3. PRE-ARRIVAL COMMUNICATION
Bookings could have come from anywhere at any time, so it is important that you communicate to all guests how you will be working before they arrive. This is best done with a pre-arrival email outlining what the guest can expect when arriving at your property… and what you will require from them. It may be that you need them to check in at a specific time to avoid everyone arriving at once or that you will not be able to personally greet them at the door. Whatever it is good communication is key.
If you are using Messaging in freetobook you set this up via the automated ‘before arrival’ message to be sent ‘X’ days before arrival, containing all this information… you can also include a request for their arrival time.
If you are not using Messaging, you can use the Email tab in the booking to send an email to the guest (you can build a template for this in the main Email tab).
Consider also adding information about local restrictions where they apply.
The key thing to remember here is BE PREPARED. Whilst dates may change and lockdowns may be lifted in different places/countries at different times, these are measures you will need to have in place at some point. So, use the time you have now, to get everything organised so you are good to go as soon as your bookings are.
All of the above is non-expert opinion we hope you find it helpful BUT you are wholly responsible for your own safety and that of your guests. We are NOT experts, if you follow any actions above you do so entirely at your own risk. Stay safe.