We look at some of the social distancing measures that might have to be put in place
At the beginning of lockdown, most of us weren’t permitted to venture much further beyond the end of our front paths. In fact standing by the pineapples and mangoes in the local supermarket was as exotic as it was going to get.
Travel and tourism brings in millions every year. For example, can you imagine how much Manchester’s economy is boosted per year just by the amounts of people who come over to watch United or City? Then there are city breakers, business travellers and all sorts of people with reasons to come and stay in Manchester. So how is the travel industry going to recover?
We are great at evolving in hospitality, so I am sure we will adapt in style
Restaurants, bars, hotels and social public events are likely to be the last to be allowed to reopen. Airlines are asking for government support. Even before the pandemic hit, a few of the traditional tour companies were struggling as people found and booked their holidays online and via apps.
Could a ‘staycation’ be the best we can hope for in 2020? Even if we all just camped in caravans or tents, there’s still a risk of people carrying the virus to a rural population via visits to shops and public conveniences. Many such tourist spots are not equipped to cope with a localised pandemic. Locals in Wales put up their own makeshift roadblocks to deter outside visitors and even Blackpool’s tourist board has changed its Twitter handle to ‘Do not visit Blackpool.’
On the whole, hoteliers hope that the leisure market will make a successful return with guests wanting to experience culture, dining out and shopping again. Although it is believed the corporate and international markets may take longer to rebound, there is a consensus that by 2021 there should be a strong return to normal levels of business.
Members of Manchester Hoteliers' Association (MHA), a non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting and developing the hospitality and tourism industry in Manchester, welcomed the recent decision by the UK government outlining the process of re-opening leisure and hospitality venues over the coming months, and they’re starting to make the necessary preparations.
General Manager at The Lowry Hotel, Adrian Ellis – who has been in the post five years – is optimistic about the future of hotels across the city. “I am incredibly positive about the return to business, as hotels consider re-opening in the coming weeks,” he said. “Previous guidance had been unclear and somewhat concerning, so the Prime Minister’s recent address to the nation was a welcome step forward.”
Although The Lowry Hotel and many others have remained open to offer free accommodation to key workers stationed at nearby hospitals, they have been closed to regular guests. The MHA also recently spearheaded a campaign encouraging hotels to provide care packages to NHS frontline staff and vulnerable members of the community who received leftover produce from hotels, including food, soft drinks and toiletries.
“Following on from the three-month closure, our hotel teams are looking forward to returning to work and to welcoming back our loyal and regular guests,” adds Adrian. “Although the experience may be very different, we hope to provide an environment that is safe and secure and reassurances to guest and employees that our business can return safely with the correct measures in place.”
It is a sentiment echoed by other leading hoteliers across the city, who are also positive following the release of the government’s exit strategy.
Jacqui Griffiths of Native ApartHotels said; “We are starting to prepare the hotel with the necessary changes to ensure we are ready to welcome guests – old and new – to a safe and secure environment.
“This process is focused on both guest and staff journeys – as safety for everyone now is of paramount importance to us. We are looking forward to getting back to business, and confident that our fully furnished apartments will offer a secure retreat to our guests.”
Although social distancing might be easier for guests staying in a self-contained aparthotel such as Native, rather than a traditional hotel, Jacqui is confident that all hoteliers will do what’s needed to aid the economic recovery of the industry.
“The ‘new world’ does look quite different for us all,” she admits, “but we are great at evolving in hospitality, so I am sure we will adapt in style.”
Until there is a vaccine, changes will be numerous and noticeable, but hotels still need to maintain a relaxed and welcoming environment for guests. Many are investing in mobile check-in facilities to reduce touch points for guests. Staff are likely to be posted in the lobby to call lifts and open doors.
Tables and chairs in hotel restaurants and bars will be set out two metres apart as per government guidelines, as will meeting rooms and other event spaces.
Hotel breakfast buffets will not reappear until a successful vaccine can be produced and your fry up will now be served a la carte by staff wearing PPE. Menus will be disposable, displayed on walls or even accessible online or via apps for easy socially distanced ordering.
Public areas will be cleaned more regularly and more thoroughly using COVID-19 safe materials and cleaning gels while technology or staff will monitor usage of washrooms to provide the assurance that only a certain number of guests will be allowed in at any one time. It is not clear as yet what decisions will be made regarding shared leisure facilities such as swimming pools, but spa and beauty facilities will be subject to their own rigorous requirements.
Despite the shared view that hotel experiences will be very different, the creativity and services implemented by hoteliers will be crucial to make sure that guests can still experience a high degree of satisfaction while new health and safety requirements are being met.
Of course, when, and if, a vaccine is developed, all that may change again. The one thing we have learnt about the current crisis is that while it appears things may have slowed down, situations can change very quickly.