Building trust between the hotelier and customer will be "paramount" when operators return to "a very different market", according to Russell Kett, chair of consultancy HVS London.
With much of the UK's hotel sector still closed for business, the industry faces a huge challenge to rebuild consumer confidence once Covid-19 lockdown restrictions start to lift later this year.
Kett said operators "will be coming back into a very different market to previously, with a new set of consumer concerns and requirements… Building trust between hotelier and customer will be paramount, with businesses operating and presenting their services in a way that makes the guest, and the staff who take care of them, feel comfortable, confident and protected".
Ongoing hygiene and cleaning protocols will be top of the agenda, according to HVS, with global operators Marriott, Hilton and Accor already launching programmes designed to communicate and promote high standards of hygiene and cleanliness.
HVS also said operators will need to consider how best to protect guests and staff at each interface, such as screens at check-in and a remote check-in/out option; social distancing in public areas such as restaurants, corridors and lounge areas; controlling the numbers of people using lifts at any one time; as well as how guests can, and should, make safe use of leisure facilities, pools, gyms and spas.
"Hoteliers will need to rethink almost every part of their business, focusing on all areas that are accessed by guests as well as considering the safety and protection of staff. The traditional buffet breakfast is likely to become a thing of the past – at least for the time being," Kett added.
HVS expects most hotels to reopen gradually, adding rooms and rehiring staff when demand improves. This might result in the need for furloughing schemes to be continued for some staff while hotels implement this ramping up.
In light of this, Kett said prematurely curtailing the furlough scheme could "sound the death knell" for many hotels. Likewise, he added that kitchens will need to consider a pared-down menu that can be produced by a smaller team with what could be limited supplies, and room service may need to be stepped up as some guests may perceive this as the safer option.