While there are cities shut down, strict social distancing guidelines in place, and uncertainty around travel in general, there is still a traveling public that needs to perform essential tasks. These individuals need to feel confident that they have a place to land during their travels. While booking hotels outside of a managed travel program does occur, it’s extremely important during a pandemic to know where your travelers are and that they have a safe, clean place to lay their heads. Below are important factors as to why booking hotel stays with a TMC is critical during a pandemic.
How do you know if a hotel is still open?
Hotels are certainly not escaping the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, many hotels are drastically cutting services while others are shutting their doors completely. Due to the fluid situation of this global crisis, the travel industry is seeing many closures of hotels that are not always appearing in the GDS booking system. “Travel advisors are finding that hotels could be open one day and closed the next with little or no advanced notice. To make sure we stayed on top of these constant hotel changes, Travel and Transport put a ‘call ahead confirmation process’ in place for all traditional and online bookings” said Karen Skinner, Vice President, Operations with Travel and Transport.
“With this process in place, our travel advisors reconfirm any hotel booking within 24 hours prior to arrival. They will then contact the traveler with any updates regarding the hotel. We have found that this added touchpoint gives travelers peace of mind that they will have a safe place to stay when they arrive at their destination. It also adds just another layer of safety and security that travelers should expect,” said Skinner.
Be prepared for limited food selection at hotels
While the hotels may be open, they will likely be offering limited services and amenities due to the lack of resources within their staff. It’s important the TMC is asking if restaurants are open and if not, what other options are available. “We are finding restaurant services are completely unavailable except for perhaps grab and go food and/or prepacked box meals,” said Travel and Transport Group Travel Advisor Jody Konz. “We have come across a few hotels with a chef on duty that would cook meals to order, though this is a very uncommon occurrence so travelers need to know what they will be dealing with upon arrival,” said Konz.
Additional limitations on hotel amenities
Other services such as fitness centers, business centers, pools, etc. are typically closed. “There are a handful of hotels that we have spoken to that have the fitness center, pool, etc. open, however, they are limiting the number of guests that can use the services and have set up a scheduled “timeframe” for guests to utilize the facility to control social distancing,” said Konz.
Travel and Transport’s Partner Solutions Group is working on a new hotel operations status offering, available when travel rebounds. “Our clients want to be prepared for the new wave of travel and that means having valuable information at their fingers tips,” said Erik Shor, Vice President, Partner Solutions Group with Travel and Transport. “We will be offering a service that monitors the operations status of our customers’ preferred properties and provides important details they can share with their travelers regarding available amenities and services. This will include everything from housekeeping details, food/drink offerings, and fitness center availability to name a few,” said Shor. “We’re even including information on whether the hotel is requiring the use of face masks in public spaces. It’s certainly a new world we will be traveling in so travelers need to be prepared,” add Shor.
CDC hotel check-in guidelines
Travelers should be aware limited housekeeping services may be put in place by hotels as they abide by CDC regulations. Many times, the room will only be cleaned after the traveler departs.
Companies should also think about asking hotels if they have implemented CDC guidelines and validate, they were following them. It should not be out of the norm for hotel management to provide their COVID-19 guidelines and procedures for cleaning to ensure they are keeping guests safe.
Practice social distancing in all situations
Social distancing is also very important during this time. If the hotel is providing transportation from an airport or other location, companies should ask how many people they allow in one vehicle for pick up.
There are still many questions about how travel will look going forward. Preparing your travelers today with the most informed details ahead of their departure will give them the confidence they need as we continue to navigate the new normal for travel.