InterContinental Hotels BANS buffets, limits elevators to three a ride

InterContinental Hotels BANS buffets, limits elevators to no more than three people per ride, and removes pool furniture as industry expects guests to start returning for summer travel

  • Keith Barr, CEO of InterContinental Hotels, announced new safety measures 
  • Barr said he expects domestic travel to pick up as summer progresses 
  • Hotels will do away with buffets and introduce ‘grab-and-go’ dining 
  • Facilities will also have hand sanitizer stations positioned throughout for guests
  • Hotel industry has lost $1.4billion per week during COVID-19 pandemic 
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

Hotels around the world will look very different in the COVID-19 era as the battered tourism and hospitality industry tries to assure would-be travelers that staying in resorts will be safe.

That means no more than three people will be allowed into an elevator at the same time – unless families are traveling as one unit; buffets and restaurants will be eliminated in favor of grab-and-go dining, and room service will be contactless.

‘We’re making sure that we provide a safe environment so customers can enjoy themselves because they do want to travel,’ InterContinental Hotels Group CEO Keith Barr told ABC News on Thursday.

Barr, whose chain includes popular brands like Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza, and Regent Hotels and Resorts, also said that swimming pools in his hotels will be socially distanced.

The company’s new measures will be brought in at its 5,600 hotels across 100 countries. 

InterContinental Hotels Group CEO Keith Barr said that his company’s 5,600 hotels in more than 100 countries will be implementing stringent safety guidelines to reassure travelers worried about taking vacations in the COVID-19 era

There will be temperature screening at the front desks, hand sanitizer stations positioned throughout the facility, social distancing markers in public areas, and decluttering rooms in the public spaces to make sure that high-touch items are no longer present.

Barr said that he expects demand for hotel rooms to pick up toward the summer as travelers will be getting into their cars rather than flying in planes to take vacations.

‘We think we are going to have a lot of domestic travel and not a lot of international travel, and it will be drive because people feel comfortable getting in their cars and driving to stay at a Holiday Inn or Holiday Inn Express,’ he said.

‘That’s going to be the travel trend, with fewer people wanting to get on flights.’

Earlier this month, InterContinental Hotels said it expects revenue per available room to plunge 80 per cent in April compared with last year and that the coronavirus crisis was the biggest challenge the hotel industry ever faced.

Earlier this month, the American Hotel and Lodging Association unveiled its ‘stay safe’ guidelines that will include social distancing in common spaces 

Hotels will also post signage reminding guests of the need to maintain social distancing and good hygiene

The guidelines call for hand sanitizer stations to be available throughout the hotel’s facilities

Employees will also be required to wear personal protective equipment 

The Denham, UK-based company said occupancy levels dropped to historic lows in March and April.

The hotel industry is estimating a loss of $1.4billion in revenue every week on account of the outbreak and a 30% drop in hotel occupancy over a year, according to statements from the American Hotel and Lodging Association and the US Travel Association in March.

Earlier this month, the AHLA revealed its Safe Stay guidelines, a set of practices that top chains like Wyndham, Hilton, Marriott, and Best Western plan to implement in order to keep both staff members and guests safe from COVID-19.

‘It’s really an effort to make sure that no matter if you’re staying at an extended-stay economy hotel or you’re staying at the nicest luxury resort, that there will be at a minimum common standards across the entire industry,’ AHLA President Chip Rogers told USA TODAY.

Rogers said that travelers don’t have to be afraid of venturing out to hotels given the new policies it is implementing.

There appear to be signs of hope for the industry. During the week of April 19 to 25, hotel occupancy saw a slight increase, with 26 per cent of rooms booked – though that is still 62 per cent less than the same period last year.

Industry observers said that guests are slowly starting to trickle back to hotels as states lift the coronavirus lockdowns.

InterContinental’s hotels, like the one seen above in Los Angeles, will eliminate buffets and restaurants

‘Demand has grown slightly across the country during the last two weeks, which could provide some hope that the levels seen in early April were indeed the bottom – especially with some states now moving to ease social distancing guidance,’ Jan Freitag, an analyst with data firm STR, told USA TODAY.

By best estimates, most leisure travel will be back to 60-70 per cent of what it was last year, according to Rogers.

He expects Florida, California, and Hawaii coastlines to see near normal numbers by the end of the summer.

Freitag said that the uptick in demand from the past few weeks has been due to travellers from California, Texas, New York, Florida, and Georgia.

She said ‘it is not unreasonable to assume that part of the increased business is coming from essential workers, homeless housing initiatives and government-contracted guests.’

Hotels generally rely on business travel for most of their revenue.

During the pandemic, companies have scaled back costs associated with travel.

Industry observers do not expect business travel to pick up again at least until next year.

Another key source of revenue for hotels is large-scale meetings and conferences, which are unlikely to resume until next year or perhaps later.

‘I think the industry will attempt to find all sorts of ways to make sure that rooms are filled and bring in some revenue, but ultimately without going back to normal travel patterns and business conferences and leisure travel, it’s going to be a very difficult situation for the industry,’ Rogers said. 

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