Indulgent travel is always evolving – whether it’s high-thread-count sheets and Michelin-starred dining or personalised service and authentic experiences. But in today’s climate, the concept of luxury has changed. Health and safety are now at the forefront, with high-end hotels and resorts investing in programs and technologies to protect its employees and guests.
To remain relevant in this new age of luxury travel, Natalia Shuman, CEO of Bureau Veritas North America – a company specialising in testing, inspection, and certification for nearly 200 years – suggests that hotel companies and properties need to develop tough guidelines to address every aspect of the travel experience in a manner like never before.
“Establishing safety, health and hygiene excellence procedures must be more than a check-the-box exercise, but a complete culture shift.” – Natalia Shuman
“The leading hotel companies in the industry will not only be effective in adopting and communicating these safety and hygiene measures to guests prior to booking and arrival, but also ensuring employees are adequately trained and empowered to enforce these new protocols,” Shuman tells The CEO Magazine. “This might even extend to the development of new job roles dedicated specifically to health and safety.”
Travel organisations including Small Luxury Hotels of the World and Million Stars Hotel have both launched clean and safety initiatives to assist and support staff and provide peace of mind for guests. Meanwhile, luxury resort Raffles Bali has reinforced cleanliness protocols, enhanced staff training, imposed new measures around guest contact and upgraded food safety standards.
In light of the current climate, the brand-new Ritz-Carlton, Nikko in Japan opened with built-in cleanliness initiatives to protect the wellbeing of its guests, hotel staff and the broader community. With the support of Marriott International’s new Commitment to Clean protocols and standards along with enhanced property-specific technologies, guests can expect premium levels of safety.
The new Ritz-Carlton property, situated in the mountain region of Nikko – a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is also offering breakfast individually rather than by buffet service.
The Western and Japanese breakfast options are served in a wooden box and use local produce for ingredients such as Japanese roast beef, eggs, fresh vegetables and strawberries.
“Hotels must go beyond physical distancing and PPE requirements and consider safety strategies at every touchpoint, from the rearrangement of furniture to guide the flow of guest traffic, to state-of-the-art technology to heighten cleaning practices,” Shuman highlights.
“This is as well as reservation systems at pools to control overcrowding, sneeze guard protection for food displays, elimination of communal coffee and beverage stations, frequent temperature checks, and contactless five-star service, among other criteria.”
Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts has also recently launched its global initiative Lead With Care, a consulting agreement with Johns Hopkins Medicine International. Meanwhile, Montage International has partnered with One Medical to deliver 24/7 digital health services to guests and associates; and Preferred Hotels & Resorts, Accor Hotels, Las Vegas Sands Corporation and Melia International have all partnered with Bureau Veritas to certify the safe reopening of their global properties.
“Establishing safety, health and hygiene excellence procedures must be more than a check-the-box exercise, but a complete culture shift. Hotels have a commitment to ensure these matters are at the core of their entire operations,” Shuman says.
In the wake of COVID-19, Bureau Veritas has pivoted to become a consumer-facing business. Shuman says the company is focused on mitigating risk and the spread of COVID-19 in communities through its ‘Restart your business with BV’ service offerings and the SafeGuard Hygiene Excellence and Safety Label.
“The pandemic has re-emphasised the importance of a decentralised and agile operating model for businesses,” Shuman notes. “This approach has enabled Bureau Veritas the flexibility to build and commercialise new products geared to hygiene and safety, and the ability to service new market segments such as hospitality and gaming, which have been greatly impacted by the pandemic.”
This ‘new normal’ has come to be expected by travellers and will remain an essential part of the sector.
“While we are all eager to get back to visiting our favourite places and resorts, savvy travellers are seeking assurance that hotels are doing everything possible to protect their health and wellbeing,” Shuman observes.
“Travellers’ initial experiences in the COVID-19 era will undoubtedly inform future behaviour and their likelihood to continue travelling, making it particularly important for the industry’s key players to have strategies developed and executed.”