Give your hygiene program teeth

In the past 10 days it seems every major hotel company has launched an enhanced hygiene program, often with partners like the Mayo Clinic to give it added gravitas. No doubt smaller hotel companies are messaging in similar ways, making sure potential guests feel comfortable booking. Now I am waiting to see who announces the first Chief Hygiene Officer. Or did I already miss that one?

At some point, if not already, these programs become nothing more than added media noise and will end up doing very little to comfort or sway jaded and anxious potential guests. So, my question is, other than new partnerships and protocols, how will your program stand out and cut through the clutter? And for the brands, how do you make sure franchisees and management companies buy in and execute properly? It only takes a few bad actors to spoil the bunch, while others will have a hard time swallowing the added expense.

Lobby staff at the InterContinental Shanghai Wonderland
Lobby staff at the InterContinental Shanghai Wonderland

Marriott International had CEO Arne Sorenson further spread its commitment to hygiene on Wednesday via a press release, referencing Mr. Marriott’s long-standing practice to inspect kitchens while he was on the road. That’s well and good, and no doubt messaging about cleanliness will be front and center during the booking process and at check-in. Brands will also enhance their apps with services to help deliver on promises. But how can they further personalize their messages?

I would suggest the property GM, even the owner, at least the MOD and perhaps a designated property-level hygiene expert be physically present at arrival to reinforce messages and reassure the unsure. Answer questions and respond to requests. A letter from the GM at check-in is not enough. At least be present, appear very hygenic and keep your social distance.

It sounds expensive, and perhaps it is, but the alternative is bad PR when these touted programs fail to deliver. Making the staff-related investment also has the potential to truly enhance any hotel’s standing and reputation, as well as help spread positive messages via social media. Face-to-face engagement is not dead. Just be smart about it.

Imagine checking in to a property and having a senior level manager or “director of hygiene” there to drive home your program promises and deliver reassurances. It might make a difference and drive business, at least in the near-term and into 2021.

Everyone is talking the talk. We shall see who walks the hygiene walk.