COVID-19 and the Hotel Industry
Reopening hotels after a COVID-19 shutdown presents unique challenges for business owners. From keeping employees and customers safe to making sure buildings are working properly, it’s essential that business owners do their due diligence before reopening.
Although the hotel industry was one of the hardest hit by the pandemic, it’s starting to recover a year after COVID-19 forced shutdowns across the country. In fact, most of the job gains in February 2021 occurred in the leisure and hospitality industry.1 It added 355,000 jobs that month due to some states lifting pandemic restrictions and hotels starting to reopen.2
Learn how to reopen your hotel safely and effectively.
Use a Business Continuity Plan, Virus Transmission Prevention Plan
Restarting operations in the middle of a pandemic introduces unique issues. So, it’s not uncommon for hotel owners to face risks and challenges when reopening.
To give hotel owners the best chance as you welcome guests again, it’s important to review your business continuity plan. Following restoration and recovery procedures and completing any checklists can help restart efforts.
Creating a virus transmission prevention plan can also help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in hotels. It’s a critical part to helping make sure your employees stay safe during the pandemic. This plan should include:
- Employee health screenings
- Cleaning and training procedures
- Illness reporting protocols
Unique Challenges to Reopen a Hotel in a Pandemic
Hotel business owners will face unique challenges when reopening. Addressing these unique risks will take time and careful planning. In some cases, it’ll require new protocols to make sure your hotel operations continue to go smoothly.
Employee and Customer Safety
Keeping employees and customers safe in a hotel should be a top priority. From COVID-19 infections to bodily injuries, employees and customers can face risks while in a hotel. To ensure your hotel is as safe as possible, post appropriate signage throughout the building stating your current rules, like:
- Wearing a mask
- Social distancing recommendations
- Not entering if experiencing symptoms of sickness
If a guest gets sick while staying at the hotel, make sure there’s a plan to address this. For example, it’s a good idea to only send essential housekeeping services to the room while the guest isolates.
Don’t forget about common risks hotel owners face during normal operations. Slips, trips and falls are the top sources of loss for hotels. So, pay attention to whether new processes put in place because of the pandemic create new risks.
Safety, Security and Cleaning
Before reopening a hotel, performing an interior and exterior inspection is important. When looking at the exterior, be sure to check the:
- Roof to make sure drains are clear and there’s no sign of leaks.
- Walls for any pests, vandalism or damage.
- Landscaping for any overgrown plants, trees and shrubs.
When inspecting the interior, be on the lookout for wet spots, which can lead to mold damage. It’s also a good idea to look at the equipment in the hotel. Make sure to:
- Look for damages or vandalism. Equipment should be in good condition with clear piping and valves.
- Thoroughly clean and sanitize equipment before turning them back on.
- Check the maintenance schedule. Perform any needed maintenance or tune ups on hotel equipment.
To help keep employees and customers safe in the hotel, creating cleaning protocols is essential. Business owners should:
- Provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to employees. Provide any training or resources to make sure they know how to use it.
- Frequently clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces. This includes the reception or check-in desk, public areas, restrooms, tables, elevator buttons, ice and vending machines and key cards.
- Provide sanitizing stations throughout the hotel and in elevators.
Many hotels use vehicles to transport guests to different places. Before reopening, hotel owners should get vehicles inspected, especially if they were stagnant for a period of time. These vehicles should also be cleaned and sanitized after each use. Other things business owners can do include:
- Modifying vehicles for employee and customer safety. This may mean installing temporary screens to separate the driver and passengers.
- Not recirculating HVAC controls. Instead, use fresh air intake options or open the windows.
- Making PPE available to all drivers.
Fire Safety and Utilities
When performing an interior investigation, hotel owners should also look at fire protection systems. Test alarms, fire pumps and water supply lines to make sure they work properly.
Prior to a shutdown, fire prevention systems may have been impaired. For example, it may have been necessary to drain water lines to prevent freezing. Before reopening, flush any impaired systems and make sure they’re recharged.
Hotel owners should also have a plan to turn power back on. It’s important that the power gets turned on systematically, rather than all at once. This can help business owners identify any issues, where they are and how to address them.
Other utilities business owners may want to pay attention to before reopening include:
- Lights: Inspect lighting for emergency signage, exits, ceilings and walls. Repair any damaged bulbs or broken circuits.
- Water: Turn valves on slowly to prevent water hammering.
- HVAC: Inspect equipment and systems to make sure they’re functioning properly. Look at dampers, ductwork, fuel or power supply and ventilation openings.
- Boilers and furnaces: Get a physical inspection done before turning these systems on. Make sure they’re clean and purged.
Buffets and community bowls or salad bars can put a customer’s health at risk. So, make sure the hotel offers single-use utensils and serving options whenever possible. This includes:
- Spoons, forks and knives
- Seasoning packets
Food served in hotels should also be thoroughly cooked. Hotel staff should follow all food handling and storage guidelines. The US Food & Drug Administration website also has resources to help with food safety during a pandemic.
Don’t forget about liquor liability for carry out meals. Since the start of the pandemic, 40 states approved “to-go cocktail” legislation. This allowed customers to order alcoholic beverages and take it out of the business’ premises.
Working with legal counsel can help business owners understand local laws and potential risks. If a hotel will offer to-go alcoholic drinks, business owners should have a written policy and make sure all employees are trained.
Helping Hotel Owners Manage Risk
Hotel owners can work with insurance companies to manage risks when reopening. Our Risk Engineering services can help business owners identify and address the risks specific to their hotel. Some services we offer include:
- Consultations through telephone, email, live video or on-site.
- Industrial hygiene guidance on the safe use and handling of sanitizing and disinfecting chemicals.
- On-demand webinars and training, with access to over 600 courses.
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Find more information and helpful risk engineering resources by logging into our Risk Engineering Customer Portal.
1, 2 US Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Economic News Release: Employment Situation Summary, March 5, 2021”