Safety is the biggest barrier to booking right now, so hotels must first focus on transparent communication and reassure potential customers that the proper measures have been taken to maintain the safety of their staff and guests. Kerrie Hannaford, VP–Commercial, Accor India and South Asia, speaks to TTJ on the strategies implemented by their hotels during COVID to
ensure top-level safety and hygiene standards in every aspect of their business.
– Prashant Nayak
With the second COVID wave in progress, it is kind of impossible to predict recovery as there is no clear sight for the pandemic to end. We all are hoping that the worst is behind us. However, Kerrie says, “As a large domestic market, India will recover better than compared to countries that are reliant solely on international travellers. At Accor, we have managed to limit the impact of the crisis on our performance by taking immediate steps to protect our human resources through our Heartist® program and by reducing cost immediate support measures.”
The continuous pandemic has hit the travel sector intensely, and at Accor, they are positive that the vaccine announcement will give a sigh of relief to all industries. Gradually, international flights will resume, boosting outbound travel again and all business and leisure segments will slowly flourish.
The hospitality industry is adapting every possible measure to instill confidence in their guests and collaborating with like-minded brands to better communicate cleanliness protocols to their guests. However, with standard hygiene SOP’s put into practice almost everywhere, yet the threat still alive. “Undeniably, when it comes to health, it is difficult. However, we want our guests to know that we are there for them,” assures Kerrie.
At Accor, they have channelised all their resources into ensuring high standards of safety and hygiene across their properties. Accor’s ALLSAFE initiative represents industry-leading cleanliness and prevention standards, launched in association with Bureau Veritas. It is based on 16 guiding principles and commitments, consists of over 35 actionable guidelines and 200 SOP’s, keeping cleanliness and safety at the helm of our policies. The label rolled out across all properties covers critical areas such as enhanced cleaning protocols, enhanced staff training, new guest contact measures, enhanced food safety measures and much more. Every hotel also has an ALLSAFE Officer 24/7 available to ensure all protocols are followed.
Kerrie shares, “As an industry, this is the time to show solidarity and work together, reassuring guests that it is safe to travel. Hence, to reassure and communicate our stringent safety and hygiene measures to a wider range of guests, we have partnered with Thomas Cook India and SOTC to launch ‘Holiday Safe’. This collaboration aims at building a safe travel environment for our patrons. The holiday portfolio has comprehensive health and safety protocols incorporated via Thomas Cook India & SOTC’s Assured Safe Travel Program in partnership with Apollo Clinics, together with Accor’s Cleanliness and Prevention ALLSAFE label.”
Speaking of the use of technology in COVID times, Kerry feels that the foremost priority currently is bringing back customer’s trust by incorporating top-level safety and hygiene standards in every aspect of the business. Contactless services are the need of the hour, and the hospitality industry must aggressively embrace this technology and automation. Customer-facing tech tools need to be deployed to provide remote access to front-desk, concierge and customer-service functions, starting from booking the room to check-in, check-outs, F&B orders and payment procedures; everything has to be contactless. Some key infrastructure elements include facial-recognition engines comprising mask-detection, infrared temperature readers, infrared walls, UVC technology that can be used to eliminate up to 99.9 percent of surface and airborne pathogens in indoor settings.
When asked about the support needed for the Indian travel industry going into 2021, Kerry speaks, “Hospitality industry is one of the largest employers for a broad spectrum of staff, both skilled and unskilled. To help with the domestic drive, we definitely need a national approach with consistencies in communication. Currently, the responsibility has fallen on each state, curfews, partial lockdowns do become very confusing for the consumer. Of course, support from the tourism offices will be very welcomed when the time is right.”