While confinement measures are beginning to relax in Spain and Europe, tourism is preparing for the so-called ” new normal ” from different starting points depending on the European destination.
With its sights set on returning travelers from various segments, the German chain a & o Hotels and Hostels has redoubled its commitment to technology in customer experience and management , rethinking the distribution of spaces and the format of services , to offer certainty to your guests and the team, without sacrificing quality and comfort.
According to Phillip Winter, CMO of a & o, the return of tourism will be “gradual and will have very marked moments: our sector has been the first to be affected and will be the last to completely resume its activities .”
Winter believes that ” the next 12 to 24 months will be very different from what we were used to , with highly polarized trends”, ranging from segments that want to travel as soon as possible (to domestic or international destinations), to those who will show more reluctance ” until we return to a stage in which travel becomes part of our leisure, of course, appreciating each experience more and with a more conscious and responsible attitude towards the environment ”.
Technology for check-in
With these premises, the a & o Hotels and Hostels team restructured the services and spaces and designed simple sanitary protocols , which largely depend on technology that was already implemented before the pandemic.
The German chain kept its doors open in all its European establishments for those who had to travel for work during the most critical phase of the pandemic, with a special rate program (Emergency Beds), which in addition to keeping the teams active, also It functioned as an ideas laboratory to create new protocols and proposals for the rest of the chain’s hotels.
“Our accommodation in Copenhagen already receives national tourists, and in Austria we hope to do so towards the end of May,” says Winter. The interaction of clients with the spaces of each accommodation has been essential to determine the priority aspects on which to act.
In addition to offering a simplified check-in through the web, the chain has automatic check-in points installed in the lobbies, developed with in-house technology and already deployed in all the chain’s accommodations, after a first phase pilot that started in August 2019. The use of the digital key through mobile devices or Mobile Key has also become widespread .
Hygienic measures are essential to manage customer uncertainty. To guarantee the hygiene of employees and guests, a & o will have a “ Hygene Officer ”, a specialist in this area in each of its establishments.
In addition, the chain is already endorsing its cleaning and sanitizing protocols with standards such as TÜV and Fresenius, which include complete disinfection of the room once the guest has checked out (which is certified with an available notice on the door hanger , with information and details). In addition to providing face masks to all employees , disinfectant gel dispensers were installed in all common areas of the chain’s accommodations (from the entrance, to the bathrooms or breakfast rooms), and contactless taps .
As for the experience in each accommodation, a & o has struck a balance between the necessary security separation , interaction and relaxed experience . All reception desks have Plexiglass screens , and in areas where there may be waiting or a concentration of people (such as a dining room or business area), signs and markings have been provided to guide the necessary distance.
Closed common areas
On the other hand, common areas such as children’s leisure areas or shared-use kitchens have been temporarily closed ; and the occupancy per room has been reduced to 50% , a relevant measure for a & o, which offers multiple rooms for families or groups as a fundamental part of its value proposition. It has also reformulated the breakfast buffet: the new version, à la carte, is served at the table.
“The epidemic, which has also affected the local economy, has made us reflect on how our sustainability policy can contribute to companies and businesses in the destinations where our accommodation is located,” says Winter. In this sense, a & o is designing a series of experiences with local partners , which they hope to launch as soon as possible, which will invite guests to reconnect with destinations, increasing spending and generating benefits for the entire tourist value chain.