There is no crystal ball to tell us when exactly travel will return, or what we can definitively expect to change, but we know that heightened hygiene measures stemming from Covid-19 will be a critical part of travel moving forward. Very few travellers will leave home without hand sanitizer and the phrase “social distancing” will be engrained in our minds. Keep this in mind as there are going to be increased levels of anxiety for travel managers and travellers returning to the skies. “How soon is too soon to put my travellers back on the road?” managers may ask. Travellers themselves, despite the frustrations that lockdown brings, will also be less eager about hopping across borders for meetings and events. So what are some of the things we know will change that we can already see happening from airlines, hotels and ground transport that could put your minds at ease?
A set expectation from hotels
Airlines, hotels and ground transport companies will be putting in new protocols around cleanliness and customer safety. We are already seeing how some are responding, or have promised to respond, once travel returns. Marriott Hotels recently launched a “Global Cleanliness Council” to address guest concerns and advance their current levels of cleanliness standards in order to enhance customer safety. Marriott guests can expect to see things like more signage in lobbies enforcing social distancing rules and spaced out furniture in communal areas.
“We are living in a new age, with COVID-19 front and centre for our guests and our associates,” said Arne Sorenson, President and Chief Executive Officer, Marriott International. “We are grateful for the trust our guests have shown us through the years. We want our guests to understand what we are doing today and planning for in the near future in the areas of cleanliness, hygiene and social distancing so that when they walk through the doors of one of our hotels, they know our commitment to their health and safety is our priority. It’s equally important to us that our associates know the changes we are making to help safeguard their health as they serve our guests.”
Hilton has also followed suit with “Hilton CleanStay”, partnering with the company behind Lysol, and introducing measures such as disinfecting wipe stations and contactless check-ins.
Check-in and check-out precautions are not the only opportunity that hotels are looking at for a contactless service, with many looking to invest more in innovation and technology which could mean that robotics-powered meal deliveries become the new normal.
Airlines to follow suite
Meanwhile in the sky, Delta Air Lines has already announced its plans to resume select international travel routes in May and launched their own new health and safety program dubbed “Delta Clean”. CEO Ed Bastian said that the most important thing will be continuing to make guests feel comfortable while traveling—“it’s going to be confidence and their safety, their personal safety, not just their physical safety,” he said—which has always been at the front of the industry. We spoke to Delta Air Lines Director of Sales, Charlie Schewe this week around their recent initiatives. The airline is looking at blocking the use of middle seats in Main Cabin, Delta Comfort+ and Delta Premium Select across all flights. They aren’t the only airline with this approach; many seem to be following suite.
United Airlines promises its customers to be the “only U.S. airline with a full-time, on-site medical director, who has been on the front lines of the COVID-19 outbreak providing counsel to the company and our employees around the world.” Bringing in measures such as ‘enhanced cabin sanitisation’ and enforced social distancing at the airport, they are comforting passengers with a message of solidarity; “United Together” to deliver industry-leading cleanliness.
Many airlines are also cancelling or reducing inflight food and beverage services to reduce interactions on board. For example Southwest Airlines are now serving individual cans of water rather than its usual full drinks round and other airlines are offering to-go bags in the gate area instead of in-flight options.
Hygiene maintained on the ground
So what’s happening on the ground? Avis a preferred partner, are vigilantly implementing enhanced protocols to ensure the safety of travellers and their staff. They have enhanced their already robust cleaning techniques of their vehicles. Paying special attention to places that people touch such as door handles, steering wheels, controls and other hard surfaces by cleaning these with alcohol-based sanitizer. They are closely monitoring the news, information, advice and guidance from the World Health Organisation regarding the spread of the Coronavirus.
The question remains: will this ‘new normal’ be enough to ease travellers back into the road-warrior lifestyle or will it take much more.