It has been over a month since Marriott released its cleanliness policy in response to the highly contagious virus. It formed the Marriott Global Cleanliness Council, consisting of members such as Food Safety & Public Health personnel, infectious disease specialists, and a Cornell Professor of Food Microbiology. Although one might believe this to be unnecessary, it only takes one suspected case – real or not – to destroy a giant’s hard-earned reputation. Surely no sane hotel would want to risk flushing their revenue further down the drain.

Since Marriott has already raised its bar so high, Hilton couldn’t back down. Soon after Marriott made its new cleanliness standard public, Hilton introduced Hilton CleanStay, a new program that “redefines” cleanliness and disinfection in collaboration with RB, the maker of Lysol and Dettol. Its program outlines cleaning, more cleaning, and even more cleaning. The hotel will increase the frequency of deep cleaning and pay more attention to small details that are usually missed. Hilton is also introducing contactless check-in; it seems like online check-in will finally get its push to becoming the new norm.

Other hotel groups followed suit, including Hyatt, Accor, and Dusit. The message from all the giants is clear; they want their guests safe, while still going back to business as usual. But can things ever go back to what they were, after COVID-19?

All these new cleanliness standards come with a high cost; staff will need to be retrained; more disinfectants will be required; proper software for online check-in will have to be implemented; the list goes on and on. Hotel investors should expect to see higher costs for cleaning and disinfection services, after all, guests will only return if hotels make them feel safe.

In addition to the staffing demands which result from improved cleaning standards in hotel operations, the F&B outlets are also changing the way they work, as Tom S’prayoon, CEO of PCL Hospitality, owner representative of Renaissance Pattaya points out.

At Renaissance Pattaya, as well as providing hand sanitiser and temperature checks to all guests, we have recently installed a hospital grade disinfection gate for both guests and staff. Costs have only slightly increased as we are now utilizing more manpower in delivering room service as demand for in-room dining has escalated quite significantly. In fact, all of our buffets have now been replaced with our a-la-carte menus," Tom said.

It is unlikely that this additional cost will fall on to the guests, since an increase in accommodation prices will only push them further away – definitely not something hotels can afford in this trying time. Furthermore, it is unclear whether air transportation costs will increase due to the trend for emptying middle seats in an attempt to limit the spread of the virus.

There is no denying that these unpredictable circumstances are affecting the hospitality industry. The future remains unclear for most sectors in all economies. Investors should remain resilient and avoid making sudden decisions since the market is currently rather volatile.