The tourism industry everywhere has been impacted by the global COVID-19 pandemic, which was an unprecedented challenge for many industries. Hotels closed down and had to take extra precautionary measures to ensure the safety of their guests. Here's how the two-month hiatus went for a hotel manager in Bucharest and how the hotel prepared for re-opening in early – June.
Georgeta Grecu, General Manager of four-star Hotel Cismigiu in downtown Bucharest, used the time between March 22st and June 1st when the hotel was closed because of the coronavirus pandemic, to establish a crisis team and work on a special plan. It included risk analysis, an emergency response plan for the management team, and a business continuity plan. Each of them represented a separate phase in the hotel's emergency preparedness cycle. The crisis team worked full time to have all measures put in place by June 1st when the hotel re-opened.
During the closure, which followed the Romanian regulations in the face of the pandemic, the GM, the Operations Manager, and the Technical Manager worked together to keep the hotel safe and secure.
"The guards were there, and one of us visited and checked the hotel twice a week. Sad and impressive to see the rooms and public spaces other times full of live and vibrant, now empty," says the GM.
Being a business hotel with more than 85% foreign visitors, Hotel Cismigiu was dependent on flights and international travel. "The open doors after May 15th in Romania gave us more trust in the business, and we decided to open the hotel on June 1st, 2020," adds Georgeta Grecu, the Hotel Cismigiu GM.
During the lockdown, training was the keyword for the hotel staff. "We tried to make the most of this time and benefit of the free online webinars of our PMS supplier ( Bitsoft ), customer care training, our "one-time guest = always guest" program for all front line staff. We want ed to stay visible and to make plans for recovery," said Georgeta Grecu.
They detailed all the measures taken in the hotel to prevent the spread of COVID – 19, including those which affect the flow of guests inside the hotel. Measures include separate entry and exit routes, placing social distancing markers on the floor, installing plexiglass screens at the reception, installing hand sanitizer dispensers and shoe sanitizer mats in all public areas, sanitation of the public areas at least every 3 hours, permanent air ventilation in public areas, new apartment cleaning procedures and equipment for staff. Apartments are sanitized after checkout and are ready for the next guest after 72 hours, to prevent cross-contamination.
Breakfast is served as a takeaway now, and inside the apartments, ceramic dishes and glassware were replaced with single-use ones, while guests now also receive sanitizer napkin sets în each apartment. The hotel closed the gym and its business lounge/PC area and suspended its laundry service.
For its events rooms, the hotel has put in place a flexible rearrangement of meeting furniture, to be able to accommodate different seating capacities. "Chairs are kept at a safe distance to ensure that social distancing requirements are met. Additionally, we recommend the opening of balcony doors for more ventilation," says the GM.
The hotel has also revisited its check-in and check-out procedure to limit the reception desk personnel's contact with the guests. Now, the guest individually inserts the identity document in the document scanner, and they keep the pen used to sign the registration sheet and are encouraged to make card payments. The hotel has installed Plexiglass screens for enhanced safety, and they limit the exchange of documents between the receptionist and the guest as much as possible. The room keys are sanitized in the guest's presence when handed over, and at checkout, the guest places the room keys in a dedicated container available on the reception desk.
"Hotel Cismigiu had always received the best quotation for the cleanliness part; now we are doing the extra mile in this field! While travel recovers, we want our guests to feel safer and more confident than before pandemic," says the hotel GM.
Flexibility and adaptation were power words. "Given the way COVID-19 has impacted the industry and changed travel plans for so many, it's understandable that travelers are worried about future uncertainty. Our adaptation plan includes flexible cancellation conditions, various rate plans, long stay offers," says Georgeta Grecu.
Despite the many changes during this period, the Hotel Cismigiu manager has learned that some things don't change. "Clients are still looking for comfort – translated now into sanitary trust – and generosity of spaces that we put at their disposal – our 50sqm apartments with large windows opening to the park. The Hotel Cismigiu cleanliness perception on one of the major online booking tools ( Booking.com) is 9.4 – one of the highest on the local market, and that says something about us."
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