GMs say no downside to elevator policies, so far
GMs say no downside to elevator policies, so far
12 AUGUST 2020 8:04 AM

Hotels where elevator usage has been limited to two guests, or one family, at a time have not had issues with noncompliance, according to general managers.

GLOBAL REPORT—Among all the potential pain points of social-distancing in the pandemic era, hotel elevators seemed likely to be a hotbed of rising tensions among guests.

The 6-feet-of-distance rule for most hotels has meant reducing capacity per elevator car to two guests (or one family) at a time, which could also extend the wait time from lobby to guestroom and back.

It’s just one of a series of policies—including mandatory facemasks—aimed at guest safety, enacted as many hotels reopened after a temporary closure as a result of low demand during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Social media has been rampant with examples of the public revolting against such policies, but general managers at two U.S. hotels and one in Denmark said guests have been more than willing to do their part to make their stays safe.

“It surprised me,” said Tony Marco, GM of the Hyatt House Chicago / West Loop – Fulton Market. “If you told me that three weeks into reopening, there would be no guest complaints or issues, I would have said, ‘No way, there’s going to be at least one.’ But nothing.”

Wolfgang Jonas, GM of The Plaza Pioneer Park in El Paso, Texas, said guests for the most part have arrived with an understanding of the mandates.

“As Texas is becoming one of the hotspots (for the virus in the U.S.), a lot of guests understand these policies are for their protection,” he said.

“We’re in the hospitality business. We want to make sure we make you feel welcome to our hotel … (and) you leave in the same condition you arrive, with your health intact, and ensure we’re still here for other travelers coming through.”

At the Villa Copenhagen in Copenhagen, Denmark, which opened 1 July after a delay, “guests are very conscious of best practices when it comes to maintaining distance between one another,” GM Peter Høgh Pedersen said via email.

“In general, we are following all governmental advice, guidelines and restrictions on social distancing,” he said. “We don’t have specific rules in place for the elevator, as the hotel has multiple staircases and only five floors in total, so this hasn’t proven to be an issue.”

In a low-occupancy environment, and at less-than-full staffing, the GMs have been spending more time with guests, working the front desk and even, in Jonas’s case, as bellman occasionally.

“With a limited number of staff, we’re having to do more tasks than before, but at the same time, (the hotel is) not as busy as we were planning on being. This allows us to have a more personal touch or connection with guests,” Jonas said.

“Many guests might not realize it’s the GM who is taking their luggage to their car. We’re all working together to make your stay as comfortable as possible.”

The reduced staffing also makes enforcement of social-distancing policies challenging, which means the hotels rely heavily on guests to take responsibility.

“It’s hard to manage every area of the hotel 24 hours a day,” Marco said. “A lot of it is left up to the guests’ own understanding of what’s going on and taking things into account and acting appropriately.”

He said guests are informed at check-in of safety policies, and signage throughout the property serves as a reminder.

“In the lobby area, if any staff come into contact with guests not wearing a mask, we politely let them know,” he said. “People have been great. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. People wait. If the elevator comes and there’s somebody on it, they’ll say, ‘I’ll wait for the next one.’ They’re rolling with the punches and going with the flow.”

Marco said with three elevators and occupancy of “25% to 30%, maybe 40% on busy days,” it has been easier to enforce the elevator capacity policy.

“When we start to get to 60%, 70%, 80% occupancy, we may start to see guests saying ‘This is the third elevator that’s gone past.’ Right now, that’s not an issue for us. But you could argue that as occupancy increases, it’s increasing because things like this are going away, and (the virus) is not as prevalent anymore,” he said.

Jonas said that in any combative situation with a guest, he would rather “be the messenger,” and so he asks staff to call him in.

“Guests when talking to a manager feel more compelled to understand what we’re trying to obtain. But that hasn’t happened,” he said.

He said the hotel, which has 130 rooms on 16 floors and a rooftop restaurant, did opt to close its bar when social distancing became an issue in that area.

Marco said his staff has been trained on the new safety protocols and policies, and how to address those with guests. That training has come from the hotel’s management company, McKibbon Hospitality, which he said has rolled out “the best of the best from the brands,” such as Marriott, Hilton and Hyatt.

“My job is to fight for the guest experience. That’s what I’m held accountable for. We balance that with safety,” he said, adding that “everyone’s adapting pretty well.”

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