By Anton Zilberberg, CEO & Co-Founder of Autohost
As COVID-19 wreaks havoc on the hospitality industry, hoteliers are taking drastic steps to survive. While some hotels are shutting their doors indefinitely, others are fighting to get as many reservations on the books as they can.
Faced with an unprecedented drop in demand, hotels are being forced to adapt to a new normal. The outbreak has caused the ‘traditional’ traveller to vanish, flipping the target market on its head. Gone are the days of business executives, family vacationers and solo adventurers. In their place, we see health care workers, hospital patients and stranded international tourists. These new types of travellers, though unfamiliar, offer hoteliers an opportunity to increase occupancy and bring in some much needed revenue, while helping those in need.
But COVID-19 also brings new threats to hotels. The low average daily rates caused by the virus tend to attract high-risk guests or those looking to exploit hoteliers. To stay protected during these uncertain times, it’s crucial to find out who you’re hosting. If you take the time to learn about your guests, you can plan and prepare necessary safety precautions. Everyone must do their due diligence to safeguard their operations. And the best way to do that is through careful and thorough guest screening.
What is guest screening?
Even during normal times, bookings present a certain degree of risk. This could be anything from property damage and noise complaints to criminal activity. During an economic downturn like COVID-19, when hoteliers are desperate for reservations, these risks skyrocket. Guest screening is the most effective way to prevent detrimental incidents.
In the hospitality space, guest screening is considered the systematic investigation of all incoming guests. The process involves collecting details about the guest and their travel plans, and then assessing the risk level of the reservation in a legal and non-discriminatory way. It’s important to remember that the risk level of a reservation varies depending on a variety of factors.
Here’s an example: A business executive booking a room for two nights in the middle of the week poses little risk, while an 18-year old booking the room on a Friday night presents a much higher risk.
Each hotelier’s risk tolerance differs depending on internal policies and business practices, but typically it boils down to the level of risk the company is willing to accept. A same-day booking paying in cash might be acceptable to one hotel, but not to another.
When reservations are few and far between, a company may decide to increase its risk tolerance. As a result, they’ll likely welcome guests they would normally avoid. To safeguard your business as you book higher-risk reservations, you need proper guest screening.
Why guest screening matters during a pandemic
The hotel industry relies on mutual trust. Guests trust in the hotelier to provide satisfactory service and the hotelier trusts in the guest to respect their property and follow their rules. Guest screening helps you push beyond that trust to really get to know your guest.
During a pandemic, it’s your duty as a hospitality provider to be responsible and comply as best you can to the rules and regulations set throughout your city and province. To do this, it’s essential to assess the risk posed to your team and other guests by those entering your building.
Monitoring high-risk guests is the best way to keep your business and community safe. It’s also the best way to do your part in stopping the spread of COVID-19.
Protecting your business and community
Proper guest screening will give you key pieces of information. Take that information and use it to protect your guests, properties and community. Before processing reservations, make sure you have a crisis management procedure in place. That way, if you have a guest who is COVID-19 positive, you and your team will know what to do.
Arm your employees with the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE). Sometimes masks and other protective gear can give people a false sense of security. There is still a risk of infection when wearing a mask, so make sure they’re used and disposed of properly, and changed frequently. Stock up on proper cleaning supplies and follow your government’s guidelines on cleaning and disinfecting public settings.
When it comes down to it, it’s important to understand that these are difficult circumstances for everyone. Discuss strategies with your team to provide the best service and support under the circumstances. This could mean checking in with your guest via phone or email, or providing them with options for grocery and restaurant delivery.
Taking the necessary precautions is essential to responsible operation. In times like these, make sure you’re contributing to the solution, not the problem. Protect your business and stay safe.
Anton Zilberberg has a passion for travel. To date, he’s been through six continents, over 50 countries and crossed oceans too many times to count. He’s stayed in everything from freezing alpine lodges and high-end hotels to cozy vacation rentals, calling many of them “home” along the way. In 2015, he and his wife started to share their own home with other travellers. To manage this hobby while working full-time jobs, they built an automation software called Autohost.
Since then, Autohost has evolved into a trust and safety toolset for hospitality providers. Using hundreds of data points, Autohost screens and analyzes reservations to determine risk levels. The intelligent software verifies guests and processes reservations to streamline the workflow from booking to check-in. With dynamic guest screening, hospitality providers can reduce risk and protect their business from issues like parties, crime and fraud.