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The new reality for... Hotels

The new reality for Hotels

by Laura Bickle

As the industry ponders what reopening will look like, every segment has its own unique challenges. Each week we will reach out to those sectors to get their insights.

This week, we spoke to pros from three of the world’s most prominent hotel groups specifically on how they are preparing to welcome back groups, meetings and events.


The pro: Laura Pallotta, regional vice-president sales and distribution, Marriott International - Canada

Laura Pallotta, Marriott International - Canada

What is the current operating status of the hotels?

Currently, approximately 25% of our hotels in Canada are closed. We anticipate most of our hotels will reopen by Canada Day or shortly thereafter.

As soon as the time is right, there will be keen interest by Canadians to travel around Canada. Either for a getaway and change of scenery, or to reconnect with families and friends they have missed.

What preparation is currently underway?

Health and safety have always been at the heart of Marriott’s approach to hospitality, and our company’s 93-year commitment to cleanliness has never been more important than it is now.

In April, we created a Global Cleanliness Council which consists of both in-house and outside experts on food safety, public health, hygiene and infection prevention.

Over the next few months, guests will notice a number of additions to our cleaning regimen designed to set an even higher standard of cleanliness for the hotels. These enhanced protocols cover all areas of the hotels, including meetings and events.

How are you working with planners and partners to reschedule postposed events?

We are following local guidance for events and developing additional operational resources like room set-up charts to support social distancing.

We are working with groups to embrace and incorporate new technology such as live streaming support and using touchless options via Marriott’s Meeting Services App. 

What are you doing to ensure attendee safety and confidence?

We have firm protocols on place to open hotels and implement solid operating procedures around cleanliness and social distancing.

We’re testing new technologies such as electrostatic sprayers, changing the layout in public spaces to enable social distancing and elevating the company’s already rigorous cleaning protocols throughout hotels.

Marriott's Global Cleanliness Council

We’re also maximizing existing technology like Mobile Check-In and Mobile Key.    

We’ve established new standards for Food and Beverage service and meeting set-ups to ensure we are adhering to social distancing as well as safety standards.

What will be the greatest challenges in returning to business?

The customer needs to be ready. We cannot wait to see our guests again and we are doing a lot to give them the confidence they need when they walk through our doors. That said, this situation is deeply personal to everyone. We will be here and ready when the customer is.

How do you think the pandemic experience will affect your operation in the short and long term?

We expect to see shifts in the size and format of events with groups increasingly embracing and incorporating new technologies.

We also expect to see an increase in the use of digital guest service platforms—such as Mobile Check-In, Mobile Chat and Marriott Meetings Services apps—to support social distancing.

What lessons have you learned from this experience?

This experience has really emphasized the importance of relationships and connection and has challenged our teams with the opportunity to innovate and ideate creative solutions.


The pro: Vito Curalli, executive director, international sales and industry relations, Hilton Worldwide

Vito Curalli, Hilton Worldwide

What is the current operating status of the hotels?  

Almost all our hotels in Canada are open or in the process of opening shortly.  

What preparation is currently underway?  

All of our properties are ensuring that all parts of our hotels are clean and safe for our customers.

How are you working with planners and partners to reschedule postposed events? 

We continue to work with the meeting planner community on a case by case basis to ensure that their meeting dates are rebooked if necessary. 

What are you doing to ensure attendee safety and confidence? 

Hilton always ensures that the customer is safe and comfortable and we will continue to provide that level of safety with new features as identified in our CleanStay program, which is being launched globally for our company.  CleanStay will leverage the cleanliness of Lysol products and the scientific research of the Mayo Clinic to ensure that each guest can be confident and safe in their stay with Hilton. Learn more >

What will be the greatest challenges in returning to business? 

None at this time…we are absolutely excited about the eventual return of all of our guests!

How do you think the pandemic experience will affect your operation in the short and long term? 

In the short term we need to ensure that we are ready to bring back our guests with all of the additional cleanliness standards we’ve applied. The new normal will be challenging to navigate for both guests and team members, but once we’re up and running, the operations of our hotels will be top notch and our customers will enjoy their experiences. 

The pro: Marc Cassier, CMP, vice president, event sales & services, Accor North and Central America.

Marc Cassier, Accor

What is the current operating status of your hotels? 

More than 30% of our hotels in the region are open, with an additional 10% currently in the process of reopening. A few early good news stories: Fairmont Scottsdale Princess was allowed to open its pools and restaurants in time for Memorial Day and saw solid occupancies, with similar demand for weekends in June, a positive sign of recovery. We had five hotels open on June 1—Fairmont Austin, Fairmont Banff Springs, Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge and Fairmont Chateau Whistler—and all are experiencing positive demand upon reopening. Our remaining hotels are closely monitoring local government directives and conditions in conjunction with ownership partners to determine optimal opening dates, with the majority planning to reopen by the end of July. 

What preparation is currently underway? 

Reopening in a world with COVID-19 presents some notable challenges. We’ve partnered with a team of expert advisors, including leaders from Bureau Veritas, Johns Hopkins and Ecolab, and are following the guidance of local and national health, government and industry authorities to develop new health and safety measures with maximum efficacy in the prevention of COVID-19.

We’ve introduced the new global ALLSAFE cleanliness label, which indicates to guests and clients when and where these stringent new standards have been met, with mandatory auditing by either the Group’s operational experts or third-party auditors. We are exploring new solutions for meetings and events, including low- to no-touch options, such as virtual experiences for site visits and tours, allowing a planner to visualize our hotels and event spaces without having to step foot onsite; new food & beverage offerings; and design and set-ups that promote social distancing. To make it as simple as possible for planners and attendees to learn about our new standards, we launched, an interactive platform that takes visitors on a journey through an event experience, detailing the additional health and safety measures being taken at more than 20 touchpoints in order to protect our planners, delegates, attendees and guests. 

How are you working with planners and partners to reschedule postponed events?   

We are working diligently with our planners and partners to be as flexible as possible in helping to reschedule postponed events. We also continue to honor a flexible cancellation policy for all Meeting & Event room reservations in 2020. 

What are you doing to ensure attendee safety and confidence? 

Cleanliness, care, consistency and communication are key in ensuring safety and re instilling confidence. At each touchpoint along a visitor’s journey attending a meeting or event, or staying at an Accor property, extensive measures are being taken to protect our planners, delegates, attendees, guests and employees, and aid in preventing the spread of COVID-19. On the interactive platforms accessible at and, we take visitors through more than 20 total touchpoints associated with a stay or visit, and the new standards being implemented through every step of their experience on property, which are among the most stringent in the industry. Strategic partnerships with expert advisors ensure that the new measures are not just for ‘show’ but are grounded in science and medicine, and compliant with the guidance issued by local, regional and national health, government and industry authorities to ensure maximum efficacy. Extensive hands-on training for all employees, a dedicated on-property rollout committee and a formal audit program, validated under the global ALLSAFE Cleanliness label, ensure initial and continued compliance.

What will be the greatest challenges in returning to business? 

We are reopening into a different world than we left. We must work together as an industry to rebuild and maintain consumer confidence. We must be rigorous in our efforts to safeguard those who entrust us with their care, and yet be flexible as we face fragmented governmental restrictions and ever-evolving regulatory guidance. For meetings and events in particular, we must counter months of self-isolation and social distancing, creatively facilitating the return to face-to-face connections while maintaining health and safety as a top priority. 

How do you think the pandemic experience will affect your operation in the short and long term? 

In the short term, we have had to amend some of the services and amenities typically associated with a luxury hotel in order to maintain a safe environment for our guests and employees. While this does mean some changes, it also opens up the door to creative new offerings, such as “hybrid” AV technology options to support all delegates, regardless of location, and smaller, more bespoke incentive trips.

Looking ahead, the world has taken a turn that no one could have prepared for, and the result is a population that is more in tune with the fragility and importance of their own health than ever before, which is inevitably going to impact the meetings and events space. Building on Accor’s longstanding commitment to making wellness a standard of travel, the ‘ALL Meet Well’ platform will dive deeper into how wellbeing is integrated into meetings and events, introducing new programs to promote physical, mental and social health, through the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

What lessons have you learned from this experience?

Flexibility and agility are key in responding effectively to a crisis of this magnitude. And our people have always been and remain at the heart of what we do and who we are. I am so proud of our Accor family across North & Central America; they have responded to every challenge thrown at them over the past weeks with an incredible amount of resilience, spirit, compassion and professionalism. Their ability to pull together and support each other in times of unimaginable stress and challenge has been truly admirable. This time apart has only reaffirmed the power of human connection, and taught us that even in times of separation, it is possible to adapt and find ways to stay connected with our family, our employees, guests and clients.

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