The Covid-19 pandemic has presented overwhelming challenges for all segments of the travel industry. But perhaps no sector has been affected more by the resulting health and safety protocols than luxury hotels, where the idea of limited services and amenities flies in the face of what the experience is all about.
A recent poll by Forbes Travel Guide of more than 430 hoteliers across 77 countries underscores the conflicts Covid-19 has created, with 64% of respondents citing the ability to maintain luxury service levels among the biggest challenges they face. That was followed closely by pressure on operating budgets, cited by 62%, and pressure on budgets to sustain staffing levels (46%).
One hotelier wrote that it's difficult "maintaining the current CDC recommendations while still providing a luxury experience. Many amenities have been removed or changed."
Another said the guest profile has shifted away from the typical mix, further upending established service patterns.
"During these times, leisure guests are the only ones traveling, and it has created a different level of staffing, operational needs and expectations."
Anecdotally, many of the hoteliers said guests expect a typical luxury service experience, regardless of new health and safety measures.
"Guests are not interested in wearing masks and are not afraid of Covid," one wrote. "Guests want full services despite Covid."
Another hotelier wrote, "We have developed dozens of changes to allow options for guests to avoid contact with associates and have found 98% want full services."
One comment cited tension over protocols.
"Guests have less patience, and we have seen more instances of angry outbursts (mostly about masks) than I have seen in my 30-year career," the hotelier wrote.
The good news is that 70% of hoteliers said they are still confident that business will return to sustainable levels within a year.
"Luxury hotels will have an advantage once everything reopens because they provide more confidence in travelers in respect to procedures and cleaning services," one hotelier said, adding, "Safety is the new luxury."