Those who work in hospitality are bonded by a shared passion for serving others, creating experiences and helping guests make lifelong memories; people are at the heart of what we do. While current events have tested our limits as hoteliers, employers and as community members, I am confident that the Indianapolis hospitality industry will emerge stronger and more resilient than ever. In the face of crisis and hardship, hospitality’s dedication and bond to serving people only strengthens.

When travel and tourism are back on the rise, Indianapolis is a marquee city to visit. Rather than cancelling events, many industry leaders have opted to postpone or reschedule for a later date, an initiative that will positively impact the hospitality and tourism sectors. Several Indianapolis events have already taken the postpone-not-cancel approach, including the Indianapolis 500, which is rescheduled for late August.

In preparation for a successful resurgence, hotel owners and operators can use this time to connect and plan with the wider hospitality industry, make improvements or renovations, and revisit health and safety procedures. With the safety and well-being of guests and staff a top priority for hoteliers, this is a rare opportunity to take a step back and really ask ourselves: What can and should we be doing to ensure we’re prepared and accessible to the guests of Indianapolis at all times, all while keeping them safe?

Revisit health and safety procedures

The emphasis on health and safety procedures should only increase in this period. If a hotel or restaurant is remaining open during this time, it’s vital to reevaluate that the establishment has appropriate health and safety policies in place, especially because these businesses rely on in-person interactions. Having a plan of action will reassure guests and employees that thoughtful consideration has been placed on their well-being. Examples of procedures include hand-washing hygiene and housekeeping standard operating procedures.

For example, our hotels and others are putting additional focus on event spaces by developing meeting room set-ups that are more sensitive to social distancing, evaluating plated food and beverage options compared to buffets, and including additional hand sanitizer stations for future events. Public spaces should be cleaned regularly throughout the day, instead of waiting until events have concluded. 

Focus on internal business

If anything, now is a great time to make some necessary improvements or renovations to a hotel without impacting guests. Inventory of maintenance supplies, system repairs, security checks, pool systems and light maintenance all fall under this classification. Additionally, deep cleaning is an accessible way to improve the business experience. Also, consider pushing larger planned capital projects to be done during this time rather than later in the year.

Many businesses are using this time for employee professional development. There are a number of management certifications available for employees to enhance their skills. Just as the world has evolved during current events, our industry must also evolve to meet the new needs and expectations of travelers.

Adopt virtual technologies

Virtual and remote work is becoming increasingly vital amidst the pandemic. In fact, hotels can manage all processes without being onsite with cloud-based systems. Consider using virtual technologies to make guest check-in and other experiences more safe by decreasing human contact.

Our properties have recently implemented service technology to allow employees to text with guests and electronically submit service requests, allowing guests to further reduce the amount of face-to-face contact. Additionally, updating traditional printed hotel directories to digital hotel directory options will be key for long-term safety and flexibility in communicating with guests.

Prioritize food, restaurant delivery

Although guests cannot currently experience dining-in options, they can still enjoy the same delicious food at home. Hoteliers can actually increase sales for the restaurants they are connected to in their lobbies or campuses by offering deals like free delivery, BOGO and more. Rather than going dark during this crisis, attract new business by offering non-traditional delivery and carryout options.

Despite the current events that have dramatically impacted our sector, demand within the hospitality industry will continue to increase. CBRE Hotels Americas Research forecasts consecutive growth for the U.S. hotel industry throughout 2022. In all scenarios, the modeled value of all hotels ultimately surpasses the 2019 value, reaching a value 9% higher by 2025. People will once again explore their love of travel and choose Indianapolis as their destination of choice. And, when they’re ready to do that, Indy hotels will be here to greet them with the highest level of service, quality and appreciation.  Hoosier hospitality will once again be able to shine. 

Jonathan Webster is the Vice President of Lodging for Geronimo Hospitality Group. Headquartered in Beloit, Wisconsin, Geronimo Hospitality Group owns and operates a growing collection of award-winning, upscale boutique hotels, restaurants and clubs, including Ironworks Hotel, as well as Bottleworks District and Bottleworks Hotel opening up in late 2020 in Indianapolis.

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