16 Biggest concerns to re-opening your BnB, Boutique Hotel or Holiday Let with social distancing

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A guide to starting back in business once the lockdown is relaxed.

When hospitality accommodation venues may open under proposed social distancing guidelines.

Many accommodation property owners are nervous about opening their doors even with the opportunity to do so finally in sight.

Here we provide an update on what has been going on behind the scenes with government lobbying over relief and its impact on the independent hospitality sector. We also convey the concerns of B&B owners with regards to the key challenges and practicality of implementing imminent social distancing provisions. And we speak with tireless lobbyist and chairman of the B&B Association David Weston.

Trade body UKH-hospitality-protocol-15May20-DRAFUKHospitality last month published a 21-page draft document entitled COVID-19 – Secure advice and risk assessment for hospitality businesses. The document is expected to form the basis of the official government guidelines for the industry, due to be published imminently ahead of the official date from which B&Bs hotels and guest houses may reopen.

These guidelines are detailed. For example there are 23 protocols to follow for health and fitness spas and swimming pool facilities alone and a broad range of advice for staff working in kitchens. Meanwhile touch points that should be disinfected include light switches,  bedside tables, remote controls, taps, flush handles, toilet seats, door handles inside and out, hair dryer handles, irons, ironing boards and trouser press, kettle handles and air conditioner controls.

The new normal: owners’ concerns and initiatives

In the third session of My B&B and Me hosted via Zoom and moderated by micro business specialist Tina Boden in the last week of May, nine B&B owners discussed their preparation and concerns about opening under the new social distancing regime in the approach to the provisional reopening date of 4 July.

Contributors:

Paul RoperSunnyside Guest House, Keswick
Andrea & SimonNo 21, York
Louise ClellandMillers64, Edinburgh
Claire JarmainPost Office House Bed and Breakfast, Belford
Jilly McAleaBeech House, Greystoke
Paul AndersonSandfield Guest House, Oxford
Gina & David Renaut-EvansBlantyre Guest House, Bridlington
Gina & David Renaut-EvansBlantyre Guest House, Bridlington
Kayt CooperThe Coach House Brecon

1. CONCERN Meet & Greet

Jilly: I am fairly confident that I will be able to manage. I like to greet them, take them to the room, chat with them

Jane: Normally I have a guest room where I serve guests tea and cake, and that’s not going to happen. In the past I have used a key-box system when I have been out in the evening and I am expecting late arrivals, and I leave a note on the hallway table to tell them the way to their rooms. I am thinking of putting that system into place and just doing one or two rooms out of the three.
I have a self-service breakfast and I am going to have to sanitise everything, go out and buy more things to serve individual portions. I’d rather just start with one room to start with and see how I go.
Claire: We usually meet & greet our guests, take them to the room, show them what’s what and I am now worried as I don’t think the experience is going to be the same for the guests, particularly if you are greeting them with face masks. I don’t want to do it, but we have to.

Andrea: We have eight rooms altogether. We just finished our refurbishment in February. We are very personalised, and that is what we rely on since that is how we build our repeat guests. It is all about social reaction, talking, taking them to the rooms, and all kinds of things that obviously won’t be feasible now. We are looking at how we are going to manage guests arriving under the social distancing guidelines , which will be so much against everything we stand for – and how it will have to be at least for a while.

Kate: My chief concern is the met and greet: that’s what it’s all about: meeting everybody and it’s trying to get my heads around how I’m going to do that. I’ve already ordered by cough screen for the reception desk, but it is just getting all the guests into the property.

2. CONCERN Where Are Guests Going To Eat If Restaurants Are All Closed?

Louise: I am seriously thinking of not opening until next year now – when are our restaurants going to open as well? That’s another thing we have to think about: where are the guests going to go if attractions and restaurants aren’t open? OK they can come for a nice little trip to Edinburgh but if nothing’s open what are they going to be doing?

3. CONCERN Face Masks

Tina: When people visit any hospitality environment, they don’t expect to be greeted by someone in a face mask behind a Perspex screen. Businesses are also going to have a reduction in staff numbers owing to capacity limitations. All this has not had enough consideration

Tina: The legislation for tradespeople is that you do not have to wear a mask unless the customer requests it. It comes down to you trying to manage other people’s expectations and what they perceive as risk reduction.

4. CONCERN One Size Fits All Guidelines

Paul A: It’s all well and good that the government prescribes a one size fits all, but it needs to be to a minimum standard. Each of us has different ways that we might go about achieving that. B&Bs need to be allowed some degree of flexibility to go about doing that.

5. CONCERN Unfeasible Washing Time And Extra Linen

Paul A: While right to be nervous about having to leave rooms fallow it’d be worth if the opportunity arises to go through a dry run to see what it would actually take to fully sanitise all the rooms. If someone checks out at 120am and I am expecting a news guest 5 or 6pm with all the duvet washing and deep cleaning involved, I’d be very wary about how quickly I could turn around that room.

6. CONCERN Risk Assessment

Paul R: We have carried out a thorough risk assessment of the business and procedure changes we need to make to things like breakfast, cleaning and so on. There are still some grey areas and it will of course change when we get final confirmation of what the government say in terms of procedures

7. CONCERN Capacity Surplus Cancellations

Paul R: we traditionally get fully booked up to a year or so in advance and from 4 July we are pretty much full of existing bookings from now until September. I think our problem is going to be who we have to cancel if we decide we have to separate the rooms up

8. CONCERN Using Local Business For Breakfast

Tina: I’ve been looking at how you can work with other businesses to give people the choice of having breakfast with you or going to a local café or even produce a food hamper. They can be uninteresting, but if you have as local coffee shop that produces them for you and you can give to your guests and say you are working with this coffee shop so you can have breakfast in your room if you prefer. You can do it yourself, but you are going to have so much else going on you are going to find collaborating in ways that promotes other local businesses too.

9. CONCERN Serving Breakfast

Paul A: Before the lockdown I stopped serving breakfast and delivered it to room only from the end of February. At the moment I don’t see myself serving breakfast at all.

Tina: Not doing breakfast may be practical in cities like Oxford or York but in remote beauty spots it is what you specialise in and it’s one of your key USPs.

Paul A: I have been looking at tray breakfast for rooms, but I don’t have any staff so I can’t see how I am going to do the serving.

10. CONCERN Open For Key Workers

Paul A: I have been open for key workers and therefore has had an opportunity for a certain amount of learning how to operate under social distancing rules although not running anywhere near normal conditions.

11. CONCERN Guests Ignoring Distancing Measures

Paul R: I have a genuine scepticism that actually guests are going to take much notice of restrictions. It is happening everywhere where groups are just congregating and have no appreciation for social distancing, and I think that will happen in places like B&Bs as well. I think people will just treat it as business as usual.

12. CONCERN Leaving Rooms Fallow

Paul A: While right to be nervous about having to leave rooms fallow it’d be worth if the opportunity arises to go through a dry run to see what it would actually take to fully sanitise all the rooms. If someone checks out at 120am and I am expecting a news guest 5 or 6pm with all the duvet washing and deep cleaning involved, I’d be very wary about how quickly I could turn around that room.

Louise: Concern is you have to leave a room for 48 hours before another guest can go in, and we only have two rooms, so we are going to start off only opening with one room.

Kayt: We keep going through what we are going to do to develop a cleaning regime. It’d be great if we had more guidance. We have already blocked out 72 hours before and after each booking on the few we have coming in so far. It has decimated our calendar. We have got to wait for some more guidance. We are never going to have all six rooms filled – we are going to have at most four rooms open.

13. CONCERN Guests Becoming Infected During Their Stay

Paul A: when it comes to having an inspection I need to be able to say I don’t do this because of that but what I do instead is this, to avoid getting into trouble if a guest comes back claiming to have been infected by COVID-19 and lost two weeks work you owe me money.

Gina: My concern is what to do if a guest comes down with COVID-19 symptoms after they have arrived. How do we take care of them, and what do we have to do in that situation?

14. CONCERN Sanitisation

Jane: I have a self-service breakfast and I am going to have to sanitise everything, go out and buy more things to serve individual portions. I’d rather just start with one room to start with and see how I go.

Paul R: We have bought a great deal of things like hand sanitisers, disinfectant for soft furnishings, disinfectant for hard surfaces, bathrooms and so on

Paul R: We have constant teas and coffees with fresh filter coffee on all the time and all that is mothballed for the time being.

Paul A: I have small pots in which I put sachets of coffee, milk sugar sweetener and a tin of teabags. It occurred to me someone has had a rummage in here with their hands, so do I need to re-sanitise these items? Or chuck them and start again?

I insist guests use the hand sanitisation unit I have in my porch before they even touch the door. Then when I open the door I step right back, and I have a two-metre mark on the floor of my hallway so we can see where we are. You can then have a very normal conversation in my hallway.

15. CONCERN Guest Reaction

Claire: “I am anxious about the reaction we are going to get from our guests when we reopen. We have decided to open with two of the three rooms. We need to make sure the necessary safety measures are in place so we can concentrate on what we are doing as we are only small, and we only have one big dining room table. By opening just two bedrooms we can still serve the breakfast, or with three rooms we could serve the breakfast in the rooms.

16. CONCERN Booking Checklist

Paul A: It occurred to me when I was cleaning one of the rooms that I have small pots in which I put sachets of coffee, milk sugar sweetener and a tin of teabags. It occurred to me someone has had a rummage in here with their hands, so do I need to re-sanitise these items? Or chuck them and start again? I decided the best approach might be a loosely formed questionnaire for guests to complete before they arrive. They make a booking and I send an email back with all the measures I have taken to reassure them – they get that before they book but I could add questions like do you prefer coffee or tea in your room, would you prefer sweeteners or sugar, would you like me to be wearing a mask? Would you like me to provide you with a mask? – a short checklist of half a dozen or so key questions that would first inform me what the customer is expecting and provide me with an opportunity to manage that customer’s expectations.

Kate: I’m setting up a digital welcome book which I will send them beforehand, but people don’t really read that much yet they still need to go through the finer details about how to get in and out of the house and things like that. It is a concern and it is going to be clunky to start with and we will just have to see how it works.

Paul A: At the end of my signature on the email after the list of measures I say terribly sorry, I am not going to shake your hand or carry your bags. I hope you don’t take it personally – with 😊 at the end. And people just say fair enough. I usually carry the bags as it means I don’t have to repaint my stairway every fortnight. This is just to forewarn people.

 

Have your say…

on any of the points of comments raised above OR anything we’ve missed? I’d particularly like to hear from Lawyers about the legal obligations if a guest think they catch Coronavirus whilst they are on holiday.

 

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