Back-to-Work Best Practices - Forbes Travel Guide

Back-to-Work Best Practices

UPDATED MAY 26, 2020
As businesses and organizations develop enhanced plans for guest safety, comfort and well-being as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Forbes Travel Guide continues its support of service excellence in the hospitality industry. Reimagining luxury service following widespread closures is both confusing and overwhelming.

Forbes Travel Guide has composed a summary of Best Practices emerging in properties around the world. If you are preparing to re-open, our intent is to provide support and expert guidance through helpful service ideas, training tools and advice that addresses the guest’s perspective of your service.

Even as things change, the luxury guest experience can remain positive and meaningful. In turn, properties can continue to win guest loyalty and build confidence.

This is a living document; we are committed to updating the content as we see global operations unfold. As we all become familiar with the new rhythm of luxury service, together we are committed to go above and beyond for our guests and each other.

If you find these service hints helpful and want to learn more about how to personalize them to your property, please allow us to help. You may reach us at

We look forward to being of support.

Health and Hygiene

For Employees

  • Provide employees with personal protective equipment, which should include a mask for all team members
    Staff Service Hint: When wearing any PPE, such as gloves or masks, think of it as part of your uniform and ensure it is in the same excellent condition. Don’t forget that caring for the internal guests (your employees) is just as important as the guest service efforts you are making. Be thoughtful, kind and considerate of your teammates.
  • Provide education for proper use of company-issued PPE and the sanitation protocols you are following in your destination
    Staff Service Hint: In addition to coaching on COVID-19 protocols, be sure to set aside some time in pre-shifts for positive activities to boost team morale and keep guest service in mind. Here is an example of a quick pre-shift exercise to try with your team.
  • Conduct temperature checks by shift
    Staff Service Hint: Remember that your staff will have the same anxieties as your guests about testing positive for a high temperature. This is a new procedure for everyone. Consider mirroring the same processes for staff as you do for your guests and compose the same communication style, including clear next steps and support. Also consider where staff will go and how they will get home if you are not permitting them to begin their shift. In summary, look at your temperature check process to be consistent for staff and guests and include details on provision or availability of a COVID-19 test as recommended by your local healthcare authority.
  • If you see something, say something
    Staff Service Hint: Ensure all staff are positively empowered to feel confident on how to report observations of a staff member or guest who appears to have become unwell, even if they passed an initial healthcare check earlier in the day. While developing your processes to manage harmful healthcare issues as early as possible in the employee’s shift or the guest’s stay, remain vigilant without losing your sense of care and concern. Ensure a procedure for these types of “on- the-floor" observations is clear to the team so they can be immediately reported and addressed.

For Guests

  • Temperature checks are conducted at guest entry points
    Guest Service Hints:
    • This practice is one of the biggest changes to the guest experience and may create a great deal of anxiety in your guest, particularly as they will be worried about failing the temperature check. If you are required to test guest temperatures, consider their comfort level by investing in thermal technology so it is less invasive. In addition, don’t forget to smile (even through your mask) as guests pass by your area. A smile emits positive energy, and this will instantly make the guest feel at ease as they enter your property. Here is a Forbes Travel Guide webinar that talks about how to handle courtesy and manners in these new scenarios.
    • Use any health screening practices as opportunities to go above and beyond. For instance, you may wish to provide pre-packaged health kits for each guest. The kit may include a branded mask, sanitizer and helpful reminders on staying healthy during their stay. Don’t forget about your little guests and ensure you have items available for all members of the family. Consider including an immunity-boosting vitamin supplement if you are providing bottled water as part of the kit.
    • Be aware of the area where you set up any health screening services and the flow of how the guests move from the curb, through the screening area and into your property. Consider if it is close to a private room or space where you can bring guests whose temperatures are high. Is there a place close by to have more private conversations with those guests? Ensure your SOPs are in place for these scenarios.
    • Be sure staff are aware of the contingency plans you have in place for when guests do have a temperature above the required range. These plans should be designed in consultation with your local healthcare authority. It is a good practice to role play plans before you open to ensure you are covering guest health and safety as well as their sense of comfort. This plan may include gracious gestures such as moving guests to a private designated room, the consideration of a family travelling together being kept together and comfort factors, such as delivery of food and water; and of course, do not forget their luggage.
    • Consider reviewing the in-house health services you may have (i.e. house doctor or nurse) and make any necessary updates to the availability of healthcare services for your guests. Review options for tele-medicine/online consultation as an amenity.
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Social Distancing

While all properties should adhere to their local and government level mandates, here is how social distancing requirements can be applied in your property.

  • Arrange seating areas to allow for the recommended spacing between guests and side stations. This could include, but is not limited to, your lounges and public areas, pool/sun deck and outdoor rest spaces
    Guest Service Hint: When re-arranging your FF&E, consider how the guest will use it. What will their view be? Is the chair now in the sun and do you therefore need to set up an umbrella? For more advice on intuitive service, here is a Forbes Travel Guide webinar about “Plus One” service.
  • Stagger workstations (front desk, concierge, etc.) to reflect required social distancing recommendations
    Guest Service Hint: For smaller properties that may have more difficulty staggering workspaces, consider setting up satellite desks. In this case, don’t forget about new signage so that guests know where to go.
  • Practice capacity control measures throughout the property, including in restaurants, elevators and retail outlets
    Guest Service Hint: To avoid any guest discomfort while waiting, consider making your restaurants by reservation-only. Where reservations are not feasible, find elegant ways to mark the queueing protocols. Keep it on brand; the distance markers you use could be distinctive to your property or provide other promotional signage opportunities. This will help the process feel less utilitarian to your guests.
  • Limit group (10+) activities in confined spaces, such as children’s clubs and fitness classes
    Guest Service Hint: Consider offering substitutes for amenities that are no longer available or temporarily suspended, such as providing virtual workout offerings on the in-room television.
  • Consider keeping certain facilities closed without prohibiting your ability to offer limited services. This may still include spa thermal facilities, the pool, fitness centers and dining venues
    Guest Service Hints:
    • If a significant amenity is closed, such as your swimming pool, consider how guests can still relax and enjoy your outdoor spaces. Can they continue to sit near a water feature or garden area if you added seating, or can you still offer dining near the pool even if they cannot go swimming?
    • If you are not providing pool chair setup service or complimentary refreshment service, ensure stations are accessible to allow minimal work for guests and think about setting up some chairs in advance. You may consider poolside pre-packed “picnic boxes” that contain items you may normally offer on a communal basis, including dry snacks, sun block, refreshing wipes or hand sanitizer. Do not forget to promote your hotel app as a source of reading material.
    • If you are able to continue poolside services but want to do so with social distancing in mind, consider using a rolling cart for poolside service with single-serve offerings of snacks and other useful amenities.
    • When not booked, consider the broader use of private dining rooms and cabanas to support any social distancing needs.
    • Spa facilities can play a big part in a guest’s spa experience and their search for total relaxation and wellbeing. If you have decided to close access to the wet areas and relaxation rooms, this is a great opportunity for value-added services and even considering if anything could be offered in the guest room. For instance, do you have a comfortable place for the guest to relax in their room, other than the bed, and the option to tune to a soothing meditation channel on the television? Can you convert a balcony or sitting area into a mini relaxation area in some of your guest rooms?
  • Ensure the designated members of staff, especially your security team, are prepared with verbiage and appropriate action to take when your social distancing requirements are not being observed
    Guest Service Hint: When guests are uncomfortable or feel the expected comfort factors of a typical luxury hotel experience are compromised, they are more likely to complain. Get ahead of those anticipated guest comfort concerns by making sure any new queuing formations are considered from a guest’s standpoint.

    For example, if a line now might stretch to an outdoor location, past a noisy area or closer to a guest room or corridor, think about how you can eliminate the discomfort of any environmental factors such as temperature, scent and sound. Don’t forget to check this at varying times of the day.
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Cleanliness and Sanitation

  • Provide hand sanitizing stations in convenient locations throughout public areas
    Guest Service Hint: Invest in touchless devices when possible and regularly check the cleanliness and function of all installations.
  • Provide personal-sized hand sanitizer and/or wipes in each guest room
    Guest Service Hint: Think about the most helpful presentation from a guest point of view. If your sanitizer becomes part of a welcome amenity or departure gift, consider including a personal welcome note or parting message. If you cannot provide personal-sized bottles, consider an opportunity for guests to hygienically refill their own bottles as an element of convenience.
  • Enhanced sanitizing processes in public spaces and in the guest room are evident, with overt cleaning measures and visible checklists
    Guest Service Hints:
    • Don’t be afraid to be seen practicing your cleaning duties. Evidence of your sanitation process will ease the initial fear guests might have about cleanliness. Be ready to talk knowledgably about what products you are using and be positive about the changes your company is making to protect guests. Don’t forget, if you are working in a small area like a corridor or the elevator and a guest is passing by, pause your work, step to the side to allow the guest to pass and greet them with a warm smile.
    • While more commonplace in restaurants, consider increasing the visibility of any sanitation checklists that indicate the last time a restroom, elevator or seating area was cleaned.
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Touchless and Limited-Contact Services

  • Provide a contactless service option for room deliveries, including in-room dining or the guest’s request for a forgotten item
    Guest Service Hint: Though some services may now be contactless, small touches can add a personal element and show the guest you still care. For instance, if you are now leaving room service orders at the guest’s door, you can still ensure the table is conveniently set so that the guest has minimal additional steps to take before dining.

    As an example, does the setup face the guest as they open the door? Is it easy for them to carry or wheel their order through the doorway, without having to walk into the hallway? In addition, have you provided a door stopper in each guest room or a way to hold open the door for them?

    Experiment with a few different orders and setups and involve your culinary team in the new delivery process. Consider offering the guest a choice of door drop-off or in-room set up service if door drop off service is not mandatory at your property. You may even offer the option to have the delivery set up in an outdoor space or as a picnic basket in place of a plated meal service.
  • Technology is available to enhance services such as contactless payments, ordering systems, collateral, and mobile check in/check out
    Guest Service Hints:
    • Even when delivering service through technology, try inserting the skills normally used when in-person with a guest. Consider a proper greeting and a strong show of appreciation in the interaction. Infuse your brand voice in any technology and ensure the technical process is a smooth and enjoyable experience. If you are removing all paper collateral and reading materials, consider providing those amenities and services digitally instead.
    • Rather than having your guests go through the process of searching and loading your webpage and menus on their personal devices, consider a QR code to expedite this process.
  • Minimize guest use of touchpoints for public spaces, such as entry doors and elevator buttons
  • Provide single-use amenities in the guest room, including toiletries, grooming items and stationery
    Guest Service Hint: As guests rediscover their comfort levels around the use of items commonly provided in hotel rooms, consider offering single-use products where it makes sense to do so. This will provide the guest with confidence that they are receiving fresh, untouched items. For example, you could provide a pre-packaged personal kit of commonly used room items rather than placing them around the room. You should place all items somewhere convenient and consider adding a pleasant note or sentiment.

    If you are removing items such as pens and paper, perhaps think about providing a small stationery packet that the guest can take with them when they leave. This will eliminate the concern over sharing amenities but not compromise the guest’s experience or convenience.
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Food Presentation Safety

  • Self-service buffet-style setups with communal offerings and shared utensils are discontinued
    Guest Service Hint: Moving away from a communal presentation can actually enhance the level of luxury the guest experiences. If your dining venue or lounge is most conducive to a buffet offering, provide staff to serve guests and individually portion items rather than having guests assemble their own plates.
  • Single-use items and/or individualized portions are used in place of communal presentations
    Guest Service Hint: Work with your culinary team to look at all touchpoints where F&B items can be provided in creative single-serve presentations throughout your hotel and spa, if you have one. This could include displays of apples being placed into small but elegant “take-away boxes” instead of a bowl and providing individual snacks when guests arrive to your bar/lounge rather than a serving per table.
  • When appropriate to the meal, plate covers and wrappings remain in place
    Guest Service Hint: If leaving the plate covers in place or items in a hot box is a new process for your property, such as when serving in room dining or delivering food at the pool or beach, consider other guest comfort factors. This may include making sure there is somewhere suitable for those plate covers to rest and that they are clean and will not soil the guests’ hands or clothes when they set them down. Consider the temperature, too, so that the guest is not in danger of scalding themselves.
  • Menus are presented in a safe and hygienic manner
    Guest Service Hint: Do not forget that the menus are part of the overall meal presentation. Opt for single-use menus or even place menus under glass table tops. Consider promoting your menus on your app so the guest may access them from their own device.
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  • Establish a comprehensive and robust communication plan to ensure a guest remains informed and their expectations are managed starting from the point of the booking
    Guest Service Hints:
    • From the guest’s perspective, clear, concise information is paramount, but also make sure the message is on brand and polite. Work as a team to ensure property-wide communications are streamlined and will not overwhelm or confuse the guest. Consider setting up a small communication team since this is an incredibly important post-COVID-19 service element for guests.
    • Do not forget that when updating all collateral and information that all details including all menus displayed via your app, website or signage is current and accurate. Public area signage content should be quick and easy to read and not cause the guest to stop for an extended period of time to read.
    • As part of your composed communication plan, consider incorporating digital access to a daily newsletter that keeps guests up to date on services at your property with easy access to that day’s menus, activities and uplifting messages and images.
  • Formalize your pre-arrival messaging
    Guest Service Hints:
    • Before a guest even arrives, think about gathering their preferences for services that may now incorporate social distancing and touchless service. Provide the guest with the opportunity to indicate what level of service they may be comfortable with. For example, if you are offering modified housekeeping arrangements, are you still able to provide guests the opportunity for a regular full service if they wish to receive that?
    • Guests arriving to your property while modified services are still in place will have a lower level of anxiety if they have an opportunity to become familiar with processes pre-arrival. Consider producing a professional promotional video to showcase how guests will experience your updated processes, including their arrival, dining, spa and any healthcare protocols.
  • Utilize quick and convenient communication methods to alert guests to changes in service such as delays or schedules
    Guest Service Hint: When delayed service is unavoidable due to situations such as limited elevator capacity, additional screenings and other COVID-19 protocols, advise the guest of possible delays and quote an estimated service time that is as accurate as possible. When a guest is better informed, they feel more in control, and your sharing of information will improve their confidence levels in your service.
  • Ensure all staff members are well-informed of health and safety procedures, both within the hotel and in their locality
    Guest Service Hint: Staff should be able to articulate if there have been any changes to services, amenities and protocols to avoid guest disappointment. Your concierge will need to be able to support the guest with both in-house and updated local business needs, too.

    While your changes should ideally be communicated on your property website, the knowledge of the reservation agents will be paramount to the guest’s overall experience. Make sure that all staff have easy access to daily process briefing sheets, even if protocols are not updated. This will ensure all team members are confident they are sharing the correct information, and that confidence will come through in the conversations staff have with guests.
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  • Ensure that food and beverage menus offer a wide variety of nutritional ingredients with healthy, immunity-boosting benefits
  • If you are keeping minibars and other in-room food and beverage items, include items with nutritional and health benefits to balance other popular foods such as candies and sodas
    Guest Service Hint: Before removing any F&B items from your guest rooms, consider how you would replace the offerings so that the guest does not feel they now have to make an extra trip to the lobby or order through in room delivery.

    If your property has removed these items from the guest room, since items such as drinks and snacks are often impulsive purchases, consider how you can expedite those items to the room in a matter of minutes. This may include setting up butler pantries on floors or only offering pre-packed picnic boxes as your modified minibar.
  • Assess the guest room setup and lighting to ensure they are conducive to relaxation and sleep
    Guest Service Hints:
    • Consider in-room relaxation offerings, such as sleep-guided meditation content, to demonstrate you’ve taken the guest’s wellness into account and to alleviate higher levels of anxiety and stress in traveling guests. In all instances, look at the light, sound, scent and temperature of the guest room and ensure it is focused on guests’ health and well-being.
    • Incorporate mindfulness into your spa treatments. Look for ways to introduce 1-2 minute “calm down” moments, especially at the beginning of treatments, to help the guest center and turn off the noise.
    • If your property is in a position to use or implement advanced technology, or if you have access to Virtual Reality (VR) equipment, consider introducing this as an in-room amenity or in your spa services. Provide the guest the opportunity to enjoy beautiful scenery or listen to calming bedtime stories to help enhance their state of relaxation during bedtime or during spa service.
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We now offer live Virtual Training online to help your staff refresh service skills and become familiar with new best practices. Please contact us to learn more.