Bien Venue Review: The new norm of hotel stays

Clean promises, reduced contact check-in, touchless transactions, and sanitising stations – just a few of the key changes hotels included within their re-opening policies for the new norm of hotel stays.

But, what does this look like in reality? And do these measures have a positive or negative impact on the guest’s experience?

Two questions which Venue Consultant, Miriam Stirnimann explored during a night away at Holiday Inn Manchester City Centre last weekend and Miriam talks about her experiences:

Did you have any concerns about staying?

Yes, I was a bit apprehensive in the beginning. With living in a rural location, I think I was rather sheltered from the corona situation and I was not sure what to expect in a big city.

What were your main concerns?

Not really knowing how much the “new normal” would actually interfere with the pleasure of staying in a hotel. Working as part of the delivery team we had received and reviewed the Holiday Inn Manchester COVID response guide, but I was keen to see what this meant in reality.

What new measures or changes were in place?

The signage was very clear, both doors you had to pass when entering the building had signage regarding social distancing and using hand sanitiser. As soon as you were in the hotel there was a station with hand sanitiser on your left with another sign about why to use it and markings on the floor ensuring everyone is aware that we have to stay two meters apart.

Moving over to the reception area, the signage on the floor made it clear where to stand and the reception was divided with screens for a reduced contact check-in. There were two pots, one with disinfected pens, the other one for used pens, which I thought was a very good idea. It is also something I never really thought about that hotels have to find a solution for that. I know some hotels have the option to check in online but those who do not this was a great solution. There was also another station with hand sanitiser for every check in station.

The lift once again had a clear sign that you should only use it one party at the time and there was more hand sanitiser as soon as you exited the lift.

The hotel is offering a reduced breakfast menu which guests fill out and leave outside their bedroom door, in the morning it is then collected from the restaurant – remember to take your own pen with you as part of the safeguarding measures means there are no pens in the hotel rooms.

Collecting the breakfast was easy, we were met at the restaurant by a very friendly member of staff who after asking for the room number disappeared and seconds later popped up on the other side of the room with two picnic bags filled with breakfast.  The breakfast options included fruit, a breakfast sandwich, muffin, coffee/tea and a juice or water.

We didn’t eat in the hotel, however there was a reduced bar menu available for you to order and take to your room and the bar was open for people to order drinks.

Was there anything which concerned you?

In the new norm, there is a higher element of trust when staying in a hotel – have the hotel got all the measures in place? Do the staff know about them? What about other guests’ behaviour?

Overall, the experience was a positive one however you do find yourself looking into the simplest of task a lot deeper. For example, the key cards. I never saw if they got disinfected or not, however considering we need them to use the elevator etc they are the things we most touched.

Where there any noticeable changes to the guest experience?

In my opinion the biggest change was that the hotel was so quiet, it felt almost deserted. It gave the whole stay a bit of an odd twist. The buzz you get in a hotel, with all the people from all over the world checking in/checking out/running to meetings/asking for where to go, all of that has gone. With all the hand sanitiser stations around and the emptiness of the corridors, it reminded me a little bit of a hospital but in a good way that the hotel are safeguarding their guests and other guests are being respectful of social distancing.

How was the cleanliness?

I know this was a key area for hotels, with many promoting enhanced cleaning policies and implementing promises. The Holiday Inn Manchester’s cleanliness throughout the hotel was faultless, there was nothing I could criticise.

More information on IHG Clean Promise can be viewed here:

Away from the hotel stay, how did you find the new normal in bars and restaurants in Manchester?

Apart from everyone wearing a facemask and the occasional shield, it all seemed pretty normal. I did like the ordering drinks via an app idea – It just takes the hassle of queuing at the bar! I do not think I was uncomfortable at any time. On reflection, I think going to do a food shop I feel more exposed than at any point of my stay at the Holiday inn or during dinner/drinks in Manchester.

Overall experience?

Overall taking away the social distancing signage, protective screens and having hand sanitisers everywhere it was surprisingly normal, the measurements were not too in your face. I would definitely feel comfortable staying in a hotel again and more confident in booking clients into hotels now I have experienced the new norm myself. It is also going to be exciting seeing the enhancements hotels make to their services as more restrictions are lifted or eased.

Anything you would do differently or any tips for travellers in the current climate?

  • Take a pen with you
  • Ensure you have packed hand sanitisers and face masks
  • Check what facilities the hotel is offering a few days before you arrive as this is evolving daily
  • If something is not right, mention it to the hotel – it is a learning curve for them as much as it is a new experience for the guest
  • Be aware that not everyone has the same understanding of the measures or may interprets them differently

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