A “minimal-touch” experience is being introduced by independently-owned hotels in the UK under the OYO brand to prepare them for reopening as lockdown restrictions are relaxed.

The new operational procedures aim to ensure stringent levels of hygiene while accounting for the need for social distancing.

A ‘Sanitised Stays’ tag will be displayed on online property descriptions, indicating that staff are fully trained in the new processes and that the hotel has reached a high compliance level in implementing them.

OYO said it will continually review and update its standard operating procedures to incorporate any specific parameters or conditions for re-opening that might be announced by the government in the coming weeks.

OYO has more than 200 small and mid-sized properties under its brand across the UK.

UK and Europe head Rishabh Gupta said: “The ‘new normal’ that the hotel industry faces in the post-lockdown environment presents a real set of challenges for small, independent, neighbourhood hotels which generally operate with limited resources and budgets.

“OYO is working with our partners to introduce tailored solutions that balance excellent hygiene with cost efficiencies; utilising technology as well as practical steps to enable these valued hotels remain both attractive and viable.”

In updated operating procedures:

  • Excess furniture will be removed from lobby areas to create extra space and discourage guests from using chairs and sofas; and markings will be placed on the floor to enable social distancing
  • Disinfected moveables such as room keys and TV remote controls will be presented to guests inside ziplock bags; and bedrooms will also include a supply of polybags to be used by guests for dirty towels and used toiletries
  • Hotel staff are asked to refrain from handling guests’ luggage unless there is a particular need; and lifts should only be shared by one family / the occupants of one room at a time
  • Hotels are being supplied with posters containing important information such as Coronavirus symptoms and correct hand-washing techniques to put on display
  • Property managers are being encouraged to explore new ways of engaging with guests – for instance by video call if there is a repair and maintenance issue to report in the room
  • Upon check-out, guests will be sent an online payment link and asked to settle their bill online rather than by cash or card wherever possible
  • Hotels are asked to maintain stocks of hand sanitiser, masks and disposable gloves for the use of both staff and guests. OYO is supplying a vendor list and negotiating bulk pricing on these items wherever possible

OYO is also developing technology for app-based remote check-in, which will enable a hassle-free process with minimal contact between guests and staff.

Digital key boxes could be installed so guests can collect their key outside their room rather than at reception.

Gupta added: “Some measures might require the co-operation and goodwill of guests, or go against the hotelier’s natural instinct to aide the guest at every juncture, but we’re sure that everyone will understand that these procedures are being followed for everyone’s wellbeing.

“OYO and our partners are looking forward to re-opening our hotels as soon as the respective governments permit.”

A webinar was held to introduce the new standard operating procedures to its existing partners.

A further webinar planned which will be open to non-OYO owners facing similar challenges of safely and efficiently reopening in light of the specific considerations associated with operating smaller, independent hotels.