The future of hotels

Travel and tourism were among the sectors hardest hit by the stay-at-home measures put in place in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 across the globe. By some estimates, the industry worldwide is projected to lose $1.2 trillion. With some countries and states relaxing guidelines about which businesses can open, hotels are looking forward to welcoming guests once again, though your next stay may look a bit different than the last time you checked in.

“We are living in a new age, with COVID-19 front and centre for our guests and our associates,” Arne Sorenson, president and CEO of Marriott International, the parent company of Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, W Hotels, Sheraton, and more, said in a press release.

Front desk check-ins

The more people you come into contact with, the greater the potential for exchanging germs, so you can expect to see fewer points of contact in hotels. That includes the traditional check-ins at a front desk with a living and breathing hotel employee, where you’re handed a map of the property and other promotional materials. In its place, more and more hotels will be promoting mobile check-ins via smartphones.

Mobile check-ins are already available at 3200 Marriott hotels around the world, as well as at select IHG and Hyatt properties. You can expect to see that number climb in the near future. If and when you do a check-in at the front desk, there may be a partition between you and the hotel representative, similar to the ones at banks.

Key cards

You won’t just be checking in with your phone – you’ll be able to use it as your key to open your door. These ‘smart keys’ are already in place at some Disney resorts, Marriotts, IHG hotels, and Hyatt properties via their respective apps

Sold out hotels

Like restaurants in the post-coronavirus age, hotels will be limiting their capacity for quite some time. The Eden Roc at cap Cana in the Dominican Republic, for example, now caps off its guest occupancy rate at 30 per cent.

Bulk-size shampoo and conditioner

Once you get into your room, you may notice it looks a little different, too, like items that would normally be used by a guest who stays in the room after you will now be removed or replaced.

For one, those bulk-size shampoos and conditioners that many hotels swapped over to in an effort to be eco-friendly may be phased out. In its place, you may see those mini shampoo bottles, an amenity that was slowly disappearing from hotels, make a resurgence.

In-room coffee machines and minibars

As hotels aim to reduce the number of ‘high-touch points,’ aka items that guests frequently touch, in-room coffee machines and minibars are likely to be removed from rooms, reports The Points Guy. Besides, minibars were already on their way out.

Complimentary lobby coffee

More bad news for those who need to be perked up before they wake up: that early morning complimentary self-serve coffee station in the lobby will likely no longer be commonplace.

It creates an opportunity for too much touching of the same items by different people – the lever on the dispenser as you fill your cup and the handle of the carafe as you pour in the milk, to name a few. The same goes for coolers of water or lemonade where you fill your own cups.

Free happy hours

Kimpton Hotels, in particular, are famous for their nightly happy hours, where guests are encouraged to enjoy a free glass of wine or a cocktail and mingle in the lounge. In the age of social distancing, this type of congregating in hotels’ public spaces won’t be encouraged.


Buffets with shared utensils guests use to self-serve are questionably clean on the best of days; now with COVID-19, they are verboten. What you may see instead is a masked and gloved server standing behind the buffet waiting to serve you those scrambled eggs and cut-up fruit.

Crowded pools

The good news is, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says there’s no evidence COVID-19 can be spread to others in a pool that is properly maintained. The area around it is another story, which is why hotels may be limiting access to its pools or, as The Palms Turks and Caicos is doing, reducing the number of lounge chairs at its pools and spreading out umbrellas and chairs more on the beach.

“I anticipate an increased desire in our pool cabanas, which offer privacy for families or small groups and will keep them guarded from others,” Karen Whitt, vice president of marketing for The Palms, tells Reader’s Digest.

Paper bills at checkout

As hotels aim to reduce interaction between employees and guests, you’ll likely be encouraged to self-checkout online or via the hotel’s app. And that means no more paper bills at checkout for you to review, though copies will be available online and via email.

Will see: hospital-grade disinfectants

While you won’t see the above items, you will see a few new things, including increased cleaning measures. Marriott, for one, reports, ‘In public spaces, the company has added to its already rigorous cleaning protocols, requiring that surfaces are thoroughly treated with hospital-grade disinfectants and that this cleaning is done with increased frequency.’ Those same hospital-grade disinfectants will be used to clean inside guest rooms, as well. Hyatt is working with the Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC) on an accreditation process to ensure its properties are clean and safe.

Will see: high-tech cleaning measures

You can expect to see more germ-zapping robots, like the one at The Westin Houston Medical Center, the first and only hotel in the US that currently has the technology, according to The Points Guy.  The robots zap germs via UV light technology. Marriott is also experimenting with electrostatic spraying technology to rapidly clean guest rooms, lobbies, fitness centres, and more with CDC-recommended disinfectants.