As the Ethiopian government and various local and international organizations ramp up measures to combat the COVID-19 outbreak, businesses, especially those in hospitality, are adapting new ways to cope with the impact of the pandemic and keep their staff and customers safe. I visited Hyatt Regency Addis Ababa a few days ago as the hotel prepares to partially reopen after two months of closure as part of the fight against the outbreak. The innovative measures the hotel has taken to maintain the well-being of its customers and staff are impressive.
Heddo Siebs, General Manager at Hyatt Regency Addis Ababa, explains, “All Hyatt Regency hotels, across the world, including ours, have received a comprehensive guide about COVID-19. This has helped us to adjust our services and operations early enough to safeguard the well-being of our guests and our staff. These practices are currently in place in all parts of our hotel. Moreover, we are implementing a policy of ‘maximum care with minimum contact.'” Mr. Siebs explains, offering guests the usual outstanding hospitality experience while maintaining their well-being and health has always been at the heart of the services the hotel provides but has been more important than ever at this time.
Despite the financial impacts on the business, the hotel had decided to close its doors for nearly two months to restructure its operational systems and to train its employees on the best health and hygiene practices. As Mr. Siebs explains, “All employees of the hotel are encouraged to attentively monitor their health and maintain advisable hygiene practices. Staff showing flu-like symptoms such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, headache, chills or sore throat, has been instructed to immediately alert their supervisors, refrain from coming to work, and call their healthcare provider as soon as possible.”
The measures the hotel management is taking were evident as I walked into the hotel. In addition to the routine contactless temperature check and the alcohol-based sanitizers in all public areas, when guests arrive, they are thoroughly questioned about their well-being and travel history. People with body temperatures higher than normal are kindly directed to the nearest hospital or health care provider.
“I passed on to the Kitchen, the signature restaurant of Hyatt Regency where the two teams will be in action. The restaurant has replaced the paper menu with QR codes you can scan.”
The hotel has deployed a remote / online check-in system through the “World of Hyatt” mobile app which also turns the guests’ smart phones into their key card, giving them access to the elevators and their rooms. This eliminates the use of the reusable plastic cards that heighten the chances of exposure.
I moved inside. There will no longer be any self-seating at any part of the hotel, I was told, and all customers will be guided by a host / hostess and shown to an appropriate seat well distanced from other customers. In addition to this usher team, the hotel has come up with a simple yet very effective strategy to avoid cross-contamination. They have split the service teams in two: a Clean Team and a Soiled Team. These teams will operate the restaurant, café, and also undertake housekeeping services. The clean team is responsible for delivering sanitized, decontaminated, or washed items to customers while the separate soiled team will be responsible for collecting used and touched items and delivering them for cleaning. Inside the rooms, Hyatt has taken measures to avoid unnecessary items such as promotional publications, and items like remote controls that have a high frequency of contact are sanitized and packed in a box then sealed with a label to ensure cleanliness.
I passed on to the Kitchen, the signature restaurant of Hyatt Regency where the two teams will be in action. The restaurant has replaced the paper menu with QR codes you can scan. There is nothing on the tabletops to touch. The designated clean team brings all the cutlery, salt, pepper, vinegar, and oil from a clean station once you place your order. When you finish, the soiled team removes everything from the table for cleaning. The cleaning staff regularly cleans and disinfects all food preparation areas, tables, handrails, door handles, and elevator buttons which are high-frequency touch points. The hotel has discontinued buffet services to avoid any potential of contamination, breakfast is served â la carte, and a room service option is available at no extra cost. The Kitchen, as ever, continues to follow high-hygiene standards, while continuing to offer a wide array of Middle Eastern cuisines.
“We are committed to following the recommended procedures of the international and national health authorities like the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Ethiopian Ministry of Health and strictly adhere to those protocols,” Mr. Siebs explains, “We are in close contact with our home office in Zurich and other Hyatt hotels and continue exchanging information and best practices,” he adds, “Our top priority is the continued safety and well-being of our guests and colleagues.”