With the enforced lock down, hotel owners and operators have been busy exploring ways in which to sustain some income from alternative demand sources, including offering rooms as accommodation for hospitals, staff in essential roles & also at times for patients. In this short paper, we look at what is happening in practice and what hoteliers can do to help service this essential need, and in so doing help sustain their own businesses.
What does the NHS need?
The demand for hotel accommodation is being created by different user groups including;
- Doctors, nurses & other essential NHS staff/key workers who require accommodation either to isolate themselves from their families or to provide accommodation in close proximity to the hospitals and specially created surge sites
- Step down/rehabilitation care beds where hospital patients who are ready to leave a hospital but cannot return to their homes to recuperate for a number of reasons, such as avoiding contact with a vulnerable party or if their families/friends are in isolation
- Beds for rough sleepers who are significantly more likely to have underlying health conditions and less able to follow Public Health England advice.
Accepting organisational challenges, NHS Trust contracts are with all grades of hotels from limited service to four stars. Typically, luxury operations have stayed closed, although there are notable exceptions such as Claridge’s which has reportedly offered rooms for key workers without charge.
Where do they need the rooms?
Proximity to hospitals or health facilities is paramount – this does not necessarily suit city hotels. Not only must the location work, but the hotelier must be willing to accept strict contractual operational requirements and agree to relatively rigid terms.
How is the NHS approaching this?
- The NHS has agreed a partnership with booking agent CTM: https://www.travelctm.co.uk/ to manage all accommodation requirements from hospitals
- Hotels need to enrol and have their property details approved and rates uploaded by CTM. This can be done as quickly as within 48 hours
- Hotels are having to operate independently and not rely on the brand that normally provides 25-30% of business. Flexibility and direct interaction are key.
How are bookings being made?
- Ad hoc bookings are handled through CTM or the NHS Trusts directly and are typically for 1-4 weeks
- Longer term contracts of 4-12 weeks have been, & are still being, put in place directly between hotels/operators and individual hospitals on a case by case basis
- In addition, local housing bodies and city councils have also looked to agree direct long-term contracts with hotels to house individuals, couples, families etc.
What are the NHS paying?
Rates are mostly heavily discounted, perhaps by up to 50% on standard tariffs or on an at cost basis, depending on the hotel’s location, although the contracts tend to be for an extended period of time and can be for a minimum number of beds.
- Aside from CTM, many of the OTAs are still online but with a limited amount of available hotel stock. which remain open are purely for key/essential workers as per government instruction
- For a lot of the above contracts; they are being agreed directly. Through CTM the commission charged is 8% per booking which is heavily discounted from the 15-20% that the OTA’s usually charge.
What are the special operational requirements?
The following detail is being requested in the contracts;
Contactless check-in procedures where possible: Bookings from CTM are direct with the hotel, with special check-in procedures put in place to simplify procedures. Ideally a guest will check-in on their phone via an app and go straight into their room, avoiding contact at reception or the requirement for a key card.
Housekeeping standards adapted to minimise contact:
- Hoteliers providing housekeeping and linen, but guests are responsible for the cleanliness of their own rooms
- Linens to be provided once a week or upon request. Cleaning products or vacuum cleaners are provided to guests on request
- Hotel/Operator to have a manned reception desk 16 hours a day with a member of staff on call during the night staying in the building
- Hotel/Operator to staff the building appropriately to maintain the agreed level of service.
- Hotel/Operator will endeavour to maintain the property and repair any problem within a reasonable timeframe
- F&B offering is required with agreed menus and room delivery of meals.
As the crisis develops, the demand for rooms outside hospitals remains but it is expected that once the spread of COVID19 becomes more controlled, and hospitals can manage demand levels, then the demand for hotels to offer support may diminish. Contract and hotel hand back flexibility will inevitably be required with the NHS Trusts due to Covid timing uncertainty.