The competition between hotels and other means of accommodations has dominated the global market for many years. Until now, the final choice of consumers, in addition to personal preference, was dictated primarily by price. But no more. With the changing situation and the spread of the SARS COV 2 virus pandemic, the primary basis for a decision has to be the security of guests – and the employees the same – when choosing and deciding on the type of accommodation. Good enough or clean enough, is not going to be the decision driver any longer. Obviously, the business will have to resume at some point, hopefully, sooner rather than later. But bear in mind that, the business has to continue also 14 days after a poor decision to save a mere 10-20 euros in accommodation.
Especially in the Serbian market, renting apartments and flats daily as an alternative accommodation solution is not regulated enough. Apart from the fact that vast majority of these accommodation units are outside the regulated economic flows and are not subject to any inspection checks by any authority whatsoever, it is crucial to keep in mind that this type of accommodation is not subject to the standards of the profession either. That in itself is not a problem when it comes to, for example, offering the basic services an apartment provides to its guests, a bed, a bath, a TV and internet. But it is a problem when it comes to our own precious safety.
Especially in this day and age, a time of the pandemic, social distance, masks, gloves and disinfection, the safety of guests and employees in this industry is crucial. No one checks that the bathroom in the apartment rented by the guest has been washed with water or alcohol, and therefore no one can even guarantee that the guest’s room is properly disinfected and safe. And I am pretty sure that no one is ready to play Russian roulette. More than ever, now we all value our own health and the health of our loved ones much higher than petty cash.
At the very outset of the pandemic, large hotel chains have set out to establish health and hygiene standards that will allow and ensure the safe stay of guests on their premises. Thus, the Accor chain, together with Bureau Veritas, a French certification service provider, has prepared and launched a certification label for health and safety standards. Such a certificate will allow re-opening of catering companies in Europe by making the certification conditional on compliance with the prescribed cleaning protocols and appropriate safety standards. The label will cover accommodation and catering services and will set sanitary standards for Accor hotels. Other hotel chains are moving towards similar measures.
Besides measures and actions taken by individual hotel chains worldwide, locally in Serbia HORES, together with the Ministry of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications and the Tourist Organization of Serbia are developing a certification as well that will allow hotels and restaurants to resume business and grant safety to its guests in a world after the pandemic, or as often is called, the new normal.
In contrast, in the unregulated market for rental apartments for a day, shared economy and borderline legal Online Bookings, there are no established standards or controls, everything is anonymous and the guest can only hope that the room he or she enters is properly safe, disinfected and cleaned after the previous use. We would all agree that this is a bet, not a worthwhile accommodation experience.
Zafeirios Lampadaridis is General Manager at Mercure Belgrade Excelsior Hotel