DeSoto Times-Tribune: When did hotel management begin preparing for operating in the time of COVID and what did that response look like?
Homewood Suites Southaven: The Homewood Suites Southaven began responding to COVID-19/coronavirus related CDC recommendations back in early March 2020. As it has always been, the safety and security of our guests and team members remain our highest priority. In response to these priorities, we immediately suspended our Social Hour and Breakfast, as well as limited seating available in public areas to encourage social distancing. We are taking care to provide extra disinfection all common touchpoint areas in guest rooms including light switches and door handles, increased cleaning frequency of public areas reduced paper amenities (like pads and guest directories) in rooms, promote our industry-leading contactless check-in and check-out with Digital Key and enhanced Team Member safety and well-being with personal protective equipment and enhanced training and protocols.
DTT: How have stays in the hotel looked different over the past few months than they would in normal times? How have guests responded to these changes?
HSS: As you know, the way we travel looks a little different right now. Social Distancing continues to be recommended in public settings and we have adjusted common areas in the hotel to help our guests adhere to these guidelines. Our staff is currently required to wear face coverings while in public areas, and we encourage our guests to do the same. We have also adjusted the check-in and other processes to allow for limited contact with Team Members for continued safety. For the safety of our guests, some services or amenities such as pool, fitness centers, dining options, and daily housekeeping have been modified or suspended. Our guests have been responding well, and as much as we all want to return to normal and splash in the pool, our guests do understand that the availability of certain amenities can be limited as consideration for guest and staff safety.
DTT: How has the number of guests fluctuated during the stay-at-home order and how much have they recovered since the state began to reopen?
HSS: As we all know, this is an unprecedented time. When the initial stay-at-home order’s in Mississippi and neighboring Tennessee were issued, occupancies in and around the city dropped to an unparalleled low. Fortunately, by working together, our community slowed the transmission of COVID-19 and the orders were lifted. Occupancies are beginning to pick back up and we are extremely pleased to see our historic travelers and business partners start to return to our hotel. This will continue to be a long process before we see our business where it was prior, however, we will always be here to support all those visiting the Memphis/Southaven area.
DTT: Was there any time during this period that the entire hotel staff was serving just a few visitors?
HSS: The hospitality industry is one where you are able to learn something new every day, and that held true during this COVID-19 pandemic. It has been a journey watching both our staff and guests understand and develop the new normal, be it a new way to say “thank you” or how to deliver the great service we are known for, but in a new way. We have always strived to break down the business/guest barrier and treat everyone like family, and with fewer guests staying at the hotel this experience has truly turned our guests into family.