In a new world, luxury is about the care hotels put in your room

Published July 10, 2020, 4:21 PM

by Krizette Laureta-Chu

Luxury hotel group steps up in preparation for reopening with Shangri-La Cares campaign 

Overnight, hotels and resorts went from buzzing lively hubs to eerily quiet cathedrals whose silence within was as ominous as the one outside its doors, the city folding unto itself with sepulchre stillness.

“It not only came as a shock,” says John Rice, vice president of operations for Shangri-La Hotels and general manager at Shangri-La at the Fort. “But it was an unprecedented time as we didn’t really know what to do. Overnight, our business went zero. And we realized, this wasn’t going to end anytime soon.” 

Like all hoteliers around the world who felt the rug pulled very harshly under their feet when the pandemic hit, John has been dealing with the phenomenal challenges of Covid-19—zero revenues from rooms and F&B, and still with mounting costs of maintaining the Shangri-La properties as well as keeping their employees safe. 

And yet, despite feeling overwhelmed, Rice and his colleagues did what they’ve always done—step up. “We looked into our neighborhoods and communities that were most vulnerable,” he shares. “Since Shangri-La was established in 1971, we’ve had robust programs in the communities where we operate. We see ourselves woven into the communities. One of our main focus was to keep the neighborhood and communities we belonged to safe and secure.” 

Shangri-La Resorts and city hotels have collectively packed 32,000 meals for hospitals where its properties are located—Makati, Ortigas, Mactan, Boracay, and Taguig. The Philippine National Police checkpoints in these areas were also supported. Triage hospitals urgently set up in Cebu and Manila were hastily given linen and amenities, and frontliners from food delivery apps like Foodpanda and Lalamove were provided a meal when they visited the hotel.

“We went around our immediate neighborhood, and our competitors, and asked if they needed assistance,” Rice says. “We made sure we were responsible members of the community.” The group even shared the expertise of their employees to help the community, even engineers were tapped to help with sanitizing homes and teaching people how to clean their aircon filters.  

“Two areas we focused on for our colleagues included financial wellness and mental wellness,” Rice says. “We’ve made sure we have programs available and professional people available to help conduct extensive financial wellness program, budgeting, how to save money moving into the future. Yes, we needed to sustain this business but colleagues have to sustain their families.” 

As the vice president for the group’s operations, Rice felt compelled to move fast, and realized that people—his colleagues—were the biggest resources of the company to sustain the business. 

“Our colleagues had to move quickly up the hierarchy, we had to forget about organizational charts, everyone had to become a leader, every single colleague had to contribute equally,” he says. “We turbocharged our decision-making process. We knew talent would be our greatest asset. We immediately went to work.”

Hotels, traditionally inward looking, had to look outward to move forward. “The future is going to be approached in three main phases,” he says. “First, we build confidence with colleagues and guests through communicating or safety guidelines and protocols. Looking forward, the first thing to come back will be F&B. Then we will have staycation packages as people will be travelling domestically. I think the international corporate market would come after 2021. As for pre Covid-19 business levels, we don’t see that happening until 2022.” 

The third phase, he says, is to inspire and motivate people to travel with safety as top of mind, and that’s how Shangri-La is rolling out the Shangri-La Cares campaign, a group-wide initiative where they elevate rigorous hygiene to additional levels of safety and sustainability.

Guests who are used to Shangri-La’s brand of top-notch service will now experience today’s brand of new luxury—solid, undeniable assurance that you are safe.  Upon arrival, guests will be given health declaration forms, asked to do temperature checks, checked in, and have their luggage disinfected—a process that will not require any human contact. 

Safety measures for staff

Instead of your usual bon bons laid out on your table when you arrive, you’ll have a care package waiting for you that includes masks, alcohol, wet wipes, and other necessary items to keep you safe.  You’ll also see #ShangriLaCares cleanliness assurance seals issued in your rooms, and you will be notified about the 12-points stepped up cleaning regime with hospital-grade disinfectants. New cleaning and sanitation technology will be employed, with UV technology and electrostatic spraying devices used by room attendants who will only clean your room six hours after guests have checked out.  Digital platforms will replace paper collaterals, so you won’t see any materials in your room.

Elsewhere, in public spaces, the hotel will feel more intimate, with elevators only allowing four people, furniture marked to assure social distancing, and even hourly sanitizing rituals in elevators and high touchpoint areas. 

Restaurants will only accept 50 percent occupancy, with tables 1.5 meters apart, and your servers, your cooks, as well as everybody who works in the hotel regardless of their position, will be suited up in PPEs. 

There’s no doubt that it will be a changed world when the hotels and resorts reopen—how will warmth and welcome be translated into this impersonal world—but Rice promises that guests will nevertheless feel the brand’s trademark hospitality. “Shangri-La’s ethos has always centered on caring for people as the bedrock of its service value,” he says, “You will always feel Shangri-La cares.”