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Quick and (Not So) Dirty- Keeping Hotels Current During the Pandemic

Hotel owners all over the world have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic due to low demand and low rates. Cleanliness may be next to godliness, but it is also top of mind for hotels wanting to win back travelers coming out of the coronavirus shutdowns.

Brands and third-party management companies have rolled out a slew of cleaning and safety programs. Newly opened or newly renovated hotels give off the perception of being cleaner to a traveler. However, most brand/operators have allowed owners to use FF&E (furniture, fixtures and equipment) reserve funds for working capital needs if a lender will allow it, and they are also extending property improvement and conversion deadlines so that funds can be used to mitigate the lack of revenue.

During a renovation, some hotels temporarily close for construction. But in most cases, they remain open, however they must displace rooms resulting in lost revenue. Some are making the best of the forced slowdown by completing renovations while demand is low. In a “normal” world, an owner might have capital to move forward with a renovation or PIP, but this is not the case with many owners as operating cash flow has been and likely will be in the negative for months to come. With projected growth and new hotels coming to the market as they are completing construction, renovation is essential to keeping competitive in the market. Online reviews that contain comments like “feels dated” or “needs a refresh” send rate and occupancy penetration indexes in the wrong direction.

Owners should always perform a renovation with ROI in mind. Its optimal to convert non-income producing space so that it does produce revenue and change the operational flow of the space to be more efficient. But even with being stuck in the bind of not having the necessary capital to take this approach, there are things hotels can do other than a full renovation.

Vespera Autograph Hotel - Pismo Beach

Maybe your spouse is a brilliant decorator. Or perhaps you have a friend or relative with a keen eye for design. Now is not the time to skimp on professional design services. An experienced hospitality interior designer will not only be able to match colors, patterns, surfaces, and textures, but also provide cost-effective sources for the selected materials. Often the savings their knowledge provides is greater than their professional fee. They also save the owner money through specifying materials that have a longer lifespan therefore postponing future renovations. It is important to prioritize where and when to deploy capital. Renovate with the thought of how your guest will view your property from a cleanliness standpoint. Here are some ideas of things one can do to take a “quick and (not so) dirty” approach.


· The guest first sees the exterior of the facility so the curb appeal should be among top priorities. This includes the state of the building itself and the landscaping.

· Entry door hardware should be new and polished.

· Carpeting in public areas and guestrooms should be fresh and not worn.

· Seating areas should be free of tears or worn upholstery. If seating has retained structural integrity it can be re-upholstered, but in many cases, it is less expensive to replace it.

· Elevators should have fresh flooring and wall panels with easily cleaned finishes.

· Ensure LED lighting is balanced for color temperature and intensity.

· Paint or wall vinyl should be fresh, especially door frames and corners, which are prone to dings from suitcases and carts.

· Drapery and sheers should be replaced if not in good condition.

· Replace decorative lighting such as lamps and sconces to maintain a contemporary look.

· Guest room linens such as duvet covers, bed skirts and towels should be new. White is practical for cleaning purposes and works to brighten up a room, making it feel more spacious.

· Repair any scratches, chips, or other damage in any case goods.

· Bathtubs and showers should have clean tiles without presence of mold. Properly clean and repair any missing grout or caulking. Replace the curtain and/or liner.

· Ensure shower heads have the right temperature and volume control units. If replaced, they require minimal installation time and are highly noticed by guests. If existing hardware is kept, clean any calcium deposits.

· Flooring must be in good condition. Replace any cracked or chipped tiles with an exact match paying attention to edges, grout, and caulking.


I have intentionally left out other locations such as F&B outlets, or meeting space. Nothing in these areas is “quick and dirty” and some may have physical or operational issues that would require greater study for a renovation.

Hopefully I’ve shared that even with simple maintenance and minimal replacement, the overall impact can be positive and worthwhile financially. Our experience has shown us that a property that falls behind in their renovation program starts losing on average around 10% market share year over year. In a pandemic where guests have many choices, they will choose the best presented product every time. At this time the key is to spend in the areas where guest perception really matters so they feel comfortable and safe.

Andrea Depew is an Associate and Director of Business Development for the U.S. market for Hager Design International Inc. an international interior design firm with hospitality projects throughout North America. Andrea can be reached at andrea@hagerinc.com.

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