Consumer behavior has no doubt changed as a result of the global crisis caused by the pandemic. Desires, tastes, and choices are now shifting towards hospitality and hotel destinations that prioritize health, safety, and well-being.
In this interview, Wellness Tourism, Global Healthcare Resources’ official wellness tourism website, sits with Onahlea Shimunek, General Manager, and Lee Johnson-Lowe, Director of Sales at Lord Baltimore Hotel, to discuss the shift in wellness tourism and its recent acquisition of the Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC) and Global Healthcare Accreditation (GHA) WellHotel Accreditation. Lee shares insights into how the hotel and wellness industry is picking up pieces from the pandemic-induced losses and how accreditation is changing the game.
What is the current COVID-19 situation in Baltimore? Are you currently receiving guests?
The Lord Baltimore Hotel has been providing quarantine and intermediate housing with Baltimore City & FEMA since May 2020. We fully reopened to the public on the 1st of July 2022.
The Lord Baltimore Hotel was designated as a Triage, Respite, and Isolation Center in Baltimore for individuals and families in need of quarantine due to COVID-19. How has this experience impacted your ability to serve medical travel guests?
We are the perfect rehabilitation/respite location. Our staff has gained advanced knowledge in food preparation for special menus, training on safe handling of hazardous materials as well as both standard and advanced cleaning protocols. Further, the pandemic shift has forced our teams to create new standard operating procedures in the areas of guest profiles, ensuring we accommodate our clients’ individual preferences. It has also helped us rethink tracking and following up on guests’ requests in terms of maintenance, housekeeping, and engineering.
What makes the Lord Baltimore Hotel attractive to medical travel guests? What makes it special?
The Lord Baltimore team has developed a medical traveler package that addresses all travelers’ logistics needs, including accommodation, breakfast, WIFI, parking, and shuttle services. The hotel is also aware of the special needs of some patients and has additional services available including a medical traveler resource listing and personalized services, such as special furniture, including a recliner or a room with laminated flooring if sensitive to allergens.
Have you seen guest expectations changing during the pandemic? If so, how?
Each guest is different and has different comfort levels, especially as COVID-19 begins to wane. Many guests still feel comfortable with mask-wearing, although no longer required by the City. Most guests still prefer minimal interaction with the staff and so on. A hotel that can anticipate and offer these services without having to ask or require a hotel representative to enter the room is what guests prefer now.
Why is WellHotel accreditation for Medical Travel important for your hotel?
The medical market has been an important part of the hotel's business since we took over the hotel nine years ago. We are centrally located near renowned medical institutions that receive health buyers from around the world. Staying abreast of the current needs, requirements, and policies around healthcare and wellness tourism is pivotal to achieving and maintaining top-level relationships and collaborations with these clinics. WellHotel accreditation keeps us focused on this and conveys the message to our partners that we understand and excel in the services they require.
Why did you decide to seek GBAC STAR/GHA WellHotel Accreditation? What value does it provide to your hotel and to your guests?
These two programs demonstrate to our guests and the local community our commitment to safety and well-being. Both programs have extensive safety and health checklists and standards that a hotel must achieve and maintain to meet global needs. GBAC is quickly becoming an industry standard and is almost a must-have to remain competitive at the top level of the industry. WellHotel Accreditation, therefore, offers a great competitive advantage for wellness and hospitality businesses.
Would you recommend the GBAC STAR/GHA WellHotel Accreditation to other hotels? If so, why?
Yes, the accreditation process is very rigorous and creates the opportunity to "train up" staff. These certifications are essential for the brand of a hospitality and wellness business as a key player that understands the needs of clients in the post-pandemic era. In many cases, they can be key differentiators against your competition. A true value here is the process of getting certified: all the processes and procedures involved ensure the hotel team attains the highest level of safety and health measures in line with global best practices.
Does the Lord Baltimore Hotel provide Corporate Wellness programs for its employees? If so, please describe one or more initiatives and how they are impacting employee health and well-being.
Yes, Short Term Disability insurance, Employee Assistance Programs, Life Planning & Legal Resources, as well as access to vaccinations are some of the corporate wellness benefits our employees enjoy. One of the newest additions to the Corporate Wellness program is Peerfit, an at-home fitness service. Peerfit gives you access to thousands of live and on-demand workout videos. Peerfit also gives you plenty of options to maintain your exercise routine without having to drive, walk, run, or bike.
Has the GBAC STAR/GHA WellHotel Accreditation benefited the health and well-being of your employees? If so, how?
While the experience the hotel had as a temporary Triage, Respite, and Isolation Center has forced the hotel to enhance our services to include those of a medical facility, GBAC STAR/GHA WellHotel Accreditation has been instrumental in sharpening and maintaining those new enhanced procedures. The hotel's associate attendance has improved greatly by following these new protocols. This comes as no surprise as the new accreditations demonstrate to clients and partners the hotel's health and safety standards.
Do you offer special packages for corporate clients? If so, please provide any details and benefits they provide.
We currently do not offer a special corporate package; however, it sounds like a great idea that the hotel will consider implementing in the future.
What options or packages does the Lord Baltimore Hotel offer for Corporate Meetings and Groups? What protocols do you have in place for meetings and groups to keep guests safe and mitigate the risk of infection?
We ensure compliance with state- and city-level laws; we have also continued to enforce the use of face coverings, COVID-19 testing where necessary, social distancing, and set in place air purification machines and hand sanitizing stations. We also carry out enhanced meeting room cleaning with fogging and disinfection.
Should corporate travelers stay at hotels that have received GBAC STAR/GHA WellHotel Accreditation versus non-accredited hotels and if so why?
If there is one thing that we all have learned over the past two years, it's just how quickly the environment can change. The spread of COVID-19 was unprecedented; however, we have learned safety procedures and steps that can be taken in providing a safer environment. These steps will not only mitigate the spread of COVID-19 but also other contagious diseases, including but not limited to Influenza and the common cold.
As we hopefully move past the pandemic, how important is building guest trust in your hotel?
The level of concern for safety varies with each guest. Some guests are looking for extreme safety with full masking, complete fogging/disinfection, and a high level of prevention; other guests prefer for things to go back to how it was during the pre-pandemic period. The ability of a hotel to meet these varying levels of expectations and needs is crucial. This GBAC STAR/GHA WellHotel Accreditation demonstrates this to our clients, showing our commitment to meeting our guests’ needs regardless of their level of health and safety concerns.
This article was first published on wellnesstourism.com