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The Coronavirus Challenge in Hospitality. Infection Control, Business Etiquette, & Common Sense

These are unnavigated hospitality waters.  We will support each other and navigate these unfamiliar currents together.  Let’s start with the basics.

Is it time to consider changing the universally accepted business etiquette tradition of shaking hands?  Maybe not.  Sadly, both this time in history and the need for caution may have changed how we interact, one-on-one, in hospitality, at least for a while.

Don’t panic.  Prepare.  Keep up to date and educated.  Remember that this new virus is not generally transmitted through touch! 

The Corona virus (COVID-19) spreads when an infected person coughs or sneezes into the air.  Respiratory droplets are released and can end up in another person’s mouth, nose, or eyes or might be inhaled. That’s how this infection occurs.  Common sense tells you to avoid (and not to touch) sick people!! 

Control on-site transmission by encouraging your associates to stay home if they feel sick, to wash their hands often, avoid contact with sick people, and avoid touching their eyes, mouth and nose.  It’s important to cover sneezes and coughs with a tissue that is immediately thrown out.  Provide tissues in the workplace and lined waste cans to safely dispose of these tissues.

According to experts, face masks are best used for people who are already sick (or caring for someone who is sick). The mask can reduce the number of germs that the wearer releases and can protect other people from becoming sick.  Have a supply on hand in case they are requested by your guest(s).  Any associate who is sick needs to be send home. Decide if some of your employees can work remotely. Provide staff training.  Education avoids panic.

Surfaces including desks, computers, telephones, tablets, doorknobs, and other workspace items and areas must be wiped down (disinfected) each workday (more than once if possible).  Experts believe this virus may be able to live up to four days at room temperature.

And your clients, vendors and/or guests?  Provide tissues, lined waste cans, and hand sanitizers that are readily available (in guest rooms and all around the property).

You may want to send an informational email updating guests on staff training and property sanitizing and other procedures.  Let guests know that you are available directly by telephone or electronic communications if they wish.

This brings us back to the question of, “In today’s environment, do we shake hands or not?”  Well, a fist bump is “cleaner” than a handshake since a very small amount of surface area (skin) makes contact between the two hands.  Certainly in a hospital or medical setting the fist bump is a reasonable alternative.  But, study after study supports good hand-washing as the primary way to very effectively control the spread of bacterial and viral infections. 

Keep in mind that fist bumps are not going to stop the spread of this new virus. 

In the business world, fist bumping has not caught on.  Remember, even medical professionals are still learning about the COVID-19.  But all agree with the United States Centers of Disease Control (CDC):  Frequent handwashing with soap and water (for a minimum of twenty seconds) is key in preventing the spread of this and other viruses.  The twenty seconds represents the time it would take for you to sing the “Happy Birthday” song.  Wash before going into a meeting where you will be shaking hands, then wash again when you leave the meeting.  The CDC recommends hand sanitizer (that contains at least 60% alcohol) if soap and water are not available.  Soap and water is still your best option.

Common sense and common courtesy can be used when you are receiving guests or new or even well-known clients in your business, property or brand.  You can certainly ask them if they prefer a handshake, a fist bump or a warm and welcoming smile.  I have a Thai associate who puts her hands together (in a prayer position), smiles and bows her head.

Most cases of the Corona Virus (Covid-19) are mild.  Calmness, empathy, training, and sound sanitation measures will get the hospitality industry, and its’ hardworking associates around the world, safely through this emergency.  

Excerpts of blog taken from the book: Hospitality Management – People Skills & Manners on and off the Job. Copyright © 2015 Lyn Pont, PhD

“Pont’s book is a must-read for anyone considering a career in hospitality.”

— Isadore Sharp, chairman and founder, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts

See the book at: www.HospitalityManners.com

Visit Lyn at: www.MannersForBusiness.com

Lyn Pont, Ph.D. – World’s Top 30 Hospitality Professionals, – Global Gurus

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