In Conversation With… Grand Hyatt Berlin’s Yves-Marie Origlia on reopening and looking to the future

As Covid-19 lockdown measures are beginning to lift in some countries across the world, many luxury hotels are preparing for how they will reopen and operate with new social distancing and hygiene protocols in place to ensure the safety of customers and their teams.

Following an easing of restrictions in Germany, The Grand Hyatt Berlin reopened its doors today (20 May), so we caught up with Yves-Marie Origlia, sales manager for MICE for the UK, France, US and Benelux, about the preparations behind the scenes, what new procedures the hotel has put in place, and the outlook for MICE bookings….

The hotel reopened partially today. How long have you been closed and how are you feeling about reopening? 
It has been two months now since we closed the Grand Hyatt Berlin and we have been looking forward to the opening today. During the last weeks we have been very busy with the new hygiene regulations and prepared our hotel accordingly. We are very excited to see how our guests will react to the new “look” of our hotel and are looking forward to hearing their feedback. 

What have you missed most during the lockdown period? 
Most of all we missed our guests and the lively atmosphere in the lobby and around the hotel. A hotel needs its guests and staff to create a certain flair and charm. The Grand Hyatt Berlin stands for its familial interaction between its guests and staff. The hotel will be filled with life again, even if in the beginning, the pace will be very different from the years or months before. 

Talk us through the plan for reopening – how much and which parts of the hotel are being opened up first?
At the beginning, we will only open certain areas of the hotel. In other words, guests will still have access to our luxurious guest rooms, the Vox Restaurant for breakfast and dinner, a lobby bar and our exclusive Grand Club. Unfortunately, we are not yet allowed to open our spa and bars, but we think we can open the rest of the hotel step by step in the next few weeks. 

Hyatt announced a new cleaning, disinfection and infectious disease prevention programme last month – what impact will that have on the day-to-day operation of the hotel? 
The wellbeing of guests and colleagues is at the heart of Hyatt’s business and core to advancing care for guests and customers. In response to COVID-19, Hyatt is continuing to develop new work procedures and mandatory trainings in an effort to ensure safety for colleagues and guests. 

As part of Hyatt’s Global Care & Cleanliness Commitment, by September 2020, every Hyatt hotel will have at least one person on property trained as Hygiene Manager, who will be responsible for their hotel adhering to new operational guidance and protocols, some of which may include: 

– Colleague certification, trainings and recertification process for hygiene and cleanliness 
– Increased frequency of cleaning with hospital-grade disinfectants on all – high-touch surfaces and areas such as lobbies, guest rooms, restaurants, meeting and event spaces, recreational areas, public restrooms, fitness centres, elevator buttons, all employee areas, and more 
– Implementation of enhanced food safety and hygiene protocols for restaurants, room service, and group meetings and events 
– Prominently placed hand sanitiser stations throughout hotel public and employee areas and entrances 
– Exploring purification and sanitisation device installation in an effort to ensure air quality 
– Protective masks and other equipment worn by hotel colleagues 
– Social distancing guidance in public areas across hotel properties 
– Evolving new policies in consideration of guidance and information shared by various health organisations such as the World Health Organisation (WHO), Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), local authorities, and other leading organisations and experts 

How have you prepared staff for the reopening? 
Every team member will receive a full-day training before getting back to work. This is mandatory and we need to train on integrating new procedures and standards and especially on changing our behaviours and way of thinking. Travel and hotel experience have dramatically changed. As a result, we need to work with this new future and adapt our property to the new needs and expectations. 

Do you have any guest bookings for May or June yet? 
We have already received several individual bookings for May and June. We see a positive trend and are of course very happy about it. But still, we cannot expect the pace we used to experience before. Numbers will increase very slowly.

How can you provide a luxury level of service while maintaining social distancing? 
Of course, the interactions with the guests will be different than before but Hyatt’s credo being “We care for people so they can be their best”, we will always adapt our operational procedures so that we can still offer our well-known service.

When do you expect to be able to host small meetings again for local clients? Will these have to operate under restrictions and if so, what might meetings and events look like for the rest of 2020?
According to German regulations, we will be able to welcome meetings of up to 50 guests from Monday, May 25th on. We have already received smaller meeting requests for the next couple of weeks. But for sure numbers are still very different than before. Our first meeting will take place with around six delegates and of course, it is mandatory that we provide face masks.

Are you still receiving M&E enquiries? If so, are they for later in 2020 or mostly 2021? 
Yes, we are still receiving some meeting requests for later this year and 202, but we are hoping for a higher volume in the coming months. The feeling of insecurity is still in most people’s minds and through our reopening we hope to send a positive sign to our guests and potential partners.

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