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Updates in service standards in hotels: how COVID-19 changed operations

Janelle Chan (School of Hotel and Tourism Management, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Kowloon, China)
Yixing (Lisa) Gao (School of Hotel and Tourism Management, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Kowloon, China)
Sean McGinley (Dedman School of Hospitality, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida, USA)

International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management

ISSN: 0959-6119

Article publication date: 15 May 2021

Issue publication date: 6 July 2021




The COVID-19 pandemic has tremendously affected the hospitality industry. With the experiences of severe acute respiratory syndrome in 2003 and commitments to ensure guests’ health and safety, many hotels in Asia have actively engaged in updating and implementing new service standards and measures. This study aims to investigate hotels’ service standard changes, processes of management decisions and preparations for the future.


Using grounded theory methodology, this research interviews 24 hotel managers from mainland China and Hong Kong. It examines the differences among hotels with different operation types, classifications and locations, and analyzes the service standards in physical and social services cape.


Building on the service marketing and crisis management literature, this research provides a synthesis that reflects how hotels have coped with the COVID-19 crisis. It depicts the service standard update process during the COVID-19.

Research limitations/implications

In line with the literature in disaster management, hotels experienced the outbreak, response and recovery phases of the crisis management procedure. However, given the severity and scope of the COVID-19 pandemic, undertaking particular processes is necessary at every procedure such as following local guidelines and updating local standard operating procedures (LSOPs). This research also expands the literature on the process of adopting new technology in hotels during crisis management.

Practical implications

The paper suggests that hotel managers should update and use well-thought-out standards on the bases of available scientific evidence. For example, hotels should use LSOPs according to the local situations. Hotels are also suggested to exert additional efforts and attention in service innovation, guest experience and enhancing hospitableness.


To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this paper is one of the first efforts to investigate the impact of COVID-19 on hotel operations. It offers empirical evidence from hotel operators who worked against the crisis during the pandemic and provides valuable theoretical contribution to the hospitality service literature as well as managerial implications for hotel operators globally.



Chan, J., Gao, Y.(L). and McGinley, S. (2021), "Updates in service standards in hotels: how COVID-19 changed operations", International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, Vol. 33 No. 5, pp. 1668-1687.



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