SFJ Awards

In July 2020, @SFJAwards partnered with world leading hotel security and safety assessment experts, Global Secure Accreditation (GSA), to launch their COVID-19 Certificate of International Good Practice, to support the restoration of customers confidence to travel, and the recovery of the hospitality sector across the globe.

This week, SFJ Awards’ Custom Certification has now launched, as a complete service, providing trusted and assured certification, tailored for your unique learning experience and organisation, to give your learners a recognised certificate for life. Here, we learn more about the service from Brian Moore, Director at GSA.

As hotels began to re-open their doors in a vulnerable pandemic landscape, security and safety was always going to be the primary concern for travellers when choosing where to stay. Brian says: “We quickly learned that there were already at least 190 COVID-19 hygiene related learning and standards being offered in the market, many of which claimed to be ‘the best’. This can be confusing for clients. Independent accreditation adds rigour and assurance which most of the competition cannot offer, and this is helpful for clients uncertain about the choices before them.”

With an array of COVID-19 related assurance services available, GSA not only recognised the importance of demonstrating quality and independence to set themselves apart from the competition, but wanted to partner with a trusted sector specialist who could truly help achieve a new ‘independent health security’ benchmark for the travel industry for years to come.

Brian explains: “Already being familiar with SFJ Awards’, who provide external quality assurance and accreditation for our security standards, we also knew ‘Skills for Health’, their sister organisation. When we developed the COVID-19 Certificate of International Good Practice, we were confident SFJ Awards would have the breadth of experience and expertise to assure us and our clients that there was informed, independent scrutiny of the design and implementation of the new standard, reassuring businesses, their clients and the public on best practice.”

Working in partnership with GSA, SFJ Awards’ Custom Certification team tailored the design to complement their detailed property and operational risk assessment, demonstrating to both guests and staff, an establishment’s commitment to maintaining the highest levels of COVID-19 hygiene, safety, and security, in accordance with international standards.

Brian says: “We want travellers to be safer. We want to see good-practice standards throughout the travel sector at every stage of the traveller’s journey, including their accommodation. We want travellers to be able to test claims made to them about safety and security. Through the design of this project, including the involvement of SFJ Awards, we can demonstrate that we are delivering on our values and objectives.”

To ensure best practice is evidenced in the hotel, GSA conduct a thorough review and validation of the property’s policies and risk assessments. Upon successful completion, SFJ Awards provide an external quality assurance and certification service to deliver the COVID-19 Certificate of International Good Practice to be displayed to the public.

Brian says: “We involved SFJ Awards in every stage of the design working up multiple drafts of the Standards as a result. We particularly benefitted from designing and implementing a peer-review process and the sampling ratio to ensure that the application of the Standards and decision-making are consistent.”

The certificate also features a QR code so that guests can verify the validity and current standing of the hotel’s hygiene and security upon arrival. Therefore, in the event of a confirmed outbreak on the premises, the certificate can be invalidated via the QR code to alert all involved. Furthermore, an annual review is also implemented, pledging a brand’s dedication to quality for the future.

Brian says: “GSA can offer a rigorous service that has independent and informed scrutiny to ensure that good practice is delivered consistently and in every case. It helps keep us ‘sharp’, and our clients and the public benefit from this. The standard is high, pushing clients beyond what they would achieve by relying just on their internal processes. Ultimately, our clients can be more assured that they can market their businesses with confidence which gives them a competitive advantage. Travellers will be in a safer environment where our Standards are followed.”

GSA’s assessment process assesses not only how an establishment is taking all practicable steps to control the virus from entering the hotel; but how they actively operate to prevent the spread of infection within the property, and the robust response plan they have in place should a case of COVID-19 be identified on-site. It ensures both the protection of staff and guests, provides a safe and secure environment, and allows for the delivery of the best possible customer experience.

The Rathbone Hotel, London, received their COVID-19 Certificate of International Good Practice in September 2020. Daniel Harris, Director says: “We will absolutely recommend GSA COVID-19 Certification to other hotels, it demonstrates our commitment to providing a safe environment for our employees and guests. The certificate will be included in all forms of marketing to evidence that we are taking every possible step to ensure their safety and that we take great pride in our standards of hygiene, cleanliness & service.” 

“We chose GSA for their reputation and links with Business Travel Management Companies. The independent verification and certification from SFJ Awards was also very important to us. It demonstrates that two parties are reviewing the data and independently deciding whether or not we deserve the accreditation. With other companies, they assess and self-certify which is not in our interest. The entire process was beyond thorough, it was in depth, practical, easy to follow, used common sense and the team were extremely helpful.”

Brian adds: “The GSA COVID-19 Certificate of International Good Practice is one example of how we put rigour and independence into what we do to ensure that good practice is implemented. The safety and security of the public should be the number one priority of every provider in the sector and GSA and SFJ Awards have an important role to play in upholding and meeting this goal.”

As the concern about recurring infectious diseases continues to increase, the demand for new standards will have long term implications for the future of the global travel and hospitality industry. Staff will be apprehensive to work in hotels, guests hesitant to stay in hotels, and all will need consistent reassurance regarding the latest hygiene and health security standards.

Brian concludes: “SFJ Awards has shown it shares our commitment to public safety and security through implementing and maintaining rigorous standards, with independent oversight and transparency, inspiring confidence in all those involved. This is what the market needs and is increasingly what the market is asking for.”

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