With travel as one of the pandemic’s hardest-hit industries, independently owned hotels have had a rough few months. Now that travelers around the world are slowly taking their first post-lockdown trips again, the things we once took for granted during a hotel stay (like twice-daily housekeeping and long restaurant menus) have become much harder to keep up due to new safety regulations and tighter budgets. While hotels have never been more appreciative to welcome guests, there are a lot of things we can do to help them through these difficult times. Hotel owners around the world, from Mexico to Vietnam, share how guests can do their part—because creating a safe environment for everyone should be a two-way effort.

1. Book directly—and keep communication channels open

Booking via email or through the hotel’s own website instead of an online booking engine will ensure that the hotel receives the full amount of your bill. Booking engines can take up to 20 percent in commissions, making a significant impact on the hotel’s bottom line. More importantly, a direct line of communication is essential in a time where travel restrictions can change almost overnight, says Caroline Mills, general manager of Le Domaine De Tam Hai, a palm-fringed riverside retreat near the historic town of Hoi An in Vietnam. “Communicating via third parties isn’t always possible or fast enough,” says Mills. “If anything happens post-reservation, your only option with online booking engines is to cancel—while with direct bookings, it’s easier to find a mutually beneficial solution. If that means issuing a refund, we can do that immediately without picking through the long-winded process set up by a third party.”