For frequent travelers and explorers like us, we are all wondering what to expect when staying at a hotel during COVID-19. Is it safe? How do we know? What will be different?
As businesses begin to re-open, travel for work and leisure are becoming an option again. Families can take that vacation trip they have been postponing. Kids (and parents) who have been cooped up inside for months can finally have a change of scenery.
Of course, staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others from getting sick. However, if a trip is required for work, or simply to regain some sanity, then there are a few things you should look for. This article will outline some of the changes you can expect when staying at a hotel during COVID-19
A clear policy
The first thing you should do when booking a hotel during COVID-19 is to confirm their health and safety protocol. Because the state of the pandemic is completely different around the world, safety policies will vary widely among countries, states, and companies.
On a recent trip to West Virginia, we realized that the state no longer requires the use of face masks in public. We avoided those public places like the plague. Luckily, our hotel maintained a strong health and safety protocol. Staff are required to wear masks at all times and guests are encouraged to do the same.
It is essential that hotels adopt additional measures to protect against Coronavirus transmission. Looking for a hotel’s policy is the first step in ensuring that the company is taking a responsible and CDC-informed approach to protecting guests. An effective policy might include some of the measures listed below.
When an infectious disease is running rampant across the globe, there is nothing more comforting than walking into a room that smells like Lysol and disinfectant. Some higher-end hotels are using electrostatic sprayers and testing out ultraviolet light technology to clean guest rooms and public areas. Commonly used items such as tv remotes, ceiling fan remotes, and in-room tablets are disinfected and sealed in vacuum packaging.
While the intensity of cleaning has increased, the frequency has decreased. To minimize contact with guests, staff no longer provide in-room housekeeping to make beds and refresh amenities. Should a guest require additional towels, staff leave the requested items at the front door for no-contact delivery. Only after guests have checked out, will the cleaning crew come in to do a deep clean.
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Social distancing is perhaps the first and most obvious difference that you will notice. Some hotels are installing large plexiglass barriers at front desks for added separation, however most are doing away with the traditional check-in process altogether. Contactless self-check-in and digital keys are the new trends. Similarly, face-to-face concierge services are being replaced by text messaging software.
A few items which guests might miss are the valet, bellhop, and turn down service. The goal is to minimize as much interaction between staff and guests as possible to maintain social distancing and prevent the potential spread of COVID-19.
According to Manager Becky Corcoran of Hillbrook Inn and Spa, finding the appropriate balance between hospitality and safety remains both a challenge and a priority. The reduced hospitality is indeed noticeable, however a necessary sacrifice to ensure the safety of guests.
A new dining experience
Many hotel restaurant are choosing to remain closed and opting instead to offer room delivery service. Others are offering pre-made boxed meals for a sort of “grab-and-go” type situation. Those who have decided to reopen, are removing and rearranging table settings to operate at a reduced capacity. The fate of buffets certainly looks grim, but only time will tell.
Hotel bars are no longer the place you go to get lost in a crowd and mingle with strangers. Bars (if they are open at all) are spacing stools a sizeable distance apart to discourage crowding.
Limited amenities and facility usage
Hotels are downsizing the contents of guest rooms to reduce opportunities for contamination and spreading of germs. This means that the “luxury” items often included in hotel rooms may now be difficult to come by. So long non-essential decorative throw pillows. Goodbye fancy glass cups and microfiber bathrobes. Minibars of snacks, sodas, and booze are likely to be replaced with personal care kits of hand sanitizer, masks, individually packed tissues, and bottled water.
Restricted communal access
Many sports and recreational areas are closed or operating at limited capacity. This includes fitness facilities, pools, and spas. In some cases, guests may be able to make a reservation in advance to ensure social distancing and that there is adequate time for disinfecting between users.
Staying at a hotel during COVID-19: Bottom line
When in doubt, follow this safety checklist released by AHLA, the American Hotel & Lodging Association.
Safety is your responsibility and yours alone. It is likely that you will notice some big changes, but make sure they are the right changes. Check hotel guidelines, wear a mask, and minimize your contact with others. Hotels can be a safe place to stay if they are following CDC guidelines for COVID-19, but it is your responsibility to do the research and make an informed decision.
Have you stayed at a hotel during COVID-19? We would love to hear about your experience in the comments below.