Coronavirus and hospitality – what hoteliers are doing to keep travellers safe

Just in time for the summer season, hotels around the globe are slowly starting to reopen. They have taken a hard hit since the outbreak of COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic in March 2020. Staying in a hotel room is low-risk, if you take certain precautions, follow social distancing guidelines, and select your property wisely. Mr Hudson speaks to some of the hoteliers who are going the extra mile to keep guests safe and make them feel welcome and comfortable.

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Social distancing, contactless experiences, and privacy

Some hotels are naturally set up for social distancing, such as Los Colibris Casitas in Mexico. Bryan Jáuregui, Co-owner of the property, explains: “Los Colibris Casitas was built with social distancing in mind, long before it was a health consideration. Each casita is completely separate from the others with its own patio or rooftop terrace, its own parking area and its own entrance. There is no central lobby, and our new technology allows for contactless check-in and check-out, contactless communication with management and contactless information on the area, including the best local social distancing activities.”

Minimising the need for physical contact with staff is top of mind for Nicolas Roucos, General Manager of Bomporto Hotels in Portugal: “We are working on creating a contactless experience, with online pre-registration, digital key entry to the rooms and express check-out to reduce the time spent at reception.” 

Bomporto Hotels - Nicolas Roucos

Nicolas Roucos

The Lumiares, Lisbon

Housekeeping and hygiene 2.0

Many hotels are putting extra measures in place to provide a clean and safe environment for guests, as evidenced by Dion Maes, General Manager of 25hours Hotel Terminus Nord in Paris: “In our guest rooms we have taken the highest precautions such as removing all stationary, decorative pillows, cleaning only upon request and leaving rooms empty for 24 hours after check-out. For the restaurant & bar, we have printed single-use paper menus.

Says Sunny Patel, Co-owner of The Tuxon Hotel in Tucson, Arizona, “The health and safety of our guests and employees is of the utmost importance. We are taking a range of actions from electrostatic sprayers & seals for our guest rooms to enhanced sanitisation.

25hours Hotel Terminus Nord Paris

25hours Hotel Terminus Nord | Photo: Nicolas Matheus

The Tuxon Hotel Tucson Arizona

The Tuxon Hotel | Photo courtesy of Design Hotels™

The end of the all-you-can-eat buffet

The breakfast buffet, a perennial guest favourite, looks to become a relic of the past – at least for the time being. Matte Perduca, Co-owner and Creative Director of Soprarno Suites in Florence tells Mr Hudson: “From a strictly practical point of view the only thing that is going to change is the social distancing for breakfast and a different way to provide it; no longer buffet-style but personally served.”

Our main change is that guests will no longer be allowed inside our cafe for breakfast. Breakfasts will now be served either through room service or by dining at one of our two outdoor dining areas with shifts among guests.” Bryan Jáuregui says.

SoprArno Florence

SoprArno Suites | Photo: Betty Soldi

Smizing and stepping up service

Smizing, or “smiling with your eyes,” as coined by supermodel Tyra Banks on the thirteenth series of America’s Next Top Model, is a practice hotel staff will have to get used to, now that actual smiles are covered behind masks, and a handshake is no longer synonymous with a warm – and safe – welcome.

The most challenging aspect of operating in this environment is to receive our loyal customers without being able to shake their hand when we welcome them again. Wearing a mask was a hurdle to overcome, but we soon realised that we could smile with our eyes“, says Laurence Shukor, Director of Press & PR at Hotel Metropole Monte-Carlo in Monaco. “We’re committed to providing our guests with the highest level of service and are finding new ways to do so.

Some travellers look for added security measures; others prefer for us not to overdo it, so we have to strike the right balance”

According to Nicolas Roucos: “We have to get used to operating at lower capacity, but this also brings the opportunity to offer an even more personalised experience to our clients. Some travellers look for added security measures; others prefer for us not to overdo it, so we have to strike the right balance.”

Sunny Patel agrees. “While we offer mobile check-in, keyless room entry, mobile concierge, digital room service, and much more to keep our guests safe and comfortable, we aim to ensure that they also get a real taste of Tucson during their stay. Whatever your spirit animal, our friendly and knowledgeable team members are the ones that make sure that happens.

In addition to higher levels of service, more privacy is also being offered. Laurence Shukor explains: “While privacy has always been considered the ultimate travel luxury, we’re noticing more of our guests seeking out hyper-private experiences. In response Hotel Metropole now allows guests to book the entire top floor of the hotel, comprising seven suites (including the penthouse) for private use. Taking out the entire top floor comes with socially distant-friendly amenities, including private en-suite check-in, exclusive access to the Odyssey pool by Karl Lagerfeld with a private cabana, and personal helicopter transfers.”

Monte Carlo Monaco

Monte Carlo, Monaco | Photo: Mark de Jong

Gay Couple Lisbon

Lisbon | Photo: Madalena Veloso

How to lower COVID-19 contamination risk during a hotel stay

There are several steps you can take to make your hotel stay as safe as possible, some of which you can take before you even arrive. Here’s how to travel safely during the pandemic.

Ask the hotel what measures they are taking to keep guests safe

Properties that are committed to fighting Coronavirus should be ready to inform you about new cleaning and disinfecting routines being put in place in shared spaces and rooms. Enquire about policies on wearing masks and health screenings for guests and staff and ask if housekeeping routinely disinfects hands before they make the beds. Another recommendation is to ask about their occupancy rates because this will give you a sense of how crowded the hotel will be. Some properties are reopening at a lower capacity, which means that the density of guests, and therefore infection risk, will be lower.

Practice social distancing when using common spaces

Practice social distancing and wear a mask in common areas. Minimise time in small enclosed spaces, like elevators – take the staircase instead. Avoid touching surfaces in shared areas that frequently come into contact with other people, like door handles, the elevator button, and dining chairs and tables. Wash your hands after spending time in shared spaces. Using the pool is fine as long as you maintain a safe distance from others who are swimming. Consider wiping down hard surfaces you may touch around the pool area, such as sun loungers, parasols and chairs. However, if it’s an outdoor pool and the area is sunny, UV light likely destroys lingering virus particles.

Bring masks, disinfectants and zip bags with you

Bring a generous supply of masks for use in shared spaces. Disinfect the remote control for the TV, and the buttons and face of telephones upon arrival in your room – they are Petri dishes for microbes and are often overlooked by housekeeping staff. Don’t forget to sanitise your suitcase and don’t throw it onto the bed. Instead, put it on the suitcase rack provided by the hotel and wipe it down with a disinfectant. Finally, use zip bags for personal items that others may handle, including your passport, driving license and room key. Carry extra bags to put these items in after you disinfect them.

Forego housekeeping services

Health experts agree that it is best to minimise exposure to others. One way to do this is to opt-out of housekeeping services during your stay as much as possible, or even entirely. You can always call for more toiletries or fresh towels. Ask for decorative pillows and bedspreads to be removed from your room before you arrive.

25hours Hotel Terminus Nord Paris

25hours Hotel Terminus Nord | Photo: Steve Herud

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