After months of lockdown, hotels are reopening and incorporating big changes to the way they operate in order to make your stay safe and relaxing. From big chains like Marriott to boutique hotels like The Betsy on South Beach in Miami, the industry is doing everything in its power to ensure a safe experience for their guests and staff. Here’s a quick guide to what changes you can expect.
Improving resort safety in the face of a global pandemic starts with planning for social distancing in all public spaces (via signage and rearrangement of furniture), masking resort staff, and employing deep cleaning throughout the property. But the changes don’t stop there.
Many venues are reducing contact between staff and travelers, offering virtual check-ins and allowing guests to opt out of anyone entering their room (you can arrange to put linens out to be cleaned rather than having housekeeping enter daily). Pools that were previously chlorine free must now be treated. Dining is changing, with more space between guest tables, and Mike Garrow, director of sales for Meadowood Napa Valley Resort, told attendees at the recent New Travel Conference (a virtual event helping the travel industry navigate the new normal), “Buffets are now a thing of the past.”
Brands and properties have had to innovate on the fly during the past few months, introducing new services such as delivery and take-out options from in-hotel restaurants and bars. For example, NoMo Kitchen in the NoMo SoHo Hotel in NYC, is now NoMo ToGo, catering to take-out orders and offering quarantine-themed cocktails.
With nearly a century as a leader in the industry (and as an LGBTQ+-welcoming brand), Marriot has a long history of setting high standards around cleanliness and guest relations. So, in some ways, preparing to host guests again, hasn’t been a huge challenge for Marriott hotels (including W Hotels, The Ritz-Carlton, Sherraton, and Aloft) around the globe.
“Since our founding 92 years ago, Marriott International has always placed an emphasis on health and safety for our guests and associates,” noted Arne Sorenson, the industry stalwart who is president and CEO of Marriott International, in a statement to the press. “Our founder, J.W. Marriott, used to personally inspect kitchens and guest rooms for cleanliness during his hotel visits. A high standard of cleanliness is in our DNA.”
Marriott dove in with a new cleaning regimen and commitment to cleanliness, going above and beyond by using enhanced technologies, including electrostatic sprayers and the highest classification of disinfectants recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization. Electrostatic disinfection technology uses a sprayer to apply disinfectants, and was originally developed for facilities where bacteria outbreaks had been documented or suspected. It can kill both viruses and bacteria, and has been shown to neutralize the coronavirus.
Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, as part of the Accor group, launched an “All Stay Well” campaign throughout its hotels worldwide. Like Marriot, Fairmont’s protocols have been developed following the guidance of the WHO, CDC, and other national and local health authorities, and include an extensive list of procedures from social distancing to increased hand sanitizing stations, to mandatory screenings for guests and employees, providing masks to guests and employees, increased cleaning, COVID-19 education and training, and more.
Fairmont's safety protocols are spelled out through the guests’ journey at the hotels from booking, to check-in, to guest rooms, to interaction with amenities, to check out. Some locations are also making additional changes to keep guests safe, for instance, The Fairmont Royal York in Toronto, Canada, recently opened a new outdoor terrace as an extension to the resort’s popular Clockwork Lobby Lounge. The floral bedecked terrace offers contactless menus and ordering through QR codes. “We are thrilled to welcome our friends, family and community back to dine with us again,” says Megan van Der Baars, social media manager at Royal York.
Smaller chains and boutique hotels have also implemented their own safety guidelines. The Betsy South Beach, a high-end LGBTQ+ friendly beachfront hotel, postponed their re-opening in the interest of guest safety. “It’s a marathon and not a sprint [to reopen], ” says Jonathan Plutzik owner of The Betsy. “We need to give guests the confidence to visit again.” With that in mind, the hotel staff are going room by room, removing decorative elements that may be more challenging to clean between guests visits. They are also remapping the hotel so that each guest room can be accessible without ever getting into an elevator. A stairway poetry program, where poetry will be added to the design of the stairwell, will create a more pleasurable environment and encourage guests to take the stairs. The poetry and focus on design fits in perfectly with The Betsy as creativity is in the hotel's DNA. It is known for hosting many art events throughout the year, including Pride Poets Light the Night.
It’s not only hotels doing their part. Convention and Visitors Bureaus in destinations like Greater Palm Springs are also ahead of curve when it comes to implementing measures to keep hotel guests safe. The city's accommodations have signed onto a pledge to ensure that visitors can truly relax throughout their stay by meeting and exceeding standards established by both the State of California and CDC, including disinfecting procedures, social distancing, and providing employees with the training needed to implement and enforce the new safety guidelines.
What will it take for you to feel comfortable traveling and staying in a hotel again? That may be a matter of your personal risk tolerance. And your decision may be influenced more by a resort's location than their safety policies. Today most hotels are doing all they can to give you the assurance you need to feel comfortable and stay healthy on their properties. Call ahead and ask what measures a specific hotel is doing to ensure your health. The good ones will be happy to share how they are ensuring that you can relax and simply enjoy your stay.