How hotels are adapting to the new reality of COVID-19

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In the times of Covid 19, how are destinations and hotels adapting to this new normal?

Covid 19 has changed the world. From the minutia of our daily lives to how we plan, the coronavirus has pierced the very heart of society. Hotels, travel, and the general service industry has been hit particularly hard at this time, making an inherently social experience almost impossible to deliver.

But all is not lost. Owners, managers and industry leaders are coming together to figure out a way to survive, and change, giving guests and consumers the time to dream about their next trip—and hopefully make it a reality when things are safe and sanitary. From check-in, to room cleaning to mini bars to pool areas, here are how some hotels, resorts and destinations are trying to make sure everything is safe and sanitized for the future of travel.

Wyndham Destinations, the world’s largest timeshare operator, is looking at a phased opening in late May. Kevin Maciulewicz, SVP of Resort Operations, says they will be limiting the number of guests to maximize social distancing, depending on the specific configuration of the resorts. “We’re actually seeing very strong demand in bookings for travel in August and beyond from owners and guests,” he says. However, “many resort amenities will remain closed for the immediate future, including swimming pools, food and beverage, fitness centers and other public spaces,” he adds.

In glamping news, Peter Mack, CEO of luxury glamping disrupter Collective Retreats, believes its vacation offerings are set up to naturally allow for social distancing. And though there are no lobbies, elevators, or hallways to deal with, they company is adding staff, cleaning more frequently and offering branded bandanas to guests. In fact, Collective Hill Country, in Wimberley, TX, has remained open through the crises. “And guests seem to feel comfortable given the open-air nature of the accommodations,” he says. In New York City, one of the hardest hit areas of the country, Collective Governor’s Island is offering a “Recharge Package” where guests can book a future stay at a discounted price—with a percentage benefitting the food bank, City Harvest.

And at MGM Resorts a seven-point safety plan was recently released for all their resorts—a result of months-long work with public health experts, according to Acting CEO and President Bill Hornbuckle. For employees, this includes temperature checks before entering properties along with mandatory masks and gloves. To help with social distancing, plexiglass barriers will be installed in casinos and lobbies, and in rooms, air conditioning units were recently updated to help with air quality. “Our properties will not look the way they used to for a while, and that’s not only OK, it’s critically important, “says Hornbuckle. In addition, they will be offering a completely contactless check-in experience. Using a mobile app, guests will be able to check-in, pay their bill and get a digital room key via their smartphone. For those who feel uncomfortable going fully digital, employees will still be available with physical barriers to protect interactions and reduced lines, and physical keys can be made using self-serve key encoders.

Of course, some hotels have decided to stay open during the crises and The Hotel Figueroa, or The Fig, a downtown fixture in Los Angeles, is adjusting to the times. Connie Wang, the hotel’s Managing Director, suggests there is minimal contact between guests and associates. “For the pool, we have positioned all furniture for appropriate social distancing of 6’ apart. Staff have been trained to fully wipe down all seating with disinfectant between guest usage, and a freshly laundered rolled towel placed at the head of our lounger is used to indicate to the next guest that it is safe to approach. We have signage to remind guests to socially distance, and staff to keep an eye out as well,” she says. In addition, they are using electrostatic sprayers with disinfectant in public areas, and UV light disinfecting technology in between guest stays. Face masks must always be worn by staff while guests are asked to don face coverings in indoor public spaces.

Other, smaller hotels and resorts are also coming up with strategies for reopening, though most don’t have plans to reopen in the immediate future.

To help limit interactions between guests and employees, the Harbor House Inn, in Mendocino County, CA, is considering opening only 50 percent of its rooms and allowing a “rest” day between guests. This would allow for in-depth cleaning and sanitation. And, The Inns of Aurora, in the Finger Lakes region, NY, have shifted its accommodation model to allow for full buyouts of three of the five inns on the property. Each one will be available at a base price and offer specific, customizable amenities like private chef service and grocery delivery on an a la carte basis.

Check in and arrival experiences are also being reimagined and Arizona’s Castle Hot Springs plan on streamlining the arrival experience with guests before check-in, while the Wayfinder Hotel in Newport, RI, will completely skip lobby and curbside check-in, providing keyless guestroom entry.

For the most part, most properties are considering making in-room dining easier and more comfortable. At The Roxbury at Stratton Falls, Catskill, NY, the usual buffet-style continental breakfast will become a la carte and they are working with local restaurants and food trucks to deliver meals—all of which will be directly delivered to a guestroom door. And, not to worry, Union Grove Distillery and Roxbury Wine & Spirits will also deliver to the hotel.

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