Let’s face it: vacation trips will look different this year. You may have stayed near your home since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country, but now that the festive season approaches, you are tempted to visit loved ones. When booking a hotel, you are likely asking one thing, “Am I safe?”
Numerous hotel chains have introduced new hygiene guidelines in the hopes of making travelers feel that way.
Travelers must take their own precautions
When Todd Rooker and his wife Kristin recently took a trip from their home in Scottsdale, Arizona to three national parks, they were nervous at the prospect of facing the crowds. But after the couple canceled two previous vacations, they made progress.
“We diligently wear masks and use hand sanitizer when we’re in public, so we felt that all risks could be largely mitigated,” said Rooker.
The couple stayed in three lodges and three Marriott properties and were relieved that many new cleaning and security protocols were in place.
“Every hotel we stayed at had a sticker on the door that said it had been refurbished,” said Mr. Rooker. “In each room it was described which surfaces were cleaned. There were restrictions on elevator capacity – a family traveling together or two if not – and self-disinfecting stickers on the buttons. “
Staff wore masks and those handling groceries or cleaning rooms wore gloves, added Mr Rooker, who used the Marriott app to check in and out. In a hotel restaurant that is 50% busy, employees took the couple’s temperatures before they sat down. The tables were divided by plexiglass and signs indicated that the surface had been disinfected. Diners have accessed the menu via a QR code on their smartphone.
“We felt safe in most places,” said Rooker.
Cleaning is done from behind the scenes to the center
Before COVID-19, hotels focused on making a great first impression with guests and hopefully getting positive reviews or recommendations online. Now travelers expect hotels to be sterile and safe, and not just shiny.
In the past few months, hotels have introduced and promoted improved cleaning protocols to reassure customers: Hilton’s CleanStay, Wyndhams Count On Us, and Best Westerns We Care Clean are just a few programs promoting their commitment to hygiene. Additionally, the American Hotel & Lodging Association’s Safe Stay initiative provides consumers with a list of pandemic safety standards.
New cleaning plans usually include disinfecting public areas and guest rooms more frequently, signage to encourage social distancing, and commitments to use high-tech cleaning tools, said Dr. Suzanne Markham Bagnera told Medical Daily. Dr. Bagnera is a clinical assistant professor in the School of Hospitality Administration at Boston University.
“Hotels had cleaning protocols before the pandemic. These are only better and more visible, ”said Dr. Bagnera, a former hotel manager. “Normally we would have cleaned at night and tried not to interrupt the guests. Now we’re going to reverse that and in many cases surfaces and areas with a high point of contact are cleaned at least every hour. “
Some new procedures hotel guests will see include signage on the front door describing new hygiene protocols and the mandatory wearing of masks indoors, said Dr. Bagnera. Rappelling or stickers keep the guests apart.
The front desk may provide a safety kit including gloves, face masks, antibacterial wipes, and hand sanitizer. And high-touch horror stories like dirty remote controls, lamp switches, and water glasses have also been targeted.
“Many properties disinfect remote controls and put them in plastic bags for each guest,” she said. “Some have announced obligations to use electrostatic sprayers or UV light. A few weeks ago a company called CIRQ + released new autonomous robots for contactless sterilization. “
Do your research in advance
Dr. Bagnera suggested following local and state quarantine rules carefully before traveling to your destination.
“It’s a moving target: even if you do your research today, a state could make a change tomorrow based on the number of COVID-19 cases,” she said. “Think about whether the state you are going to is low or high risk and how this will affect your return home. In Massachusetts we have a list of low risk states that I can go back and forth to without being quarantined for 14 days. “
Long-stay branded hotels are great choices for travelers as they come with kitchens. Stocking your room with groceries and cooking is a great alternative when al fresco dining is not an option.
Wendy Helfenbaum is a Montreal-based writer and television producer whose work has appeared on AARP.org, PBS ‘NextAvenue.org, Stria News, WomansDay.com, Costco Connection, Canadian Living, and others. Follow her @WendyHelfenbaum.