Today (May 15, 2020): What a hotel stay might look like post the COVID-19 lockdown?
The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is currently ravaging throughout the world, although several countries appear to be curbing the spread thanks to strict measures and aggressive mitigation efforts. The pandemic has also halted the travel industry, with travelers frantically changing their plans, canceling some trips and postponing others. Although it’s not clear what the coming months will show, many people across the globe would like nothing more than to start traveling again once the threat of COVID-19 had subsided. However, the pandemic may kickstart changes in the travel industry that can alter nearly every aspect of a holiday. I previously published a blogpost on how COVID19 will affect air travel, and today, I have a look on how the pandemic will drastically change our hotel stays in coming months, as many properties will introduce new practices to keep guests and employees safe. Two hotels are at the forefront of the hospitality world’s battle against the coronavirus crisis and might be examples of what the ‘new normal’ may look like: Four Seasons New York and Soneva Maldives.
What do you think a hotel stay will look like post COVID-19? Leave a comment.
With travel and tourism accounting for a huge slice of the Maldivian economy and generating most jobs, clearly a ‘new normal’ has to include the re-opening of the country to tourists. But how can this be done safely? Sonu Shivdasani, CEO of the Soneva group which manages the Maldives’ two most luxurious properties (Soneva Jani and Soneva Fushi), has published an interesting article on the ‘new normal’ that will arise post COVID19 in the Maldives.
In an era where guests are as preoccupied about safety, social distancing, and hygiene, Maldivian resorts are well placed. The country is one of the few to operate a policy of ‘one island one resort’ – a geographic advantage that makes it much easier to prevent and contain a coronavirus outbreak, because each resort can strictly control who steps onto their island. In fact, the English word ‘isolation’ and the Italian ‘isola’ both derive from the Latin ‘insula’, which means island. Island = isolation. Perhaps the country’s tourism strapline “The Sunny Side of Life” needs to change to reflect the safe, isolated nature of its resorts.
Mr Shivdasani believes that customers’ fears over safety will be allayed by a rigorous new testing regime. Soneva plans to give everyone who arrives at our resorts a quick coronavirus test. After completing the test, guests will be escorted straight to their villa, or staff to their host accommodation, until the result comes through. If the test is negative, the guest or host can carry on as normal. If the test is positive, government rules will be followed, which likely means moving people to an isolation facility – which are fortunately some of the world’s most luxurious, located in resorts.
If such a testing policy was introduced across the Maldives, it will reassure tourists that the country is safe to visit, and also reduce the likelihood of future virus outbreaks. Robust testing for coronavirus also provides the Maldives with the opportunity of creating something truly unique: virus free hotels. By testing everyone who comes onto an island, it can be ensured that everybody on it is clear of the virus. This would render social distancing, and no-touching rules, unnecessary within that particular island. Maldivian resorts could thus transport guests back to the heyday of 2019, without constant coronavirus reminders spoiling their holiday. This could be a major ‘differentiator’ for Maldivian tourism compared to other holiday destinations.
The ‘new normal’ in the Maldives will be different to the normal life enjoyed before COVID19. But the country remains extremely lucky because of its unique geography. If the right testing protocols are established, the Maldives will enjoy a significant competitive advantage – something that could underpin its future prosperity, even during these troubled and turbulent times.
Contrary to the Maldives, it is almost impossible to create virus-free tourist havens for the rest of the world, which is largely made up of bigger countries adjoined to each other by land borders. The threat of coronavirus infection will always lurk in the building across the street, the hotel staff who travel to work each morning on crowded public transport, or from the neighboring country with a porous border. But even here, things may change for the good, and the ultraluxurious Four Seasons New York may offer a glimpse of what the new normal may look like in hotels located in densely populated areas. Last month, the property’s owner H. Ty Warner used the hotel to house medical professionals who did not want to risk spreading the coronavirus at home. This event set into motion a series of moves that have overhauled the hotel’s standard operating procedure an created a “no touch points” policy in the entire hotel, which is completely against a hotel’s nature of being hands-on and kind:
- Before entering the hotel, guests must have their temperatures taken by one of the two nurses stationed at the hotel entrance. Anyone with a fever is not permitted into the hotel. While the Four Seasons does not intend this procedure to be permanent, temperature checks upon arrival may be a part of the new normal at more hotels as business and leisure travel resumes.
- Check-ins and check-outs are performed virtually, with no human-to-human contact.
- Elevator rides are limited to one guest per car.
- Upon check-in, guests are given three separate bags for used towels, used bedding and trash. When towels and bedding need to be cleaned and when garbage needs to be removed, guests must place the bags near the room’s entrance and contact housekeeping, who will then take the bags.
- Guests who wish to use the hotel’s gym must sign up for a specific time slot to continue social distancing practices.
- Room service has been discontinued, and the hotel’s restaurant, bar and complimentary coffee station have been closed indefinitely. The hotel’s new dining option are pre-made boxed meals, available in an industrial refrigerator in the lobby.
- Amenities such as minibars, excess hangers, excess linens and excess pillows have been removed from the rooms.
- The room is left vacant for a full 24 hours after a guest checks out. Then a cleaning crew comes in with hazmat suits and does a deep cleaning, after which the room is left empty for 24 more hours. Then housekeeping enters to prepare the room for the next guests while wearing appropriate PPE, or personal protective equipment.