We’re here to guide you through the coronavirus pandemic. Sign up to the Life newsletter for daily tips, advice, how-tos and escapism.
Hotels are officially able to reopen from the 4 July – and big chains, as well as boutique hotels, are keen to open their doors after a three-month hiatus.
Your experience at a hotel isn’t expected to change massively, but there will be some notable differences. One of the most obvious is that the general vibe of hotels will be a lot quieter, as only so many people will be allowed in reception, restaurants and other shared facilities at any given time.
For those clamouring to put a getaway in the diary, patience is key. It’s likely hotels will have a phased reopening. Travelodge, for example, will reopen a few hotels to the public from July 4, with a view to reopening everything by the end of the month.
So when you do go to a hotel, what will it be like?
The past few months have been a learning curve for Travelodge, as 51 hotels remained open to support key workers. They installed perspex screens in reception areas and added social distancing stickers to the floor. Spokesperson Shakila Ahmed says a limited number of people have been allowed in reception at any one time to avoid crowding.
Some hotels, like Bovey Castle in Devon, are amending check in and out times, so there won’t be crowds in reception at peak times and, in designated areas, there will be one-way systems to prevent guests and staff crossing paths.
Multiple hotels also plan to have less furniture so there will be a more open (or sparse) feel to public areas. And IHG, which owns Holiday Inn, says with lifts, only one person, or people from the same household, will be allowed in at any one time.
New levels of cleaning
Hotels are gearing up to enhance existing room-cleaning services, as well as the regular cleaning of customer touch points throughout buildings – think lift buttons, door handles and banisters.
In guest rooms, cleaners will disinfect light switches, door handles, TV remotes, coat hangers and thermostats. Some hotels, like Hilton, plan on providing disinfecting wipes for guest use, too. Meanwhile housekeeping services are likely to be optional, as guests might not want staff entering their rooms.
St Ermin’s Hotel in London has a 98-point cleaning procedure in place, which includes steam cleaning and having a 72-hour gap between guests staying in a room. And IHG will offer individual guest cleaning kits on request, which include face masks, hand sanitiser and sanitising wipes.
Changes to facilities
Some hotels will close their fitness centres and gyms for cleaning multiple times a day, as well as pool areas. Expect fitness equipment to be more spread out, meaning fewer people will be able to use the gym at once.
Accor, which runs the Mondrian, Pullman, Novotel, Mercure and Ibis hotels, is considering repurposing bedrooms and meeting rooms to create private office and intimate co-working spots – the aim being to enable safe working spaces for people unable to work from home or offices.
Goodbye to buffets
Travelodge’s restaurants have been closed during lockdown, but they’re likely to open when the chain reopens to the public. There’ll be more of a focus on takeaway food – such as the breakfast box service, and stone-baked pizzas in boxes – in addition to ordering room service.
IHG has ditched the buffet setup in favour of a “grab and go” breakfast option and a la carte room service.
A spokesperson at Bovey Castle says they’ll be closing some of their dining rooms and adapting dining options, such as modifying room service and ceasing to offer buffets. “We will be managing table reservations so guest arrivals are spaced more evenly to prevent tables arriving together,” they added.
Upping the technology
Accor has a facility for guests to communicate with hotel staff using WhatsApp, whether that be for room service, housekeeping or reservations.
The hotel chain is also trialling digital key technology, enabling guests to book a room, check in, access their room, and order and pay for food and drink, using their mobile phone. Hilton has a similar scheme in place using its Honors app.
Many hotels also plan to ask guests to pay online, rather than in person, to reduce the risk of transmission from credit cards and handling money.