Photo: Courtesy Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills
As we begin to see what travel might look like in a post-coronavirus world, one fact is already clear: Companies won’t be cutting any corners when it comes to hygiene, safety, and cleanliness. In the past two weeks, almost every major luxury hotel brand has announced new procedures and protocols for adhering to government-mandated social-distancing guidelines and keeping guest rooms and common spaces clean. And earlier this week, the World Travel & Tourism Council introduced a first-of-its-kind safety stamp for travel companies that meet the council’s health and hygiene protocols.
Hilton teamed up with Lysol and the Mayo Clinic on a program that features a ten-point deep-cleaning procedure for guest rooms, which includes placing seals on doors once housekeeping has disinfected a room. The company, which owns Waldorf Astoria and Conrad Hotels & Resorts, will also evaluate the use of electrostatic sprayers with disinfectant mists and other high-tech cleaning solutions.
Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts announced a partnership with Johns Hopkins Medicine International to launch a new global health and safety program. Every Four Seasons property will have an on-site hygiene officer, public spaces will be cleaned hourly, restaurants will have digital menus, and employees will undergo new training. The program will roll out as each individual property reopens.
Frequent cleaning, socially distant check-in procedures, spaced-out tables at restaurants, and staff training will be the norm at every property around the world, in addition to other thoughtful and innovative adjustments: At Edgewood Tahoe, which reopened earlier this month, the nightly s’mores cart now features individually wrapped treats, and the spa menu emphasizes touch-free treatments, such as a reiki energy healing session. Thermal cameras will be installed at Las Ventanas al Paraíso, a Rosewood Resort in Los Cabos, Mexico; and at Lake Como’s Grand Hotel Tremezzo, which reopens on June 26, only 30 of 90 rooms will be available to help adhere to Italy’s strict social-distancing guidelines.
“Wearing masks will likely be common practice for a while, and cleanliness will become a key selling point for travel suppliers,” says Virtuoso travel advisor Leah Smith. “I’m quite confident no one will be leaving home without multiple bottles of hand sanitizer.”
Virtuoso agency executive Ken Neibaur agrees: “Look for the small things to change. In-room amenities such as pens and magazines will be presented fresh at check-in, minibar inventory will be much more creative and desirable, and complimentary amenities such as hand sanitizer and wipes will be more appealing than a plate of cookies or a fruit basket.”
Cruise lines are expected to share their similar – perhaps even more stringent – measures soon. Most lines aren’t resuming itineraries until later this summer at the earliest – the CDC currently has a no-sail order for ships operating in U.S. waters in effect until July 24. The restriction isn’t expected to be lifted until each cruise line develops comprehensive guidelines for how they’ll keep guests safe. (What to expect? No more buffets, for starters, plus temperature checks, blocked cabins to keep passengers apart, mask requirements, and more.)
“As Covid-19 testing becomes more widely available and procedures evolve to include real-time results, our new reality may include medical clearance prior to embarkation,” says Virtuoso advisor Deborah Director, who adds that 90 percent of her clients have opted to reschedule affected sailings rather than cancel them. “It’s something I suppose we’ll see across many different areas as we learn how to adjust to our new normal.”
Like the coronavirus pandemic itself, things are still constantly evolving, and as travel companies figure out how to best accommodate their guests, policies will ebb and flow. Our advice: Work with a travel advisor for access to the most up-to-date information.