Strict distancing and hygiene protocols aside, here’s what else to expect at your upcoming staycay.
Looking at the resilience and long-term viability of Covid-19, it will be a long while before travel-hungry Singaporeans can hop onto a plane with a peace of mind. In the meantime, staycations are likely the closest holiday experience we can get. With hotel rooms being snapped up as quickly as our favourite Korean moisturisers on sale, the real challenge is securing a booking at your preferred date and hotel.
Be prepared for new norms, of course. In an industry that has been hard hit by the pandemic, hotels have had to change the way they operate, to ensure a safe environment for guests.
Senior editor of travel website The Points Guy, Melanie Lieberman, told Huffington Post that hotels need to consider every facility and service and determine what actions to take to make travellers feel safe. “Though many of these changes may be temporary, some may be permanent”, she said.
Stricter social distancing and hygiene protocols are a given, but what does this mean for hotel guests in the future?
1. Get used to masked greetings and temperature-taking
Masks have been used across the globe as the first line of defence against the virus and studies have shown that wearing a face mask could significantly reduce the risk of virus transmission.
Adam Deflorian, CEO of hospitality technology and marketing firm AZDS Interactive Group, says that there might even be branded masks for employees, as well as new training methods to teach staff how to show emotions while masked-up.
Temperature screenings for guests and employees could also be implemented as a precautionary measure.
A national campaign known as SG Clean in Singapore has been rolled out across industries, with a set of standards for hotels that includes temperature screening for guests “where feasible and applicable”.
2. Clean and disinfected surroundings via technology
We can expect an enhanced set of cleaning protocols, which include a more thorough disinfection of high-touch surfaces and possibly new sanitation technology.
“Industry experts say ultraviolet, germ-killing lighting, germ-killing robots and contact-tracing apps could all be embraced by the hospitality industry”, Lieberman suggested.
For instance, Marriott International stated that they are testing ultraviolet light technology and rolling out electrostatic sprayers to sanitise surfaces throughout their hotels.
Surfaces will be cleaned with increased frequency and hand-sanitising stations will be installed at hotel entrances, front desks and elevators.
3. Contactless check-ins and services could be the norm
While people may go to a hotel to enjoy being taken care of, now hotels have to find ways to provide service to guests with limited interaction.
Mobile digital check-ins and digital keys adopted by some hotels before the pandemic may become the norm now.
Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts for example, will be enforcing social distancing measures across all services for the guests’ protection, which may include contactless check-in and housekeeping services.
The Four Seasons App currently allows guests the ability to manage reservations and request for room service, giving them the option of contactless engagement throughout their stay.
Some hotels could even use food delivery robots to serve guests.
4. Fewer guests and longer waiting times for lifts
“Most, if not all hotels, will be mandated to have fewer rooms open for service, and they will use this to market their properties as safe and secluded vacation destinations”, predicted Rob Karp, CEO of travel planning service MilesAhead. This means that if a hotel has 100 rooms, only 60 will be available for reservations.
Apart from apartment and office buildings, elevator safety is also a concern for hotels.
Common practice in the future could include frequent sanitisation of elevators and restrictions put on the number of riders. In fact, Four Seasons Hotel in New York City has limited the number of people allowed in elevator rides to only one guest per car.
Public amenities may also see amendments to policies to protect guests’ wellbeing. Anantara Hotels, Resorts and Spas said that “fitness and holistic classes will be adapted for guests’ optimum wellbeing”, implying private personal-training sessions will be implemented instead.
5. Goodbye buffets, hello pre-wrapped foods
An experiment by Japan’s national broadcasting organisation NHK showed how easy it is to spread Covid-19 within 30 minutes at a buffet, so it’s no surprise if buffets may be scrapped entirely at hotels.
Phil Cordell, global head of new brand development at Hilton Hotels and Resorts, said that management teams are looking to reinvent buffets, by replacing them with single-serve options or having a staff member serve guests at buffets instead.
Pre-wrapped food items are also likely to be the answer in the future, said Christopher Anderson, who is a professor at Cornell University’s Hotel School.
Restaurants would also have to follow social distancing measures such as physically-distanced queues and tables, outdoor seating and partitioned barriers.
Almost all restaurants under the Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts will provide a la carte service with digital menus wherever possible, to minimise social interaction with guests.
As air travel is still restricted and we will probably not leave the country for a holiday any time soon, it’s reassuring to know that hotels have stepped up to adopt new precautionary measures during this time of coronavirus.
While hotel stays are still possible post-Covid-19, they may never be the same again.
A version of this article first appeared on asiaone.com.