COVID-safe travel: What to expect at hotels and other short-term accommodation providers

As the hotel and accommodations sector across the globe tries to recover from the fallout of COVID-19 by adopting new health and hygiene guidelines, travellers can expect measures such as mandatory temperature checks, socially distanced arrangements and limited use of public facilities at most hotels and accommodations this holiday season.

The hospitality industry is one of the worst-affected sectors amid the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. With business and leisure travel grinding to a halt across the globe since the beginning of the year, hotels, restaurants, theme parks, cinemas have been forced to stay closed for months. Smaller hotels and accommodation providers are at risk of shutting down permanently due to the pandemic’s disruptive effect on the world’s travel ecosystem.

As a result, travellers in several countries will have lesser choices when it comes to picking out an accommodation this holiday season, especially if they are looking at budget options. Hotels are operating at a much-reduced capacity and occupancy rates have also hit an all-time low; hoteliers in some Indian cities for example have reported that occupancy is in the range of 15-30 percent of capacity. Leisure travel has decreased at a sudden and rapid pace, while business travellers are planning their trips for shorter durations and are wary of being put up in hotels unless absolutely necessary.

Amid the pandemic, however, several hotel businesses have managed to stay afloat by adopting a high level of health and safety measures at their establishments and abiding by the COVID-19 guidelines prescribed by local authorities. At most well-established hotels and accommodations around the globe, travellers can now expect measures like contactless check-ins and check-outs, mandatory thermal screenings, socially distanced arrangements at public spaces within the establishment and frequent sanitisation of rooms and other spaces. Public facilities such as gyms and swimming pools are likely to be closed to guests, particularly in regions with higher rates of local transmission. Wearing masks may be mandatory while interacting with hotel staff and when visiting common areas such as restaurants, bars and lounges inside the hotel. Many hotels are training their staff to ensure that good hygiene practices are maintained; the staff in such establishments maintain daily health checklists, sanitise surfaces regularly, use gloves, masks, hairnets and aprons, and are prepared to deal with guests who have fallen sick.

Aside from the safety protocols, some companies have also come up with creative marketing and business strategies to hold on to their customer base. For example, an Indian resort company has launched a communications campaign whereby travellers can find out about local COVID-19 restrictions from their helpline; they are also offering COVID insurance among other facilities as a part of their travel package. Additionally, the hospitality industry in some countries have implemented a certification system to indicate that certain hotels are completely up-to-mark in terms of health and hygiene regulations such as regular disinfection, adherence to social distancing and other government-mandated guidelines.

As the hospitality sector continues to reel under the heavy impact of the COVID-19 outbreak, it is likely to still take several months before hotels can start to recover and operate at pre-COVID levels. Travellers should expect increased COVID-related measures at most hotels and accommodations in the foreseeable future and comply with all directives. It is advisable for visitors to check prior to booking whether an accommodation is abiding by general guidelines on cleanliness and social distancing; health and safety measures may not always be guaranteed, particularly at non-regulated accommodations like homestays. Travellers should ensure they have a sufficient supply of face masks and hand sanitisers as these may not always be readily available at their accomodation. Abiding by these basic health measures will go a long way in restoring the balance in the travel industry in a post-pandemic world.

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