What Luxury Hotel Stays Will Be Like After Coronavirus, From Check-in to Check-out (Video)

How sprawling luxury resorts are primed to lead the way into post-pandemic reopening.

As hotels cautiously reopen for the summer travel season, health and safety concerns are top of mind. Gifted with acres upon acres of land, sprawling luxury resorts — from wilderness retreats to private islands — provide plenty of space to feel comfortable without being crowded. And it’s these properties that are in an optimal position to lead the way.

“Properties with fewer people and more space far away from cities are going to be big hits for travelers who are ready to hit the road again,” said John E. DiScala, founder of travel blog Johnny Jet. “But most of all, people want to be healthy, and I’m still seeing many people who are hesitant to board a flight for a vacation at the moment.”

Little Palm Island
Taylor Volkens; Little Palm Island Resort & Spa

In May, the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) launched its Safe Stay guidelines, developed with input from hotels, public health experts, and recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These guidelines are being adopted as the baseline health and cleaning requirements at thousands of hotels, with many determined to go beyond the recommendations.

Additionally, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts announced a new partnership with Johns Hopkins Medicine International to develop Lead With Care, an enhanced health and safety program for its properties. And Montage International has partnered with One Medical, a leading national digital health and primary care organization, to provide virtual care services to hotel associates and guests.

Balcony at Montage Palmetto Bluff
Courtesy of Montage Palmetto Bluff

“Part of the attractive feeling of these properties is their access to the outdoors and green space,” says Kate Walsh, dean of the School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University. “Going forward, one of the key elements will be determining how hotels minimize touchpoints, but still keep personalized, attentive service that’s the hallmark of these resorts. Right now, taking care of guests is really about safety, but this situation presents an opportunity to rethink our service system and find innovative ideas that are good for us, like bringing experiences outdoors.”

Getting There and Checking In

For those who are determined to get far away from home, once you’ve navigated the flying experience in the age of COVID-19, the last thing you want upon arriving in a destination is to pack into a shuttle bus to get to the resort. The Resort at Paws Up, which remained open this spring, offers private transfers from the airport, including the option of leaving a Lexus along with directions to the resort or being led by a bellman in a separate vehicle. Meanwhile, helicopter transfers at North Island, Seychelles, will resume with the reopening of Seychelles International Airport on June 1, and units will be both sanitized and private.

Cliffside Camp at The Resort at Paws Up
Courtesy of The Resort at Paws Up

Once on the property, resorts have attempted to make check-in as contactless as possible. For example, The Ocean Club, a Four Seasons Resort (scheduled to reopen when the Bahamas border opens) offers contactless check-in through the Four Seasons app. The app also makes it possible to communicate with hotel staff without having to use the in-room phone or make personal contact. Also offering contactless check-in and checkout options is The Roundtree, Amagansett, which will reopen on June 1.

In some cases, staff members and guests will be required to undergo a temperature verification. Guests at The Roundtree, as well as at Mulia Villas Bali (which did not close), will be checked upon arrival by a thermal scanner. At Mulia Villas Bali, arriving suitcases will also be sanitized prior to entering the resort.

Pool and beach view of The Mulia in Bali
Courtesy of The Mulia Bali

Inside Your Room and Housekeeping

Whether as part of check-in or an amenity in your room, individual Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kits, complete with sanitizing wipes, gloves, masks, and personal hand sanitizer, will be widely available at many luxury resorts. In-room touchpoints have been minimized and non-essential products, like magazines, brochures, minibar items, water bottles, cotton swabs, and decorative pillows, have been removed.

Upon checkout, rooms at Little Palm Island Resort & Spa (to reopen on June 1) are thoroughly cleaned and disinfected, and used linens are carefully folded and bagged without shaking to avoid releasing particles into the air. At Sorrel River Ranch (reopened in May), once a guest checks out, the room will remain clear for 24 hours before cleaning, and then an additional 48 hours before the next guest can check in.

Little Palm Island
Taylor Volkens; Little Palm Island Resort & Spa
Little Palm Island
Taylor Volkens; Little Palm Island Resort & Spa

Most properties allow guests to completely skip housekeeping during their stay, or even schedule it as the need arises. At North Island, villa butlers will continue to be available, but will now visit accommodations only when called upon. At Montage Palmetto Bluff (reopening June 4), all items delivered to and picked up from guest rooms will be thoroughly sanitized.

All the resorts we spoke with have enhanced cleanliness standards throughout the property, too. Popular in-room touchpoints, like countertops, door handles, light switches, power outlets, and remote controls, are routinely sanitized. At The Ocean Club, the Lead With Care program includes blacklight inspection by room attendants in addition to rooms being disinfected daily with EPA products. The Brando (to reopen in summer 2020) will steam clean items that cannot be cleaned with detergents, such as upholstered furniture and mattresses.

Public Spaces and Activities

Most properties are addressing public space safety concerns by ensuring employees, especially those coming into contact with guests, are wearing masks and gloves, as well as sanitizing items passed between them, like pens, keys, and credit cards. At Rosewood Baha Mar (scheduled to reopen when the Bahamas border opens), attention has been given to reducing the number of items passed between associates and guests.

In public spaces, high-touch areas are being cleaned more frequently, and hand sanitizing stations are placed throughout the property. Furniture and decor are being shifted to accommodate physical distancing needs, and fitness equipment is being moved to allow for more space for guests as well as cleaned between each use. High-traffic areas and recreational equipment, which usually get sanitized at night when there are no people around, are being cleaned routinely throughout the day.

Little Palm Island
Taylor Volkens; Little Palm Island Resort & Spa

Outdoor adventures are being examined as well, and are either being made private or allowed with appropriate social distancing. The Resort at Paws Up, for example, is currently only offering activities with these concerns in mind, so rappelling and rafting will need to wait.

Restaurants and Room Service

One major benefit of many of these properties is the wealth of dining options available. As on-property restaurants are being adjusted to accommodate fewer guests spaced farther apart, there’s plenty of space to fit everyone in outdoor dining venues. In-room dining possibilities have extended to porch drop-offs, backyard barbecue setups, and even contactless full-meal delivery. In hotel restaurants, food preparation precautions, including wearing gloves and using contactless methods for transferring food to others, are strictly enforced. Menus are wiped down between each use, and some properties are even making menus available online for guests to access with their phones. Several items that may have been on the table, like salt and pepper shakers, will now be available on demand. Even the popular evening s’mores cart at the Lodge at Edgewood Tahoe (reopened in May) has been transformed from a communal amenity to individually wrapped s’mores packages.

Overall, while new health and safety protocols are still being proposed and tested at properties around the world, one thing is certain: Guests can expect changes the next time they book into a hotel.

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