Last Updated on March 1, 2021 by tripcentral
All-inclusive resorts will be one of the first segments of the travel industry that will show signs of modest recovery, even before vaccines are prevalent. Resorts offer expansive properties compared to high rise hotels and cruise ships. Social distancing is entirely possible at these resorts not only due to a lower occupancy.
Guests at all-inclusive resorts are seeking an outdoor experience. Compared to vacations involving city stays, theme parks, museums, indoor bars and restaurants, and shopping, the guest experience at all-inclusive resorts is much more outdoors and room-based. We’ve linked our resort partners health and safety protocols on the tripcentral.ca website where hotel descriptions and pictures are shown (package detail and booking pages). Let’s look at a number of areas that resorts are modifying the guest experience.
Both because of demand and health & safety, resorts are not operating at full capacity. Some resorts are putting a ceiling on the normal capacity to a level of 60% or 70% at the very most. So far, we are hearing of occupancies much lower than that, which are likely to continue until a vaccine is widely available. Lower occupancy, fewer guests, easier to social distance.
Several resort chains are beefing up their systems to enable online check-in. Staff are managing social distancing markers on the floor, and touchpoints (credit card machines, pens, countertops) are being sanitized frequently. We recommend bringing your own pens and doing as much online or in advance as possible (even advance forms etc). Some hotels are requiring temperature checks and health forms completed on arrival. We look forward to interviewing various hotel chains in the coming weeks to find out what happens if someone has a temperature. Presumably, this is not an issue having just been checked before checking in for your flight a few hours earlier.
Many resort chains are sanitizing luggage on arrival and checkout. Likely this is to reduce the chance of transmission from handles and delivery to your room. Of course, you can elect to roll your own luggage to your room to avoid one more contact. It does make one think about baggage handlers unseen at the airport and lifting your luggage off the belt, bus drivers, etc. If you are concerned about this, disposable gloves for the luggage claim area is a good idea.
Keys, Wristbands, Apps
The development of contactless fobs and wristbands for various services was well underway prior to COVID-19. This was about convenience and better service. Some hotel chains are already there; others are working towards a smart wristband for entry into your room, ordering and reservations etc. Apps are becoming available to improve service at the resort including menus, reservations, and other services.
A consistent theme throughout, is a redoubled effort on cleanliness and sanitization. We do not want to walk around with disposable gloves while on vacation, so resorts are frequently cleaning handrails, door handles and elevator buttons. There are some hacks you can use to add to this. Consider hitting elevator buttons with your elbow and using your knee, hip or elbow to open doors with the accessible buttons. Ride elevators only with your own travelling companions or avoid altogether. Walk a bit slower up and down stairs with a handkerchief or tissue ready to grab the handrail if necessary, rather than using it entirely. Try for ground floor rooms if you have trouble with stairs to avoid them altogether.
When companies talk of “sanitization” they often mean a deep cleaning electrostatic technique. Clorox Total 360 is an example of such a method. This kind of fogging is often done once per day or after a change in hotel room guests.
Even the assignment of rooms is being done to be mindful of limiting contact between guests and cleaning staff in hallways by some chains, rather than closing entire wings of the hotel with reduced occupancy. Some hotels are offering guests the choice of times during reduced occupancy to have their room cleaned. You can skip daily cleaning, bed making, turn down service or even daily towel delivery. Most guests do not change towels daily at home. It’s better for the environment (less laundry and energy needed to clean towels), and some might find the tradeoff of making one’s own bed better than having staff in the room every day.
We’re seeing the removal of decorative pillows, shams, and coverings that require dry cleaning. Also being removed, magazines, pens, notepads, and other unnecessary items. We’ve also seen the removal in some cases of in-room coffee makers or restrictions on re-stocking mini-bars. You will see more packaging for soaps and other amenities.
The room is typically deep cleaned after a guest checks out. You will be required to wear masks in fully enclosed hallways, but most resorts have open-air hallways to rooms. If your room has a door handle, it’s often possible to use your elbow to open it, or a tissue / handkerchief (you’re seconds away from washing your hands if necessary).
Hotel service such as room service menus and ordering has been moved to smart TV and phone apps, and in some cases, this development continues to remove the room service menu and hotel services books. Room service may be left at the door to minimize contact with staff.
Some hotel chains are being quite specific in the laundry protocols described including minimum temperatures of 60C for drying and 150C for ironing/folding. Another described segregating staff in the laundry to those dedicated to dirty laundry and those only doing clean.
Food & Beverage
Most resort chains have consulted with experts in the development of their health and safety protocols, and oftentimes, these protocols have been extended to their suppliers with respect to handling and delivery. One chain described washing fruits and vegetables on arrival and only offering whole fruit to guests.
Staff are wearing masks and gloves, and handwashing is specified by one chain to be required every 30 minutes at a minimum. Restaurants have expanded opening hours and social distancing in entry points. Some are requiring reservations on an app or by phone to avoid lineups outside the restaurant. More a la carte options are available as some guests shun the buffet. Staff training is critical in the handling of food and beverage and many resorts are describing protocols such as requiring hand sanitation before delivery of any food or beverage to a guest. Tables are cleared of unnecessary condiments, and if you’ve been to a restaurant lately, many of the same protocols appear to be in place.
Most resort buffets have been modified but some are closed altogether depending on the resort. Plexiglass guards are now common, and many have changed from self-service buffets to a staff served “cafeteria-style” approach. Some resorts still offering a buffet of sorts are enforcing social distancing, changing protocols on utensils, and limiting choices (packaged desserts, cookies, etc.) as opposed to open food items. Floors are marked with direction and distancing stickers.
Pool, Beach, Outdoor Areas
Deck chairs must be six feet apart unless clustered with your travelling companions, and this appears to be the case at the pool area and beach. The reduced occupancy and wider utilization of the property should make this a good experience, but we think about those who like to reserve chairs by placing down a towel or personal effects for hours at a time. We’ll be asking our hotel chains more specifically about how this is working, particularly in pool areas that are normally crowded. Wide shots of beaches have been shown on newscasts, but we think that it is easy to maintain distances between travelling companions at most resorts.
Some of the protocols describe a greater monitoring of pool chlorination levels and limits on pool occupancy. We are having a hard time getting our heads around swim up bars and social distancing and intrigued to hear the specifics from our resort partners. Swim up bars are by nature a magnet for socializing. It seems counterintuitive to have social distancing at swim up bars. Clearly the normal behaviour of loud talking and drinking do not match the current environment.
Pool and beach chairs are described as being sanitized between uses and deep cleaned at the end of the day. We will also look forward to hearing more about this. Pool decks are being described as sanitized daily and even towel desks at least once per hour in some cases.
It is hard to imagine a theatre being any fun in this environment, but of course, many resorts offer entertainment in open-air venues rather than closed theatres. Some describe theatres as operating using “safe distancing” with staff seating guests. Seats are described as sanitized after use.
If you are inclined to hit the gym while on vacation, it’s likely you are using the gym back home. The same sort of protocols exist – sanitizing equipment after use, limitation on capacity inside the gym, social distancing, and daily deep sanitization of public use areas. This is obviously the user’s choice and not a core service used by everyone, especially during these times.
It’s also a choice to engage in spa services at this time. Where open, staff obviously are wearing PPE and using an appointment system to avoid any crowding in the waiting area. Steam rooms and saunas are likely closed altogether, and the situation with jacuzzis and water treatment areas may also be closed or capacity controlled. Guests may be temperature checked and asked health questionnaires.
Not all resorts have onsite medical, but many large ones do. We will be asking our resort partners more specific questions such as what happens if someone has a temperature or shows symptoms of COVID-19. Tour operators and airlines have come to the table with COVID-19 medical policies (normally not covered due to the Government Level 3 Advisory), and these policies allow for expenses related to receiving quarantine and medical treatment locally. Some resorts are isolating a wing on-site, and others are making arrangements with local health authorities.
Closed Areas / Air Filtration / Masks
Some resorts are describing the installation of additional air filtration in closed indoor areas such as specialty restaurants, meeting rooms, etc. Others are describing more frequent cleaning of air conditioning systems. This is a murky area, and we recommend the same protocols as at home. Most are requiring masks in indoor areas, but we think choosing a resort with the most open air is best.
Look for the Health & Safety Icon when you are browsing packages on tripcentral.ca. We’ve linked not only the resort’s health and safety measures but the airline and airport ones as well. You’ll find these on the package details pages (where you have chosen a hotel and specific date) as well as the package booking pages.