Welcome to the post-Covid hotel and why it won't be business as usual

Welcome to the post-Covid hotel: Next month can’t come soon enough for UK hoteliers – but it won’t exactly be business as usual

  • Hotels are preparing to welcome back guests with three-quarters saying they are ready to open on July 4
  • Check-in times are likely to be staggered, or set later in the afternoon, to allow for deep cleaning of rooms
  • Expect rigorous cleaning with an emphasis on contact points such as door handles, light switches and phones
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

Up and down the country, hotels are busy preparing to welcome guests back after the closures enforced by coronavirus.

‘Three-quarters of hospitality businesses say they’ll be ready to open by July 4,’ says Adam Raphael, editor of The Good Hotel Guide (goodhotelguide.com), which independently reviews 850 hotels, inns and B&Bs in Great Britain and Ireland.

Many of us can’t wait to swap the pressures of lockdown for the civilised comforts of a country house hotel or boutique hideaway, albeit in the new travel landscape of face masks, temperature checks and social distancing. 

Many of us can’t wait to swap the pressures of lockdown for a night in a hotel but they will look very different when they re-open

Will they still be fun? And worth our cash?

Here’s what to expect…

THE NEW CHECK-IN

  • After making your reservation, expect a pre-visit health questionnaire to land in your inbox. This will ask you to confirm you don’t have coronavirus symptoms and have not been in contact with those who do.

Dusters are out, lawns mowed, bathrooms scrubbed and snow-white pillows getting a final plump — even though the government has yet to say how hotels will be allowed to operate next month.

More importantly, there’s no indication as to when the two-metre rule might be switched to one metre, which will make a huge difference in helping hospitality back on its feet.

So, full marks for all the preparations — and I’m convinced the welcome we’ll receive from UK hoteliers will be super-effusive. Some of the new measures to keep us safe don’t exactly have a romantic ring to them, but we’ll adapt and, hopefully, they’ll soon be watered down.

Silver linings? Well, there’ll be no more queueing at the toaster and no eavesdropping from guests at the adjacent table that’s too close for comfort. We can coo (or row) in peace.

What’s paramount is that we should book as soon as we can and do our bit to help.

  • Don’t expect valet parking, and do be prepared to carry your own luggage. Staff will assist guests at the posh, 470-acre Beaverbrook estate in Surrey, though, and all cases will be disinfected on arrival.
  • Temperature checks will be standard. At Hampton Manor in Warwickshire, opening July 7. The lobby will be monitored by a temperature camera scanner that can test 30 guests at a time.
  • Can’t find anyone at reception? That could be the hotel policy. ‘Our desk will be unmanned, but with a bell to ring,’ explains The Eastbury in Dorset. Staff will then direct guests to their rooms ‘where your keys (freshly sanitised) will be waiting’.
  • You will not be required to wear a face mask, although in some hotels this is recommended, and many are providing complimentary PPE amenity kits of mask, gloves, wipes and hand sanitiser.

PUBLIC AREAS 

  • Restaurants, lounges and communal areas are being reconfigured to create what some hoteliers like to call ‘physical distancing’. ‘We prefer this term,’ explains Robin Hutson, CEO of Lime Wood in the New Forest, ‘so it doesn’t feel like you can’t enjoy interacting with the team’.
  • Protective screens, distance-marking lines and one-way routes may be implemented in larger properties, as at 60-room Bovey Castle in Devon. Where there are lifts, guests will be asked to ride as household groups, and to ascend only.

HOUSEKEEPING RULES 

  • Expect rigorous cleaning with an emphasis on contact points such as door handles, light switches, phones and the TV remote. Where practical, rooms will be left vacant before re-use — up to 72 hours in some cases — and sealed prior to entry.
  • Newspapers, magazines and other reading materials will be removed, along with familiar features like minibars and ironing boards. Services such as laundry, babysitting and rollaway beds will be withdrawn, and even pets are affected — guests checking in with a dog will now need to bring its own bed.
  • Housekeepers look set to become the key-worker heroes of the hospitality industry, though you may never see them. Unless you’re staying four nights or more, your hotel probably won’t offer ‘mid-stay cleans’. Bags will be provided for your used towels, with fresh supplies left outside the door.

EATING AND DRINKING

The days of pigging out at the breakfast buffet look set to be over with breakfast having to be pre-ordered the night before at one hotel

  • Sadly, the days of pigging out at the breakfast buffet and feasting on lavish ‘grazing tables’ are over, or at least on hold. Instead, timed reservations for all meals will be the norm, with guests asked to peruse a la carte menus online.
  • ‘Breakfast will be pre-ordered the night before,’ says Chris Hardwicke, general manager at 31-room The Bird, Bath. ‘Our dinner menu will be shorter and we are considering doing themed nights such as ‘Fish and Chips’, with a hotel app available for ordering and card pre-payment’.
  • Dining tables will be arranged to satisfy the two-metre rule, and probably be without linen. Guests eating at pricey Chewton Glen in the New Forest will find these lack salt and pepper shakers (available on request), while cocktails will be made with batch ingredients ‘to limit the handling of products’.
  • Bars will be table service only, with more emphasis on eating and drinking outdoors on terraces and in courtyards. There will be a greater choice of food ‘to go’ and for picnics in the grounds
  • Room service is also encouraged with many properties dropping the tray charge. Menu choices are likely to be restricted and delivery will be only to the bedroom door.

TIME TO PLAY 

Hotel pools should be open but you may have to book a slot for private use and follow a one-way system

  • Kids’ clubs will mostly operate outside, weather-permitting. Luxury Family Hotels, which has five properties in England, plans to increase its Ofsted-registered ‘den’ sessions, but with the number of children attending reduced.
  • Fancy a swim? The pool should be open, but you may have to book a slot for private use and follow a one-way system. Guests may need to get changed in their rooms.
  • Once Government guidelines are issued for the use of spas and fitness centres, expect to find screens, paired loungers set two metres apart and a 30-minute break for cleaning between treatments.

And the good news . . .

If all this sounds off-putting, don’t underestimate the resolve of hoteliers to create a joyful atmosphere and make this challenging situation work.

‘We’re no longer able to greet you warmly with a handshake,’ says Nick Hanson, general manager at Mallory Court Country House Hotel near Leamington Spa, which will open July 17, ‘but rest assured we’ll be raising our imaginary hat and delighted to welcome you.’

  • Unless otherwise stated, all hotels mentioned plan to open on July 4, subject to government announcements. For more places to stay including special offers, see goodhotelguide.com.

HERE ARE THE DEALS AT HOTELS ACROSS THE UK

Three nights for two until August 31 at Lastingham Grange, a country house hotel in Yorkshire. B&B doubles from £220 (lastinghamgrange.com).

Three nights for two from July 4 until the end of 2020 at Little Barwick House, a restaurant with rooms, in Somerset. B&B doubles from £130 (littlebarwick.co.uk).

Four nights for three until March 2021 at Lords of the Manor, a Cotswolds hotel in Gloucestershire. Doubles from £199 including dinner and breakfast (lordsofthemanor.com).

Lords of the Manor, a Cotswolds hotel in Gloucestershire. Doubles here start from £199 including dinner and breakfast

Four nights for three from July 4 until the end of March 2021 at the Park House Hotel, including dinner and breakfast, in Sussex near the South Downs National Park. Doubles from £195 (parkhousehotel.com).

Save 20 per cent off trips of three nights or more from August 1 until the end of 2020 at Rufflets in St. Andrews, Scotland. Doubles from £338 per night (rufflets.co.uk).

Get the second night half price until September 13 at Southernhay House in the centre of Exeter, Devon. Doubles from £162 per night (southernhayhouse.com).

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