It’s hard to believe summer is already coming to a close — especially since the season passed with many Americans unable to take their annual road trip or family vacation. In the post-coronavirus world in which we now find ourselves, staying at a hotel seems largely out of the question. That sentiment is only underscored by the fact that hotels are currently on track to lose up to $400 million in room revenue per day as patrons avoid the hospitality industry altogether. But is staying at a hotel really all that dangerous?
The answer to that question is more complex than one might think. While experts agree that most families are safest at home, they also recognize that a hotel stay is still safer than going to the beach, mall, or a backyard barbecue, as long as proper precautions are followed. We outline how families can stay safe from coronavirus in a hotel in the guide below. Take a look at what the experts have to say and decide for yourself whether or not you can squeeze in one last hurrah before the summer’s over.
COVID-19 & Its Impact on the Hospitality Industry
It comes as no surprise that since the global pandemic erupted in mid-February, the hospitality industry has seen record lows in patronage. In fact, the impact to the travel industry has been nine times worse than the aftermath of 9/11, according to reports by the American Hotel & Lodging Association.
“COVID-19 is like nothing we’ve ever seen before,” said Arne Sorenson, president and CEO of Marriott International. “For a company that’s 92 years old, that’s bore witness to the Great Depression, World War II, and many other economic and global crises, that’s saying something. But here are the facts: COVID-19 is having a more severe and sudden financial impact on our business than 9/11 and the 2009 financial crisis combined.”
Thousands of hotels have been shuttered completely as the world waits for vaccines to regain confidence in the safety of travel. However, despite this historic impact, hotels are doing everything in their power to improve safety precautions and allow visitors to safely stay on their premises. In particular, Hilton recently partnered with the Mayo Clinic and Lysol on the “CleanStay with Lysol Protection” program, which brought improved safety measures like eliminating pens and paper in guest rooms, providing contactless check-in, and thoroughly cleaning high-touch surface areas.
As many other hotels embrace these new safety precautions, medical experts are confident that they are sufficient enough to help consumers slowly re-enter the travel industry.
Is Staying in a Hotel Safe During Coronavirus?
According to Dr. John Carlo, CEO of Prism Health North Texas, staying in a hotel is ranked as the fourth-safest activity consumers can enjoy during the coronavirus pandemic. That’s higher than having dinner at a friend’s house, working in an office building for a week, and swimming in a public pool.
“Because of the relatively high ability to easily maintain six feet of distance from others, avoid high-touch surfaces, and have a relatively low density of people inside a building, hotels are considered a low-moderate risk,” he explained.
The biggest factor in determining whether or not a hotel is safe to stay in is understanding what that particular hotel or “BnB” is doing to ensure visitor safety and well-being. Experts agree that visitors should make sure the hotel they choose is following the proper guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
“I think that as long as hotels and Airbnbs are transparent about what measures they are taking to make sure that it is safe for people to come and stay with them, it should be okay,” said Dr. Gabriela M. Andujar Vazquez, infectious disease physician and associate hospital epidemiologist at Tufts Medical Center in Massachusetts.
Safety Measures Hotels Should Take During COVID-19
Dr. Andujar Vazquez and other medical professionals highly recommend checking in with local guidelines and contacting the hotel prior to booking a visit to ensure they are remaining compliant with local and CDC safety recommendations. These include but are not limited to the following:
- Decreasing hotel occupancy
- Frequently disinfecting high-touch surface areas
- Providing digital room keys
- Ensuring 24-hour vacancy in between guest stays
- Providing contactless check-in options
Other safety measures include wearing a mask in common areas, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, and ensuring guests stay at least six feet apart from one another. Those planning to stay at a hotel should immediately look for signage to confirm the safety measures are compliant with state and federal recommendations. Taking all of this into consideration, hotel guests can use the following tips to ensure a safe stay during their next travel excursion:
- Choose Hotels with Low Occupancy: Inquire about the current occupancy level at the hotel prior to scheduling a visit.
- Ask About Hotel Safety & Compliance: Call ahead to ask what safety precautions your selected hotel is taking to ensure visitor safety.
- Minimize Contact with Others: Many hotels have set up contactless check-in options to help guests minimize contact with others. Take advantage of these offerings whenever possible.
- Opt for a Motel Stay: According to Dr. Carlo, “Motel rooms exit directly outside, use their own ventilation, and do not require an elevator or common space, and are therefore lower risk than multi-floor facilities full of other hotel guests.”
- Remain Vigilant of Surroundings: Look around when you get the hotel. If you notice crowding, insufficient signage, failure to wear masks, and poor disinfecting practices, it’s probably not a safe place to stay.
- Choose Ground Floor Rooms: Ground floor rooms will minimize contact with high-touch surface areas, elevators, and other guests.
- Clean Your Surroundings Yourself: Even if a hotel’s safety precautions are deemed appropriate, it’s a good idea to disinfect once you arrive to ensure the area is safe.
Hotel guests will likely also wonder about the safety of continental breakfasts. Buffet-style breakfasts are pretty much out of the question, which is why many hotels have swapped these offerings out for pre-packaged, grab-and-go meals. Select these options whenever possible and avoid sitting too close to other guests to ensure your safety.
Too Long, Didn’t Read?
As the world re-opens following the COVID-19 pandemic, travelers may wonder about the safety of staying in hotels. Experts agree that people are safest while staying at home; however, doctors rank staying at a hotel as the fourth-safest activity people can enjoy during coronavirus. As long as your chosen hotel is following the proper protocol and you follow the CDC’s safety recommendations for social distancing, disinfecting, and wearing protective gear, you can easily plan a short stay at a hotel without sacrificing safety.