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What You Will No Longer Find In Hotel Rooms: How Lodging Will Change As Travel Resumes

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If you are itching to start planning travel for after the current health situation, there may be a few things stopping you. One of those is probably lodging. Wondering what hotels are doing to clean and sanitize? Wondering if your vacation experience will be the same? And what will happen to those coveted free breakfast buffets? Let’s take a look at what changes we may see as hotels work to adjust for travel after a health crisis.

A Change In How We Think About Travel Lodging

The other day I was having a full on “I need to book some travel” moment and started browsing the Get Away Today website for great deals on vacations. Since they have added more local locations I was specifically looking at St George, Utah… within a days drive, and they had condo options meaning I could avoid eating out.

Wow… how much travel has changed. 

Where before I would be planning which local restaurants I would want to eat at and checking if the hotel had a free hot breakfast, now I am thinking about if the location I choose will help me stay away from those things.

Will travel resume?

Travel is going to resume, but it will have to change. How we look at our lodging is just one of the many changes we will see as states reopen and we start to travel in a safe and responsible manner.

Suddenly, I feel a lot more for my dear friend that I sometimes travel with who has OCD (and not like we all joke about having OCD…like actually diagnosed, won’t touch most things in a hotel room, has panic attacks about it OCD). I look at everything in the hotel experience as a potential risk for exposure. 

Will travel ever be safe again? 

I have to believe it will be, because in all honesty, I need travel for my mental health. But that doesn’t mean we won’t see some major changes.

So I spoke with travel agents, industry experts, and even reached out to my hotel contacts to have a friendly chat about what we might expect to see from hotels as travel begins to resume. They really put my mind at ease, but at the same time, made me realize that the travel world is going to change, and somethings may be gone… forever. 

So let’s talk about what we can expect to see from lodging as travel begins to resume.

Disclaimer: At the time of publishing, this article is purely speculation but based on conversations I have had with travel industry experts, hotel contacts, and more. Since nothing has been finalized, I will not be sharing the names of my sources. Also, I used several of my photos from random hotels. This does not mean these hotels are the sources. 

Hotel Cleaning, Sanitization, and Precautions

One of my biggest concerns about hotel travel as of right now is of course… cleanliness. But not the same as the one time I checked in to a hotel, was sent to a room where the mattresses were off the beds, take out was all over the room, and it looked like someone tried dying their hair in the bathroom sink (true story).

No my biggest concern is of course, the things I cannot see with my own eyes. 

How am I supposed to trust that a hotel is not going to be the thing that makes me get sick on vacation?

What procedures and changes can we expect to see to hotel cleaning, sanitation and other precautions to help keep us all stay healthy, but still allow us to enjoy travel? 

Travel will come back, but change must happen

Travel was one of the worst hit sectors with the pandemic and shutdown, and it will probably be one of the last to resume as “normal.” But hopefully, with the changes being made in all areas, but especially lodging, we can feel fairly safe traveling again sometime soon.

After chatting with industry professionals (again in off-the-record conversations) I actually like some of the changes that are being looked at and hope some of them stay even after current health concerns are a distant memory.

Let’s dive in and see what changes we may see… for better or for worse.

Goodbye front desk check-in

One of the changes we have already heard about is the removal of the traditional, in-person check in experience. 

Some major hotel chains have already allowed guests to check-in via an app or link from a confirmation email before arriving. I do this when I travel to my favorite Marriott locations such as the Courtyard across the street from Disneyland

Expect more hotels to forgo the check-in process at the desk, in effort to protect both guests and employees and in order to help get rid of the lines during popular check-in and check-out hours.

In fact, the Walt Disney World Resort has already noted on reservations that they will be required to check in via the My Disney Experience app or other touchless, non-contact options.

But what about my room key?

This question has come up a lot in my conversations and thoughts. At Walt Disney World, this isn’t a problem as the rooms are linked to your Magic Bands, which are shipped to you before your trip, and are able to be used as the key to your room.

My hotel contacts said that is what they are currently working on. With technology, it is highly possible that they will be able to create a way for you to unlock your door with your phone, but for some hotels that means a major upgrade to every hotel room.

Best hotels for large families near Disneyland
Photo credit: Pixabay

Other possibilities my contacts mentioned are a bar code you either have on your phone, or print out, that can be scanned at a kiosk which can then issue your key.

Of course, these are all options that take a lot of money, and that won’t be ready immediately in many locations.

Until then, some contacts at other hotels mentioned most likely we will see a system where you do most of your check-in online, show your QR, Barcode, or printed confirmation to the front desk as you come in. They would have keys that are ready before hand. They place them in a bin for you to grab, much like my local Chick Fil A puts my food in a bin and then I grab it in the drive thru.

Check-out

The great thing about checking out is that now days, most hotels do not require you to come to the desk to check out. Unless you have charges to dispute/settle, most hotels will either drop a paper receipt or email it to you. 

Most likely we will see the paper versions go away, except possibly by request, in favor for emailed receipts. 

What about free breakfasts?

A huge concern with germ spread at hotels, no matter how well they clean, is the free breakfast. 

Budget minded travelers are always looking for hotels with free breakfasts, especially hot buffets. Could this be the end of free breakfasts at hotels for a while? Maybe not…. 

Now don’t get me wrong, we will definitely see some changes to the breakfast options at hotels. But with the popularity of an included breakfast, I don’t think it will vanish all together.

A few options that I have heard repeated in conversations with my contacts are:

  • Grab and go style breakfasts using either cold items, or possibly hot items in to go containers
  • Room service style breakfast where you place your order the day before
  • Served breakfast, even when buffet style, where it is served to you

I love that these hotels are looking for ways to keep this perk, but still working to keep guests healthy.

Swimming pools, gyms, and business centers

Hotels often have amenities that guests like to use, such as a pool, a fitness center, or even a business center. How will these change with everything that has happened?

While some hotels mentioned these amenities may be closed, the majority are working on how to allow use of these amenities, while maintaining CDC guidelines.

Important note: My understanding is the chance of spread through water is low, so the bigger concern is social distancing. You can read more about water and the chance of spread on the CDC website.

What I heard from several of these locations is that they will remove a lot of the lounge chairs, etc, to encourage social distancing at the pool. One or two said you very well may be required to sign up for a pool time to help control the amount of people at the pool area.

Sign up was mentioned a lot more for the fitness center. Several hotels said that guests would need to sign up for a time, and that they would have time in between for cleaning of equipment. 

As for the business center, I did not get any answers. I honestly think most guests do not use this service, as I rarely see anybody at them. I think we may see these become a thing of the past.

How Will Hotel Rooms Change? – Cleaning and Beyond

I think some of the biggest changes we will see in hotels will be in the rooms themselves. After all, you may never use the dining options, you can avoid check-in and check-out contacts, but what you cannot avoid, is your room… 

How will hotels be handling hotel rooms? I specifically asked several of my contacts about this, read many reports from hotel chains, and talked with my fellow travel experts discussing what changes we might see.

From cleaning, to length of time between guests, to removing some common items, hotels are making plans to help make sure not only are you safe, but that you also feel safe when staying at their location.

Length of time between guests

Many hotels will no longer have a guest check out in the morning, and another check in that afternoon. Depending on the hotel, some will have a full 24 hours all the way up to 3 or more days between guests. 

This is both for logistics (giving them more time to deep clean) and to help guests feel safe that nothing in the hotel room has lingering germs on the surface.

While I doubt this will stay in place for too long, as hotels want to fill as many rooms as possible, I definitely think we could see a change in when we are allowed to check in and out of hotel rooms. I foresee earlier check out times (10 am?) and possibly later check ins at hotels that used to have a 3 pm time. 

I also think we will find it much harder to get a late check out or early check in.

A few things may disappear from hotel rooms altogether!

One of the biggest takeaways I had from these conversations over the last week is that there will be some changes to what we see inside of the rooms. In fact, here are a few items that may no longer appear in your hotel room.

Information Books

Information Books may be a thing of the past in hotel rooms. Photo credit: Leslie Harvey, Trips with Tykes

The first thing mentioned during a zoom call with some of my favorite travel industry experts last week was those books inside your hotel room.

What books you may ask?

The little booklets that have area dining options, pool hours, and so forth in the pages. 

After they mentioned these may be gone, I quickly took to emailing some of my hotel contacts. In doing so I learned that these, as well as Bibles, Phone Books, and possibly even notepads will be gone from hotel rooms.

Instead, hotels are looking at the possibility of having laminated or throw away one sheets, or, a couple of hotels mentioned, that since they are already equipped to put important information on the television, they may be able to include that information there.

Interesting enough… one hotel mentioned putting this into an app. So in researching this, I also learned that some hotels have apps that control everything from the lights in your room, to your television!  Could this be something we see if these concerns are around for much longer? Maybe…

No more glasses!

I am actually pretty excited for this one as years ago I saw a 60 Minutes or some similar show about the glasses in hotel rooms…

Let’s just say I never use glasses in hotel rooms.

Let me clarify… I never use GLASS cups in hotel rooms.

I am perfectly happy to use separately wrapped, single use paper cups in hotel rooms. 

It is very likely that we will see many hotels get rid of the glass, washable, cups inside of the room.

The one hotel that I asked about this who said they still planned to use them is a hotel with kitchens in the rooms. They will continue to offer these, but an entire set of dishes will be there, sealed in a bag, when guests arrive, showing they were cleaned by the hotel and then sealed. 

Again, a reminder, this was based on talks the hotel has had with regional managers, and is not a for sure thing.

Notepads, pens, toiletries… oh my!

There are so many little things in hotel rooms that people worry about others having touched. The notepad, pens, and toiletries are the main items that come to mind.

How do I know that the previous guest did not use or sneeze all over these things, yet never use them, therefore they weren’t replaced? I don’t.

When I asked my contacts if this had been considered some said not that they were aware, but several said yes. 

A few of them said they are looking at wrapping toiletries in a bag and sealing it. While the bag could always have something on the outside, once you open it, and then wash your hands, you could feel pretty good about the surface of each item.

Notepads and pens would be similar, in a wrap, that once it is opened, signals it needs replaced.

I personally am not too worried about these items, because of the next thing I want to cover. 

I asked the hotels about how they will be cleaning the rooms.

Cleaning of Canopy Hilton Hotel, Friday, April 24, 2020 in Washington, DC. Photo by Will Newton, courtesy of Hilton

Hotel Cleaning Policies for Guest Rooms

All of the hotels I spoke to said that they will be increasing the cleaning efforts in rooms in between guests. 

First, we will no longer see maids smiling at us in the hallways, as they will be required to wear masks. Gloves may or may not be required, as there is concern about if a maid came in contact with something with a virus on the surface wearing gloves, that it would spread to other surfaces in the room.

Another mention… we may not get housekeeping services during our stay. 

In order to minimize the staff coming into contact with an infected guests, some hotels may not offer maid service, or will limit it to drop and go.

Seal of approval?

During my zoom last week with some other travel experts, we talked about how some hotels will have the regular cleaning, and then, they will be followed by a sanitation crew that may use something like the spray sanitizer we have seen on news stories to clean the entire room.

Following that conversation and during my research, I found that Hilton hotels has released pictures of how rooms may also contain a seal on the door, showing that it has been sanitized. If the seal is broken, that means someone came in after the sanitation crew. 

Here is the photo from Hilton’s press site. Interestingly, it also shows the smart phone unlocking the door. 

Cleaning of Canopy Hilton Hotel, Friday, April 24, 2020 in Washington, DC. Photo by Will Newton, courtesy of Hilton

In addition to this, we will most likely see more hotels using things like “clean remotes,” where your clean/sanitized remote is in a sealed bag.

I think one of my contacts at Get Away Today said it best that some of these changes will be for the better, and maybe it will be the new normal to have a room sealed. Some of these changes will become permanent, and some may fade away, but only time will tell which ones stay.

What do you think about these changes? Of course, I will keep you up to date on changes to hotels, including those on my complete list of Disneyland area hotels for large families. The best way to keep up with the updates is by following me on Facebook and turning on Live Notifications as I usually post or even do live streams when changes are announced.

Ultimately though, it will come down to each person deciding that they feel safe traveling. Hopefully some of these measures will help guests feel better about their stay. Others may think this is a bit over the top, but my personal feeling is, the more they can do, the better. It doesn’t hurt me if they do more than I think they need to, and if it helps us feel safer about traveling again… I am all for it.

 

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