Contactless check-in and check-out. Employees wearing masks and gloves. Grab-and-go food options.
The next time you stay at a hotel, your hygiene experience will be different because of the coronavirus pandemic. A lot different.
Hotels across the hospitality industry updated their cleanliness procedures during the past few weeks in a sweeping effort to boost confidence among wary travelers. Industry executives on recent earnings calls have been hopeful about leisure travel demand starting to pick up – and it has, slightly – but overall occupancy levels at chains such as Hilton and Marriott remain low.
“Now the challenge for hotels is how you deliver a welcoming service encounter as well as ensure the safety and health of your employees and guests,” said Linda Canina, a professor at The Hotel School in Cornell University’s SC Johnson College of Business.
Here’s a look at what you can expect when you next visit a hotel, from check-in to check-out, based on guidelines from the American Hospitality & Lodging Association and major chains. .
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The main entrance
You walk into your standard hotel, baggage in tow (after most likely parking the car yourself). You handle your luggage yourself but know that someone with sanitized hands is there to help if need be.
In Marriott’s case, many of their hotels use vendor-provided valet service, according to spokesman John Wolf. The chain will work to make sure standards are met, like disinfecting car keys and wearing gloves.
You are likely wearing a mask, though you may be able to snag one when you get there. If you’re staying at a Sandals resort or Proper hotel, your temperature will be checked when you arrive. Check with your hotel individually to find out if you can expect that.
A top hotel will have asked you before you arrive what you’re interested in to best bolster your experience during these strenuous times.
“What I expect is that the top hotels will be finding out the guest preferences before arriving and then trying to customize the guest experience,” Canina said. This includes everything from whether you want exercise equipment in your room or if you’d like boxed and sealed meals and snacks during your stay.
You pass hand-sanitizing stations and see signs indicating social distancing measures. Throughout the hotel, there are signs with reminders for how to wear, handle and throw away masks.
The lobby and check-in
You unlock your phone – it might be difficult to do so with a face mask on if you have an iPhone, so prepare to wipe down your phone after this – and open either your email or hotel app to find your reservation details. You check in via an app for contact-free check-in to your accommodations.
You see a few employees walk by with masks on, too. Maybe they will have colors or patterns on them to make you comfortable as “a simple way” to “portray warmth and welcoming,” says Canina. She suggests transparent masks to see employee expressions and smiles could even be an option.
Employees at the front desk will be sitting at every other station.
If you stay at a Hilton hotel, you’ll receive a digital room key. Hilton Honors members already have access to such digital keys.
You may notice furniture arranged differently at Marriott and Choice Hotels properties as the chains work to promote social distancing.
The elevator should have been cleaned by the time you hop in – employees are cleaning elevators at the start of their shifts and during the day – but you avoid touching your face after anyway, until you’ve had time to wash or sanitize your hands. You use hotel-provided hand sanitizer or hand-sanitizing wipe before you push any buttons.
You spot several groups waiting at the elevator landing, so you wait your turn to get on and avoid crowding the area, given social distancing requirements. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hasn’t issued specific guidance for hotel elevators, though the agency’s guidelines for shared and congregate housing suggest not squeezing on all at once.
That’s probably a good thing: According to a study from UpgradedPoints, the average hotel elevator button has 1,477 times more germs than your household bathroom door handle. It also has 737 times more germs than the toilet seat in your home.
You see an official room seal (at Hilton, anyway) indicating that a room hasn’t been accessed after being deep cleaned. Use your digital key to access the room.
Try not to worry about everything in your room not being clean; hotels are using advanced techniques like electrostatic sprayers and ultraviolet light to make their processes even more robust. Housekeepers shouldn’t be entering your room during a stay unless you ask; be prepared to ask for anything extra, like towels.
Also at Hilton hotels, you might be missing pen and paper in your room but could ask for it if needed. Expect guest directory and in-room dining menus to appear online instead of in a desk drawer. . At Best Western, say goodbye to decorative pillows and bed scarves.
Food and beverages
You get hungry and decide to order room service. You won’t encounter a chipper staffer bringing you a tray on a cart. Expect to pick up your meal outside your door in an effort to maintain distance.
Want to get out of your room instead? Don’t expect all restaurants to be open, and don’t count on the buffet. At your hotel, you do see a buffet, though an attendant wearing personal protective equipment is closely guarding it, along with sneeze and cough screens. The table you choose to sit at lacks traditional items like condiments, silverware, glassware and napkins.
You also spot grab-and-go food options with prepackaged items.
Gym, pool and entertainment
Hop over to the fitness center, which like all other areas of the hotel, has been thoroughly cleaned multiple times a day.
After your workout, you put on your sunblock and step out to the pool area. Yours happens to be open, though local CDC guidelines might give some hotels pause. You see at least 6 feet of distance between lounge chairs.
“We are in close contact with the CDC and will advise our members to adhere to their guidelines, while also aligning with local health departments,” said Jennifer Myers, spokesperson for the American Hotel & Lodging Association.
Head to the sauna, and you discover that all those treatments you’re used to getting aren’t available. Four Seasons is modifying such services. Depending on local regulations, showers outside saunas and steam rooms might not be open. Myers said the CDC hasn’t given specific guidance on gym showers.
MGM Resorts is aware distancing could prove difficult. If you’re at a resort and want to hit up the slot machines (think Las Vegas), you are told to avoid eating and drinking in the casino. You also have been instructed to wear a mask in public areas. Floor guides will be throughout properties making sure people adhere to 6-foot distancing.
Just like you checked in, you use your phone and avoid the front desk again in an effort to socially distance.
It may not have been your typical hotel experience, but all things considered, you’re happy to have escaped your home for a little while.
But you may want to get used to such experiences going forward. At least in Hilton’s case, its program will likely be around “forever,” Hilton’s senior vice president and global head of new brand development Phil Cordell told USA TODAY.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Coronavirus: What a hotel stay will look like post-pandemic