Hotels in England will re-open from 4 July for staycations. But will people have the confidence to go away and stay in a hotel? I raised this issue when I met Michael Clitheroe, Manager of the Balmer Lawn Hotel in Brockenhurst in the New Forest. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Hospitality and a member of several important organisations related to the hospitality industry. The main concern will be how hotels manage social distance for their guests.
The Hospitality Industry Protocols
The hospitality industry is subject to sets of protocols dealing with various situations. There are no protocols specifically relating to a pandemic but there are protocols that can deal with this situation. Guidance was issued to the industry as early as May 11 and updated on June 24.
As Michael pointed out, all holiday accommodation is aware that when it re-opens it will be subject to restrictions. Most have taken advantage of the long closure to prepare for this. The Balmer Lawn Hotel has already laid out its three lounges and restaurant to cater for social distance measures. It has also extended outside terraces and is adding an outside bar and pizza oven so guests will have plenty of space. The hotel will enforce a strict limit on the number of non-guests at any time.
I asked Michael how a guest can find out if a particular hotel has implemented the required safeguards.
COVID Confident Assessment Schemes
The AA has established a COVID Confident Assessment Scheme to support the hospitality industry and help rebuild consumer confidence. When an establishment satisfies the AA’s stringent criteria it gets a certificate. This certificate states that the hotel has done the necessary risk assessment and set up safety measures and staff training in line with government guidelines. Establishments with a certificate will display a logo on their website and at the property.
Visit Britain has established a similar scheme called “We’re Good to Go”. Its partners are the national tourism organisations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Establishments bearing their consumer mark have carried out a risk assessment and the safety procedures required are in place.
Finally, I wondered if some establishments are safer than others.
Safety Levels in Different Types of Accommodation
All accredited accommodation is safe. Self-catering will probably be the most popular choice as it is the easiest way to keep safe. Increased digitalised service in large chain hotels will appeal to those who want hotel service with minimal human contact. Small, family run establishment are probably better able to cope with individual requests. It is a matter of personal choice. As Michael concluded all establishment will aim to make guests feel comfortable and safe.