What feels like a lifetime ago in the days before Covid-19, hotels lured travelers with amenities such as complimentary breakfasts, cocktail hours and yoga classes at the spa.
The world has changed quite a bit since then. Though people are beginning to tiptoe out from their Airbnbs and homes — away from stockpiled toilet paper, sourdough starter and new puppies — and even hop on planes, the travel industry recognizes the need to pivot.
Most properties are pledging best practices according to CDC and EPA guidelines such as frequent cleaning, air-filtration systems, contactless check-in and decreased capacity. Others are taking the opportunity to innovate, brainstorming new ways to make guests feel secure and relaxed, which range from luxe to odd.
In this brave new world, the concierge is more concerned with booking virus tests than fine dining reservations. In place of complimentary sleep masks are mandatory face masks. Floral pillow sprays have been replaced with artisanal sanitizer sprays.
Meet a slew of reinvented (once unimaginable) hotel amenities for the new (sort of) normal:
The doctor is in
Recognizing a need for guests to feel secure, even in the worst case scenario, many hotels around the world are making medical care their latest amenity.
At Oscar de la Renta-designed Casa de Campo Resort & Villas in the Dominican Republic, visitors (who must show evidence of a negative test) are assured a spot at an onsite hospital — with an entire floor reserved only for hotel guests.
Guests staying over five days at Atlantis, The Palm in Dubai can book free PCR testing in the comfort of their own suite thanks to a partnership with “leading hospitals.” The staff takes care of the red tape, while guests relax and … enjoy?
While a partnership with a luxury car company or fitness center might previously have been a draw, now Montage Hotels is offering guests access to a tailored health care experience through One Medical. Visitors can not only schedule virtual doctor’s visits and consultations while on property but also for an entire month after departure.
But it’s Club Meds around the world that are giving new meaning to the term “all-expense paid vacation.” Through April 2021, the all-inclusive resorts will cover all emergency medical costs related to Covid-19 during guests’ stays, including lab tests, transportation, housing for companions and even child care.
Touch and go
Of course, in an ideal world, the object is to avoid getting sick. One way properties are helping to keep their guests healthy is by limiting contact — not just with staff and other guests but with shared objects.
At Garden of the Gods Resort and Club in Colorado Springs, real-life caddies and golf carts have been replaced by new Tempo Walk tech — a hands-free, autonomous caddie complete with GPS yardage and the capacity to hold a cooler of untouched drinks.
At the brand new Villa Copenhagen, which opened in a century-old Danish post office on July 1 under the Preferred Hotels & Resorts umbrella, not only is there keyless entry and remote check-in available (a now common offering), but the TVs in each room automatically populate QR codes for new guests, who can then activate their smartphones as remote controls.
And, in cases when visitors must touch an object, the folks at The Deer Path Inn in Lake Forest, Illinois, want them to know they’re the first to handle it. To mitigate concern, the hotel is embroidering/printing guests’ names on in-room canvas laundry bags and disposable room service menus.
Keeping it clean
Still, short of living in an actual bubble, it is necessary to touch certain shared surfaces, so hotels are also upping the ante when it comes to cleaning and sanitizing — a relief to anyone who has ever watched a black-light exposé on hotel bedspreads.
On top of requisite scrubbing with hardcore disinfectants, many properties have installed sleek, branded sanitizer dispensers at entrances to public spaces.
But some are also finding high-tech solutions to keeping things sterile.
At The Roundtree Amagansett, a new 15-room boutique farm-inspired property in the Hamptons, they’ve instituted the use of Upang UV sterilizers (medical devices designed to kill 99.9% of germs and bacteria).
And the historic Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles, best known for hosting The Golden Globes, has brought in hospital-approved UV Xenex LightStrike Robots to “zap” germs around the hotel and in guest rooms for eight to 10 minutes after the housekeeper has cleaned and vacated.
Temperature checks at the door are not uncommon these days, but The Cape, a Thompson Hotel in Los Cabos, Mexico, is raising the bar with a full-body sanitation station at the entrance.
As visitors walk through, it sprays a nonstaining mist from head to toe — like a hipster human car wash. The hotel also offers sanitizer stations, QR codes for menus around the property and a little package of masks and sanitizers in-room.
Still, Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur is getting cutting-edge without the gadgets: Staying true to their natural, wellness ethos, they’re the first US property to institute a technology called “Premium Purity.”
The cleaning process is sustainable and nontoxic, eschewing more common ammonia or bleach-based chemicals.
A proprietary substance is applied to indoor surfaces exposed to light, which renders that surface and the surrounding air self-disinfecting and antimicrobial through photocatalysis for up to 12 months. The second step is a daily EPA-approved disinfectant that’s electrically charged.
The pandemic isn’t stopping hotels from welcoming guests with curated gifts. But instead of a requisite fruit plate or beach bag, spots such as The Bristol Hotel in Virginia are offering exclusive face masks in the vein of the decor made by local denim factory, L.C. King (America’s longest-running denim factory).
Other hotels are sticking with classic gift baskets or bundles. But instead of eye masks, earplugs and hand creams, they are including locally made cleaning products and sanitizers. At Nobu Ryokan Malibu, guests are greeted with branded thermometer stands and kits of masks, gloves and hand sanitizer.
And, at The Confidante Miami Beach, travelers are presented with locally made coconut-scented hand sanitizer with custom labels by local artists (at stations around the property) and also custom-made face masks also designed by local artists.
I think we’re alone now
Certainly, another tactic for mitigating contagion is avoiding crowds.
The Resort at Paws Up in Montana has the benefit of tons of space with 37,000 acres of undeveloped land and over 100 hiking trails. Now, they’ve made travel to the ranch private, as well, offering socially distanced airport transfers. Instead of being chauffeured to and from in a van with other guests, now a “Welcome Wrangler” helps with luggage and directions, but arranges a Lexus to be brought to the baggage claim curb, so that guests can drive themselves.
Since the usual bar happy hour is not ideal, Ocean House in Rhode Island has dreamed up a “BarMobile” experience, where an expert mixologist pushes a “Ferrari-red” bar cart from room-to-room, mixing craft drinks — with complimentary canapés — for guests to enjoy solo.
The Westin Cape Coral Resort at Marina Village in Florida is taking that notion of in-room refreshments to the next level. Through their new “Fridge Fill” program, guests can skip restaurants and grocery stores and instead have their refrigerators and pantries stocked in advance of arrival with ready-made meals, groceries, ingredient baskets with recipes and more.
Eventually, though, most people will venture out, which is why visitors to the Conrad Fort Lauderdale Beach may be grateful to the hotel’s new social distancing ambassadors, who are positioned around the property to remind people to stay 6 feet apart and also limit the number of guests in the pool.
Still unsure? Before venturing out at Hoshino Resorts (a Japanese hospitality brand), guests can download a smartphone app that allows them to monitor the number of people in the property’s public spaces — in real time.
Outside the box
Many properties are encouraging guests to get outdoors, where the risk of transmission is lower.
The Inns of Aurora in the Finger Lakes of upstate New York built a five-mile trail system where guests can also take private archery and fishing lessons led by their new resident “Outdoorsman.”
Round Hill in Jamaica, for example, installed a new jogging path with multiple workout stations to reduce the number of people at the gym.
Resorts are taking restaurant experiences outside, as well.
At Chatham Bars Inn in Cape Cod, guests can set up private dining experiences seaside, on the lawn, in their rooms — basically anywhere they can dream up.
The Grand Hyatt Vail in Colorado launched a new food truck (along with outdoor yoga).
And Ventana Big Sur is offering a new socially distanced glamping experience on their 20-acre campground complete with a picnic table, Adirondack chairs and a fire pit, plus s’mores and drinks from a nearby Airstream trailer.
At Sonoma’s barefoot luxury hotel, Farmhouse Inn, in addition to launching a new food truck, they’ve created a poolside pop-up for afternoon cocktails, a “Fireside Nightcap” menu for outdoors and their Michelin-starred tasting menus in-room.
Home suite home
If all this makes you want to escape for the long haul, you’re in luck: Recognizing that people are craving a change of scenery and can now work and study remotely, hotels are now offering deals for “extended stays.” Instead of three-day-weekend packages, hotels such as Ireland’s Dromoland Castle, Jamaica’s Goldeneye and Nantucket’s White Elephant are now advertising rates for stays in 30-day increments.
Other spots are catering to relocated worker bees with infrastructure: Monarch Beach Resort in Orange County, California, has set up remote offices for guests.
Meanwhile, Auberge Resorts has partnered with tutoring and nannying company, Advantage Testing.
The Hamilton Hotel in Washington, DC, is taking that concept one step further: Recognizing that co-working spaces are less viable, they’re renting hotel rooms from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (checkout time!) as temporary office spaces with perks such as high-speed WiFi, a Keurig coffeemaker, access to Press Reader (a digital platform of publications) and room service or outside delivery options — making this a different kind of respite from the world.
Troutbeck in New York’s Hudson Valley is capitalizing on their legacy as a retreat for great “romantics, naturalists, humanists and poets” such as Mark Twain and Henry David Thoreau by offering guests work desks in an art-filled gallery space with task chairs, blotters and local, handmade Dumais Made lamps (plus a new HEPA and UV medical-grade filtration system designed to eliminate over 97% of airborne contaminants).