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Checking out checking in: Here's what the hotel experience is like during the pandemic

Posted July 15, 2020 10:17 a.m. EDT

Mark Boyle visited Aspen, Colo., during the coronavirus pandemic

The coronavirus has pummeled the travel and leisure industry. Hotel chains across the country are working to lure people back to fill up the empty rooms.

There are sweeping changes currently being made when it comes to health and hygiene. When you feel comfortable staying at hotels again, it will look and feel like very different if it’s anything like my recent experience.

We’ve reported on what it’s like inside airplanes and at airports, but once you’re on the ground at your final destination, what has changed inside the hotel? Is the check-in process any different? What about the room itself, will there be anything different inside?

Recently I traveled to Aspen, Colo., for a few days and wanted to share what I saw along my journey, socially distancing along the way.

The Little Nell, Aspen, Colo.

To start with, bus drivers, taxi drivers, hotel shuttle workers all were wearing masks and gloves the entire time. I never saw anyone not in compliance with local ordinances.

I stayed at The Little Nell right at the base of Aspen Mountain.

A few days before check-in, hotel management emailed me and offered a ‘contactless’ experience. I could download an app called "JustIN Mobile" to get keyless entry into my room, ultimately bypassing the front desk all together.

However, in the case the phone didn’t work or if I had felt like stopping by the front desk, transparent dividers like you see at the grocery store have been installed to insure distance between guests and employees.

The Little Nell hotel in Aspen

Signs reminded guests to wear a face covering in the lobby, shops and bar area as well as the restaurant. Once I was seated, I was able to lower the mask or take it off while eating and drinking.

Another notable change at the hotel was the presence of signs asking guests to only ride elevators with their specific group or party to help create even more spacing.

In my room, I found a small bag with some goodies that included cleaning wipes, hand sanitizer and notes about changes to hotel service during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Jonathan Fillman, general manager at The Little Nell says, “With our spacious accommodations, airy outdoor patios and small group adventures, The Little Nell lends itself to a comfortable visit with room for social distancing and staying safe."

The Little Nell in Aspen, Colo.

Meanwhile, major hotel chains like Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton have published their changes as well.

At a Hilton property, you can expect:

  • a Hilton CleanStay Room Seal to indicate that guest rooms haven’t been accessed since they were cleaned
  • Extra disinfection of the top 10 high-touch areas in guest rooms, including light switches and door handles
  • Increased cleaning frequency of public areas
  • Guest-accessible disinfecting wipes at entrances and high traffic areas
  • Enhanced cleaning for fitness centers 
  • Reduced paper amenities (like pads and guest directories) in rooms
  • Enhanced cleaning and other changes to buffets, in-room dining and meeting spaces
  • Industry-leading contactless check-in and check-out with Digital Key at more than 4,700 properties globally
  • Evaluation of new technologies like electrostatic sprayers with disinfecting mist and ultraviolet light to sanitize surfaces and objects
  • Enhanced Team Member safety and well-being with personal protective equipment and enhanced training and protocols

Marriott Bonvoy posted an online video with its ‘commitment to clean’ and other changes that include:

  • Starting with our public spaces and high-traffic areas, we are going above and beyond our normal protocols. We are cleaning surfaces with increased frequency, dedicated staff, and recommended cleaning agents.
  • Hand sanitizing stations are being installed at hotel entrances, at our front desks, our elevator banks, and meeting spaces.
  • Signage in public spaces will remind our guests to maintain social distancing. We will be adding partitions at check-in to provide an extra level of precaution for our guests and our associates.
  • In guest rooms, we have elevated our rigorous protocols to thoroughly clean all surfaces with hospital-grade disinfectants. And we will be placing disinfecting wipes in each room for your use.
  • We are rolling out enhanced technologies including electrostatic sprayers to sanitize surfaces throughout the hotel. We are also testing ultraviolet light technology for sanitizing guest keys and devices shared by associates.
  • Our mobile technologies provide reassurance and distancing options for our guests. In over 3,200 hotels, your phone can be used to check in, access your room, and order room service.

Hotel capacity has been reduced and fluctuates state to state. Restaurant capacity is reduced, gyms/spas are often closed or capacity cut to follow individual state or city guidelines. You’ll find that some bars are closed but hotels are offering bar service but through waitstaff.

If you’re wondering about how the experience at your hotel will be or what’s open and closed, call ahead. Ask all of the questions ahead of time so you’re not surprised when you arrive.

So is all of this enough? Will it make you and your family feel comfortable to start traveling again? After all, the holiday season isn’t too far off. Share your comments, concerns or questions by emailing me: MBoyle@wral.com. I’ll work to get you answers as we all navigate this global pandemic together.

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