The Staycation: Checking out the New Check-In

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Basil Fawlty’s take on virtual check in and check out, social distancing, hand sanitizers and hospital standard cleaning of his hotel rooms can only be imagined.
The irascible star of the classic TV comedy could be relied on to throw away his new face mask, ranting and raving that he’ll be driven out of business faced with the difficulties that now confront real life hoteliers.

Picture this…leaning across the reception desk he furiously eyeballs a dissatisfied guest, deliberately ignoring any physical distancing. Still, the demented hotelier, played by John Cleese would certainly be in favour of the ban on breakfast buffets.

Basil has always hated them, strongly resisting such a trendy innovation for Fawlty Towers. As for the complimentary welcome drink all of us can now forget about for fear of coronavirus infection….the snobbish Fawlty was only known to offer that treat once.…. to the titled guest who turned out to be a fake aristocrat.

The Failte Ireland guidelines for hotels re-opening on the 29th of June includes two- meter physical distancing (the industry wants reduced to a realistic one meter), electronic check-in and queuing, table service and additional room service in place of breakfast buffets and mini bars and enhanced deep cleaning protocols.
Dining rooms are recommended to introduce a single use menu or a verbal run down on what’s available from staff. Hotel pens, hospitality magazines and other potential sources of infection will also disappear.
The Irish Hotels Federation President Elaina Fitzgerald Kane welcomed the guidelines saying “the health and safety of our teams and guests will always be the main priority”.
Since shuttering in mid-March hotels and guesthouses across the country began to adapt their services and facilities in anticipation of reopening under COVID-19 guidelines.
As Ireland prepares for a boom in domestic breaks one thing is sure……our staycations are going to be a very different experience compared with the past.

The difference will be marked at weddings whose dancers are expected to observe social distancing. The reception canapes will have to be served individually. Bowls of vegetables and sauce cannot be shared either. Grazing collectively on bar finger food is another no,no.
The spa experience is also undergoing major changes with no hands on massages or treatments for now. A growth in reflexology and Reiki, involving less contact is expected. A slot for some pool time may have to be booked in between regular deep cleans of spa and pool areas.

Mariott Hotel we will travel again

Marriott group is using hospital-grade disinfectant, electrostatically sprayed in rooms. European hotel chains like Accor (which includes Ibis, Sofitel and Novitel) are providing guests with face masks, hand sanitiser and antibacterial wipes. Lifts will require that only groups who are together share them. Germany’s Orania. Berlin hotel is even supplying guests with their own cleaning equipment for optional housekeeping. Basil Fawlty is sure to approve of that!
According to guidelines only one guest is asked to check-in while others stand back and keep their distance on arrival at their hotel. Buffets should be avoided where possible. If they are in place then guests access to them should be staggered and employees must plate up and serve food.

Restaurants are also urged to have ‘at least one lead worker representative charged with ensuring that Covid-19 measures are strictly adhered to in the workplace.’
Travel Times asked some of Ireland’s leading hoteliers about re-opening their properties.

Dunbrody House Hotel in Arthurstown Co Wexford (www.dunbrodyhouse.com) a member of the prestigious Blue Book hotels has been working on its own protocols for months. The luxury country house hotel offering superb accommodation and a renowned restaurant is owned by TV celebrity chef Kevin Dundon and his wife Catherine.

A reluctant farewell to starched white tablecloths and napkins, sumptuous optional breakfast buffets and a weighty leather bound menu for food and wines are the new reality, she says. Only limited wine choices can be shown on the single use menus but diners are given a wide online choice in advance of arrival. “We’ve had a lot of time to get organized and find new ways of ensuring the safety of guests without compromising on the visitor experience”, Catherine explains. A UVA lamp of a similar type used in operating theatres has been installed to disinfect all surfaces within half an hour. Staycation bookings and online website traffic from the UK are promising.

The Trident Hotel in Kinsale Co Cork (www.tridenthotel.com ) on the waterfront, surrounded by yachts and fishing trawlers, epitomizes the town’s picturesque appeal.

Back in the 1960’s when it opened, the stylish Trident was the first hotel in Ireland to boast an en-suite in every room.The hotel’s general manager Hal McElroy is busily working out the ‘new normal’. Whilst complying with strict hygiene, social distancing and other rules he believes that can be done unobtrusively “without guests feeling they are in a hospital environment or confronted with big yellow signs and Perspex barriers everywhere”.

Some hotel properties will find it much easier to conform to the new normal. Tulfarris Hotel and Golf Resort (www.tulfarrishotel.com) in the heart of ‘the Garden of Ireland’ a few km from Blessington Co Wicklow features 89 bedrooms and 4 guest lodges set in spacious grounds, a stone’s throw from the wild remote Wicklow Way. Newly refurbished in parts Tulfarris will benefit from having purpose built flexible spaces in a series of buildings set against an 18th century manor house surrounded by woods and its championship golf course.

The hotel is owned by international hospitality giant PREM whose CEO Jim Murphy was at the forefront of calls for an immediate review of the reopening dates for hotels under the COVID-19 roadmap to bring it forward and salvage what was left of summer. PREM owned hotels have been trained in new procedures. Murphy warned that if decisive, clear and immediate measures were not put in place for the hospitality and tourism industry in Ireland it would take years for it to recover.

As many holidaymakers abandon hope of overseas travel, Ireland’s predicted boom in domestic stays once restrictions ease, is likely to entice those who have never holidayed in Northern Ireland to do so now.

The 5-star Culloden Estate, owned by Hastings Hotels, will re-open early next month. The major N.I hotel group’s managing director Dr Howard Hastings said surveys suggest that up to two and a half million people in the Republic have never spent a night in Northern Ireland. For the ultimate staycation splurge the Culloden Estate (www.hastingshotels.com)overlooking Belfast Lough and the Co Antrim coastline, a Victorian era mansion, ticks all the boxes.

Winner of the luxury hotel of the Year at this year’s Irish Hotel Awards, the Culloden hotel and spa is just 10 minutes from Belfast city centre and near many of Northern Ireland’s major visitor attractions.

Commenting on the welcome news of hotels, restaurants and bars in Northern Ireland re-opening from July 3rd Dr Hastings added: “We obviously welcome the news that the date for opening our hotels has been brought forward and are hopeful that, by then, there’ll be clear guidance from the Executive on the social distancing requirements.

“Bookings have been very strong to date and we expect this to ramp up in the coming days as people look to book some well-deserved breaks in Ireland from July onwards”. To view the Hastings Peace of mind policy see:: https://www.hastingshotels.com/peaceofmind.html

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