Stair Climbs, Masks, No Bars: Welcome to Post-Lockdown Hotel

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(Bloomberg) -- When the lockdown finally ends and global travel resumes, expect a night at hotel to feel rather different.

Walks up stairwells, face masks, breakfast in rooms and no gym or gin and tonics at the bar. Welcome to life after lockdown, according to Pat McCann, chief executive officer at Dalata Hotel Group Plc, which runs 44 hotels across Ireland and the U.K.

None are open to the public right now, but 12 in Ireland and three in the U.K. are hosting about 900 frontline workers a night. That’s provided McCann with lessons about what a hotel might need to look like to persuade travelers it’s safe to stay in one of his 9,000 rooms.

Stair Climbs, Masks, No Bars: Welcome to Post-Lockdown Hotel

“Confidence will have to be build,” McCann said in an interview. “You remove all possible opportunity for infection.”

Hotels could open on a phased basis in the not too distant future, said McCann. But many common routines will remain off limits. Visitors will need to check in fully online before they arrive. Screens will be erected in reception to ensure minimal contact between staff and guests. New arrivals will be offered face masks, and directed to their rooms.

Mass Layoffs

While people are eager to leave the confines of their homes after weeks of being stuck indoors, resuming close public contact with strangers -- be it at the hairdresser, a restaurant or in an aircraft cabin -- may take time. The hospitality industry has been particularly hard hit by the pandemic, and the travel and tourism sector could see as many as 100 million jobs lost to the virus, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council.

In some Dalata-run hotels, old-fashioned bus boys may control lifts bringing guests to their floors. In others, most or all elevators will be closed, meaning guests need to use stairs. They will then arrive at rooms that have been deep cleaned after every stay, from door handles to taps, McCann said.

Breakfast will be delivered to rooms where it’s not possible to adequately socially distance in restaurants, and guests will then dispose of the remnants hygienically. No meeting rooms or event space will open in the short term, no drinks will be sold at the bar.

Price will pay an important role in luring people back, McCann said. What’s equally crucial is getting the balance right between making people feel welcome and looked after and making them feel safe, he said.

“If it’s too restrictive, it will put people off,” McCann said. “But we’ve learned you can do this without being too oppressive.”

Dalata’s shares, which have dropped about 28% since the end of February, rose 1.4% in Dublin on Thursday.

McCann is still mulling whether staff will have to wear masks, saying they create their own risks. He’s also skeptical about temperature testing staff as they arrive for work, as some of those who have the virus may not display symptoms and an ineffective test may breed complacency.

“You assume everyone has it,” he said.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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