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How hotels are adapting to the new reality of COVID-19

By Tobey Grumet
January 12, 2022
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In the times of Covid 19, how are destinations and hotels adapting to this new normal?

Covid 19 has changed the world. From the minutia of our daily lives to how we plan, the coronavirus has pierced the very heart of society. Hotels, travel, and the general service industry has been hit particularly hard at this time, making an inherently social experience almost impossible to deliver.

But all is not lost. Owners, managers and industry leaders are coming together to figure out a way to survive, and change, giving guests and consumers the time to dream about their next trip—and hopefully make it a reality when things are safe and sanitary. From check-in, to room cleaning to mini bars to pool areas, here are how some hotels, resorts and destinations are trying to make sure everything is safe and sanitized for the future of travel.

Wyndham Destinations, the world’s largest timeshare operator, is looking at a phased opening in late May. Kevin Maciulewicz, SVP of Resort Operations, says they will be limiting the number of guests to maximize social distancing, depending on the specific configuration of the resorts. “We’re actually seeing very strong demand in bookings for travel in August and beyond from owners and guests,” he says. However, “many resort amenities will remain closed for the immediate future, including swimming pools, food and beverage, fitness centers and other public spaces,” he adds.

In glamping news, Peter Mack, CEO of luxury glamping disrupter Collective Retreats, believes its vacation offerings are set up to naturally allow for social distancing. And though there are no lobbies, elevators, or hallways to deal with, they company is adding staff, cleaning more frequently and offering branded bandanas to guests. In fact, Collective Hill Country, in Wimberley, TX, has remained open through the crises. “And guests seem to feel comfortable given the open-air nature of the accommodations,” he says. In New York City, one of the hardest hit areas of the country, Collective Governor’s Island is offering a “Recharge Package” where guests can book a future stay at a discounted price—with a percentage benefitting the food bank, City Harvest.

And at MGM Resorts a seven-point safety plan was recently released for all their resorts—a result of months-long work with public health experts, according to Acting CEO and President Bill Hornbuckle. For employees, this includes temperature checks before entering properties along with mandatory masks and gloves. To help with social distancing, plexiglass barriers will be installed in casinos and lobbies, and in rooms, air conditioning units were recently updated to help with air quality. “Our properties will not look the way they used to for a while, and that’s not only OK, it’s critically important, “says Hornbuckle. In addition, they will be offering a completely contactless check-in experience. Using a mobile app, guests will be able to check-in, pay their bill and get a digital room key via their smartphone. For those who feel uncomfortable going fully digital, employees will still be available with physical barriers to protect interactions and reduced lines, and physical keys can be made using self-serve key encoders.

Of course, some hotels have decided to stay open during the crises and The Hotel Figueroa, or The Fig, a downtown fixture in Los Angeles, is adjusting to the times. Connie Wang, the hotel’s Managing Director, suggests there is minimal contact between guests and associates. “For the pool, we have positioned all furniture for appropriate social distancing of 6’ apart. Staff have been trained to fully wipe down all seating with disinfectant between guest usage, and a freshly laundered rolled towel placed at the head of our lounger is used to indicate to the next guest that it is safe to approach. We have signage to remind guests to socially distance, and staff to keep an eye out as well,” she says. In addition, they are using electrostatic sprayers with disinfectant in public areas, and UV light disinfecting technology in between guest stays. Face masks must always be worn by staff while guests are asked to don face coverings in indoor public spaces.

Other, smaller hotels and resorts are also coming up with strategies for reopening, though most don’t have plans to reopen in the immediate future.

To help limit interactions between guests and employees, the Harbor House Inn, in Mendocino County, CA, is considering opening only 50 percent of its rooms and allowing a “rest” day between guests. This would allow for in-depth cleaning and sanitation. And, The Inns of Aurora, in the Finger Lakes region, NY, have shifted its accommodation model to allow for full buyouts of three of the five inns on the property. Each one will be available at a base price and offer specific, customizable amenities like private chef service and grocery delivery on an a la carte basis.

Check in and arrival experiences are also being reimagined and Arizona’s Castle Hot Springs plan on streamlining the arrival experience with guests before check-in, while the Wayfinder Hotel in Newport, RI, will completely skip lobby and curbside check-in, providing keyless guestroom entry.

For the most part, most properties are considering making in-room dining easier and more comfortable. At The Roxbury at Stratton Falls, Catskill, NY, the usual buffet-style continental breakfast will become a la carte and they are working with local restaurants and food trucks to deliver meals—all of which will be directly delivered to a guestroom door. And, not to worry, Union Grove Distillery and Roxbury Wine & Spirits will also deliver to the hotel.

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Inspiration

Spend some time on the sand watching these beach web cams

With beachside vacations being put on hold with coronavirus-related closures, there’s an alternative way to access sand and surf – right from your screen. Across United States, the nation’s beaches are being represented on screen from coast to coast. Embrace these picturesque views across the United States through these web cams. In California, view Doran Beach in Bodega Bay’s Doran National Park in Sonoma County beach. Torrance Beach’s webcam captures this 1.5 mile stretch of sand. Meanwhile in Monterey County, the Tickle Pink Inn in Carmel keeps a camera’s eye on the Big Sur Coastline. In San Diego, the landmark Hotel del Coronado shows off its sandy scene online. On Visit California’s website, take a 360 degree VR experience along California’s North Coast Beaches; catch more of the Golden State’s beaches through LiveBeaches.com. Wisconsin’s Madeline Island, the largest of the state’s Apostle Islands, is home to the two-mile Big Bay Beach along with Big Bay State Park. In South Carolina, see different parts of Myrtle Beach through this EarthCam plus Edisto Beach on Edisto Island can be seen through video too. In Virginia Beach, view various filming angles of this coastal city, including its boardwalk, along with the waterside community of Sandbridge. The Wildwoods, NJ lights up with nine cameras throughout this five-mile island capturing its boardwalks and beaches. Also, find different feeds of the Jersey Shore beaches, from Asbury Park to Atlantic City and Cape May. Other Jersey beaches range from Jenkinson’s Point Pleasant Beach to Bay Head. Long Island, New York has live cameras on locations, including Long Beach, with its 2.2-mile boardwalk; Main Beach in East Hampton; Coopers Beach in Southampton; and Fire Island. Florida has their beaches covered and can be seen through the Visit Florida website. However, their respective regions are also showing their sand off. Paradise Coast is experiencing cameras across Naples and Marco Island, while The Palm Beaches have their eight beach cams collectively on one website; Florida Keys and Key West have a wide variety of water and beach view web cams. Also in Florida, South Walton is streaming Alys Beach and Grayton Beach and Grayton Dunes in Grayton Beach State Park. Pensacola Beach can be screened with east, west and south views. St. Pete/Clearwater through four live beach webcams of Clearwater Beach, Indian Rocks Beach and two different views of St. Pete Beach. Or check out Miami's sand scene with these beach cams.

Inspiration

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo at home with these amazing cocktail recipes

Translated to the 5th of May, Cinco de Mayo commemorates Mexico’s victory over France during the Franco-Mexican war in 1862. Also known as Battle of Puebla Day, it is just a minor holiday in Mexico, but here in the US, it has become a celebration of Mexican-American culture and community. Normally, there would be a network of national parties and celebrations, with the largest festivities in San Antonio, New York, Phoenix, Denver and San Diego. But, with social distancing as the new norm, we asked the experts how to make the most of the situation—and how to party like it’s the 5th of May in your very own home. At Mexico’s Rosewood San Miguel de Allende, the 1826 Tequila Bar offers over 120 different tequilas and 20 mezcals—and does tastings on their outdoor terrace. For a little sweeter cocktail, try its Lavender Margarita. Lavender Margarita 2 tablespoons of lavender syrup 1 oz tequila .5 oz lime juice .5 oz of Controy. Lavender Margarita.Sofia Partida, National Brand Ambassador of Mexico’s Partida Tequila, is organizing a face time “Cinco Salud” with friends and family in Northern California. She will also host a Cinco Happy Hour at home where they will be playing Loteria and watching a movie like Nacho Libre or Like Water for Chocolate. Decorations will include flowers, both paper and fresh, and the menu will include appetizers like Shrimp Aqua Chiles and mini Chicken Tostadas. Her cocktail of choice is the Ponche Cabellero. Ponche Cabellero 2 oz Reposado 1.5 oz tamarind nectar 1.5 oz pineapple juice .5 oz agave nectar .5 oz fresh lime juice 2 dashes of Angostura bitters. On the other end of the spectrum, Desolas is a brand new Mezcal crafted in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, wants to add a little spice to its Cinco de Mayo cocktail, which they suggest countering with chips and guacamole. They also suggest pairing their Spotify playlist with your at-home party. Desolas Sol 2 oz Desolas Mezcal 1 oz fresh squeezed lime juice 1 oz ginger beer garnished with a lime wheel. Desolas SolThe MGM Resorts Event Production Team suggests finding a special place in your home, either indoors or outdoors, to be the hub of the celebration. Decorations can be a colorful scarf to drape on the table or hang up on the wall and you might want to search up a streaming folklorico dance class or discover new music contributed by Mexican artists for ambiance and entertainment. Try a tequila tasting at home and allow each taster to rate and review their findings before the next public gathering. However, if it’s a cocktail you’re after, try the Dama Blanca from the Mama Rabbit Bar at the Park MGM Las Vegas. Dama Blance 2 ozs Ilegal Joven Mezcal, .5 oz Italicus Bergamot liqueur .5 oz orange cordial .5 oz simple syrup .5 oz lemon juice .5 oz lime juice an egg white. Shake, pour in a coupe glass and garnish with real flowers for a beautiful finish. Rosewood Hotels are used to celebrating Cinco de Mayo at many of their properties. At the Dallas-based Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek, The Mansion Bar has been a steadfast icon since its opening in 1980 and it’s renowned Texas Margarita has been on the menu for four decades. Texas Margarita 2 oz tequila 1 oz fresh lime juice .75 oz Cointreau up to .75 oz jalapeno agave. Shake and pour straight up. For many of us, the word Tequila is synonymous with Patron. This iconic brand has been bringing us super sippable, premium expressions from that famous region for over 30 years. So, it only seems right to mix a Patron Classic Margarita. The only thing you’ll have to decide is: salt or no salt? Patron Classic Margarita 1.5 oz of Patron Reposada or Silver 1 oz Patron Citronge Orange .75 oz fresh lime juice .25 oz simple syrup Shake and pour into a glass (ice optional). Lastly, for those who want to add a little caffeine to their cocktail cause, Mr. Black Liqueur is a bittersweet blend of vodka and coffee. A simple way to enjoy it at home is part of this eye-opening, Paloma Negra. Paloma Negra 2 oz coffee liqueur .75 oz Mezcal 1.25 oz pink grapefruit juice Paloma Negra

Inspiration

Take a virtual tour of street art around the world

If life is looking a bit drab without travel, add some color into your life by setting off on a street art tour around the world—virtually. Google makes it easy to revisit some of your favorite murals that you’ve come across during your travels or to encounter outdoor public artwork you’ve always wanted to see. Use the human icon to take in the murals from the street level. Enjoy a private viewing of the art displays from the safety of your couch and let these street artists transport you to destinations near and far with this virtual street art tour. Miami, Florida The largest collection of street art in the U.S can be enjoyed at the Wynwood Arts District in Miami with over 200 murals spanning 50 blocks. Shepard Fairey of Obey Giant painted one of the most well-known pieces in the Wynwood Walls open-air museum of street art. His mural features motifs about climate change, war, and more political issues. The mural faces 2nd Avenue and is visible from the street and the museum’s main entrance. Check out more of the artwork in the area on the Wynwood Walls Virtual Gallery Tour featuring murals by internationally renowned artists like Futura, Os Gemeos, Swoon, and Miss Van. Austin, Texas Spotting murals between chowing down at taco stands is a quintessential Austin experience. Order some tacos from a Mexican taqueria and browse through the city's greatest murals including the iconic mural of world-famous Texan Willie Nelson created by local muralist Wiley Ross who later added a portrait of Janis Joplin alongside Nelson. No Austin street art tour would be complete without the uber-popular “I love you so much” mural by local visual artists Amy Cook and the landmark 'Greetings from Austin' postcard mural by Todd Sanders.©Christian Mueller/Shutterstoc New York, New York New York City is home to public art displays created by some of the most famous graffiti artists on the planet. Eduardo Kobra brought his “Colors of Liberty” project to NYC with a series of gigantic murals of iconic cultural figures in vibrant hues including a Frida Khalo painting and Fight for Street Art featuring Michael Halsband’s image of Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat, both in Brooklyn. Banksy slyly left a painting, ‘Hammer Boy’, on the Upper West Side. The boy is meant to represent the mischievousness of children. Keith Haring left a mark in Harlem with the anti-drug ‘Crack is Wack’ mural to warn against crack cocaine use which was rampant in the 80s when he made the painting. Puerto Rico Los Muros Hablan, meaning the walls speak, is an artist-led project to rescue the abandoned spaces of the city using art. The multicultural urban art initiative includes work from local and international artists. Look for colorful works of people and creatures from Spanish artist Aryz, Chinese artist DALeast, Mexican artist Sego, and more. ©LordRunar/Getty Images Berlin, Germany The East Side Gallery is the longest remaining piece of the Berlin Wall and has been covered in street art. You can scope out the legendary street art that spans across nearly a mile from your living room courtesy of Google. Don’t miss Russian artist Dmitri Vrubel’s ‘My God, Help Me to Survive This Deadly Love’ depicting a kiss between Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and East German President Erich Honecker. Other powerful motifs include Birgit Kinder’s painting of a car breaking through the Berlin Wall. Folkestone, United Kingdom Folkestone Artworks is the largest outdoor exhibition of contemporary art in the United Kingdom. UK’s largest urban outdoor exhibition of contemporary art comprises of 74 art installations across the town including several street art murals such as Michael Craig Martin’s 'Folkestone Lightbulb' which captures the essence of energy and inspiration created by the outdoor gallery. Valparaíso, Chile The bohemian Chilean city is a cultural center for art with an epic mural art scene. Virtually follow the Street Art Route to skip the lines and view some of the most beloved street art in town. Galvez Alley is a narrow alley decked out in an explosion of color with many murals. Valpo’s Granma by Ella & Pitr is one of Valparaíso’s most famous paintings which depicts a grandmother watching over the city.Scott Beale / Laughing SquidNashville, Tennessee Nashville is known as an arts and culture hub of the United States, and the street art is no different. Art by famous local and international artists can be found on the sides of buildings all across the city. Take a Google Earth tour of the best Nashville has to offer. Next time you find yourself in Nashville, take a photo in front of the famous angel wings, painted by Kelsey Montague, in the Gulch, or the "I Believe in Nashville" murals that can be found all around the city.

Inspiration

15 travel movies to get you through quarantine

To get through the COVID-19 quarantine crisis, we polled our readers for some of their favorite travel movies. Here is a list of 15 movie recommendations to scratch your travel itch while you're stuck at home: Eat Pray Love (rent on Amazon for $2.99) Liz Gilbert had everything a modern woman is supposed to dream of having -- a husband, a house, a successful career -- yet like so many others, she found herself lost, confused, and searching for what she really wanted in life. Newly divorced and at a crossroads, Gilbert steps out of her comfort zone, risking everything to change her life, embarking on a journey around the world that becomes a quest for self-discovery. In her travels, she discovers the true pleasure of nourishment by eating in Italy; the power of prayer in India, and, finally and unexpectedly, the inner peace and balance of true love in Bali. Under the Tuscan Sun (Hulu) Frances Mayes is a 35-year-old San Francisco writer whose perfect life has just taken an unexpected detour. Her recent divorce has left her with terminal writer's block and extremely depressed. Her best friend, Patti, is beginning to think that she might never recover. "Dr. Patti's" prescription: 10 days in Tuscany. It's there, on a whim, that Frances purchases a villa named Bramasole--literally, "something that yearns for the sun." The home needs much restoration, but what better place for a new beginning than the home of the Renaissance? As she flings herself into her new life at the villa in the lush Italian countryside, Frances makes new friends among her neighbors; but in the quiet moments, she is fearful that her ambitions for her new life--and new family--may not be realized, until a chance encounter in Rome throws Frances into the arms of an intriguing Portobello antiques dealer named Marcello. Even as she stumbles forward on her uncertain journey, one thing becomes clear: in life, there are second chances. Secret Life of Walter Mitty (FX Now) (Rent on Amazon for $3.99) Ben Stiller directs and stars in THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY, James Thurber's classic story of a day-dreamer who escapes his anonymous life by disappearing into a world of fantasies filled with heroism, romance and action. When his job along with that of his co-worker (Kristen Wiig) are threatened, Walter takes action in the real world embarking on a global journey that turns into an adventure more extraordinary than anything he could have ever imagined. Lost in Translation (Starz, rent on Amazon for $3.99) After making a striking directorial debut with her screen adaptation of The Virgin Suicides, Sofia Coppola offers a story of love and friendship blooming under unlikely circumstances in this comedy drama. Bob Harris (Bill Murray) is a well-known American actor whose career has gone into a tailspin; needing work, he takes a very large fee to appear in a commercial for Japanese whiskey to be shot in Tokyo. Feeling no small degree of culture shock in Japan, Bob spends most of his non-working hours at his hotel, where he meets Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) at the bar. Twentysomething Charlotte is married to John (Giovanni Ribisi), a successful photographer who is in Tokyo on an assignment, leaving her to while away her time while he works. Beyond their shared bemusement and confusion with the sights and sounds of contemporary Tokyo, Bob and Charlotte share a similar dissatisfaction with their lives; the spark has gone out of Bob's marriage, and he's become disillusioned with his career. Meanwhile, Charlotte is puzzled with how much John has changed in their two years of marriage, while she's been unable to launch a creative career of her own. Bob and Charlotte become fast friends, and as they explore Tokyo, they begin to wonder if their sudden friendship might be growing into something more. Midnight in Paris (Showtime, rent on Amazon for $3.99) This is a romantic comedy set in Paris about a family that goes there because of business, and two young people who are engaged to be married in the fall have experiences there that change their lives. It's about a young man's great love for a city, Paris, and the illusion people have that a life different from theirs would be much better. Into the Wild (Showtime, rent on Amazon for $2.99) Freshly graduated from college with a promising future ahead, 22 year-old Christopher McCandless instead walked out of his privileged life and into the wild in search of adventure. What happened to him on the way transformed this young wanderer into an enduring symbol for countless people. Was Christopher McCandless a heroic adventurer or a naïve idealist, a rebellious 1990s Thoreau or another lost American son, a fearless risk-taker or a tragic figure who wrestled with the precarious balance between man and nature? McCandless' quest took him from the wheat fields of South Dakota to a renegade trip down the Colorado River to the non-conformists' refuge of Slab City, California, and beyond. Along the way, he encountered a series of colorful characters at the very edges of American society who shaped his understanding of life and whose lives he, in turn, changed. In the end, he tested himself by heading alone into the wilds of the great North, where everything he had seen and learned and felt came to a head in ways he never could have expected. Edie (Rent on Amazon for $3.99) Following the death of her husband, Edie (Sheila Hancock) breaks free from years of his control and rebels against her daughter's wish for her to move into assisted living by embarking on an adventure she and her father had always longed for: a trip to the Scottish Highlands to climb the world famous Mt. Suilven. Along the way, she hires young camping shop owner Jonny (Kevin Guthrie) to be her guide. Despite the generational differences, Jonny encourages Edie to fulfill her dream. 7 Years in Tibet (Rent on Amazon for $2.99) Jean-Jacques Annaud (The Name of the Rose, Quest for Fire) directed this Becky Johnston adaptation of Heinrich Harrer. In 1943, an Austrian mountain climber-skier (Brad Pitt) escapes from a British internment camp in India, travels over the Himalayas, arrives in Lhasato, and becomes friends with the Dalai Lama. Filmed in Argentina, Chile, and Canada. Life of Pi (Rent on Amazon for $3.99) Director Ang Lee creates a groundbreaking movie event about a young man who survives a disaster at sea and is hurtled into an epic journey of adventure and discovery. While cast away, he forms an amazing and unexpected connection with another survivor...a fearsome Bengal tiger. Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (Rent on Amazon for $3.99) When they turn 16, four lifelong friends are upset over the prospect of spending their first summer apart. As they scatter to different locations, their one bond is a cherished pair of jeans they've shared. Each will keep the pants for two weeks of her trip, passing them on to the next girl. Each faces serious coming-of-age problems, and somehow the pants help them through. National Lampoon’s Vacation (Hulu) The first film in the Vacation comedy franchise stars Chevy Chase as Clark Griswold, an ad exec who becomes consumed with taking his family cross-country to Wally World, a California amusement park. Less a vacation than a descent into a peculiarly American kind of hell, the Griswolds suffer through an endless series of catastrophes, culminating in a run-in with the law. Up in the air (Amazon Prime, Hulu) Ryan Bingham, a corporate hatchet man who loves his life on the road, is forced to fight for his job when his company downsizes its travel budget. He is required to spend more time at home just as he is on the cusp of a goal he's worked toward for years: reaching ten million frequent flyer miles and just after he's met the frequent-traveler woman of his dreams. Cast Away (Cinemax, $3.99 Amazon) An exploration of human survival and the ability of fate to alter even the tidiest of lives with one major event, Cast Away tells the story of Chuck Noland (Tom Hanks), a Federal Express engineer who devotes most of his life to his troubleshooting job. His girlfriend Kelly (Helen Hunt) is often neglected by his dedication to work, and his compulsive personality suggests a conflicted man. But on Christmas Eve, Chuck proposes marriage to Kelly right before embarking on a large assignment. On the assignment, a plane crash strands Chuck on a remote island, and his fast-paced life is slowed to a crawl, as he is miles removed from any human contact. Finding solace only in a volleyball that he befriends, Chuck must now learn to endure the emotional and physical stress of his new life, unsure of when he may return to the civilization he knew before. Cast Away reunites star Hanks with director Robert Zemeckis, their first film together since 1994's Oscar-winning Forrest Gump. Mile, Mile and a Half (Netflix) Filmmakers Ric Serena and Jason Fitzpatrick follow an ever-growing group of adventurous young artists on their ambitious quest to hike all 219 miles of California's John Muir Trail. Expedition Happiness (Netflix) Two free spirits, one dog. Traveling the vast spaces of an enormous continent in search of something more.