COVID-19 has changed the way hotels do business

When a guest checks out at the Holiday Inn on Fairview Road in Barrie, the room is left untouched for 48 hours

Imagine checking into a hotel and being told by staff that all those amazing features you read about online are out of bounds. The pool, whirlpool, exercise room, the restaurant and bar. Don’t expect your room to be freshly cleaned every day and you’ll have to make your own bed.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way hotels are doing business, adapting to a world where safety is just as important as hospitality.

In Barrie, the Holiday Inn on Fairview Road has been a fixture off Highway 400 for decades. General Manager Ken Johnston has been working with staff and his corporate office to ensure safety measures are at their highest standards for both staff and guests. But the way things used to be done aren’t happening as often or at all anymore, or in some cases, things are being done more often. It depends on what aspect of the hotel you are talking about.

For instance, common touch items at the Holiday Inn get extra attention with a special cleaning solution.

Johnston said things such as elevator buttons, door handles and rails get cleaned three times a day. First thing in the morning, after 11 a.m. when guests have checked out and at the end of the day.

If you book a room for more than one night, don’t expect the luxury of a freshly cleaned room every day. And if you want to make up the bed, you are on your own. Fresh towels are left outside the door.

Even when a guest checks out, the room is left untouched for 48 hours before cleaning staff enter and give the room a complete scrub down. Staff are equipped with gloves and there is personal protective equipment, if needed.

The Holiday Inn is also a conference centre. Everything has been cancelled or pushed ahead to a future date including weddings.

“All conferences are cancelled until the end of June. Some want to rebook but their guess is as good as mine when this is going to end.”

The Holiday Inn has 161 rooms and with people being urged to stay at home, just who is travelling and checking into a hotel?

“Leisure has stopped. We are seeing workers in essential areas. A lot of construction crews.” said Johnston.

Appreciating the work of health care staff, the Holiday Inn has reached out to Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre offering special rates for staff and guests.

“It is really driven at hospital workers who don’t want to go home because of fear of spreading the virus.”

Johnston said the hotel has also offered special rates to migrant workers who will be needed in the fields in the Holland Marsh in another few months. So far, there has not been a response. Johnston believes that’s because farmers have received assistance from the government. Georgian College has reached out seeking information about providing accommodation for their international students. Again, special rates are on the table.

Johnston said the hotel is also prepared if a guest was required to self-isolate. He said they are not equipped to quarantine people, adding it would be impossible to police.

Even the check in and check out procedure, a usually routine affair, is no longer as personal. Plexiglass separates staff at the front desk from visitors.

Johnston said the hotel industry has diminished in terms of business. The goal is to continue to offer friendly service, safe service and the hope that everyone who does stay, enjoys their stay, and most importantly, get’s a good night sleep.

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