Hotel Doors Are Opening Again, But Don't Look For Breakfast Buffets

Hotels are reopening across the country with some restrictions, precautions and lack of amenities in an effort to woo back wary business travelers and vacationers and turn a profit. But will guests come?

“The Covid-19 crisis has punished the hospitality industry as hard as any business. U.S. hotel occupancy levels shrank to less than 25% in April, down 64% from a year ago, in what hotel data tracker STR called the ‘Worst Single Month Ever.’ 

“More than 5,000 U.S. hotels closed in March and April, and by the start of June nearly half still had their doors locked, STR said. Since March, 70% of hotel employees have been laid off or furloughed, according to the American Hotel & Lodging Association,” report  Craig Karmin and Steven Russolillo for The Wall Street Journal. 



Meanwhile, “every major lodging brand is in competition to show how its hygiene standards and new cleaning protocols are best in class,” they add.

Hostelries in California started welcoming guests Friday. To support its more than 6,000 members, the California Hotel and Lodging Association “unveiled its Clean + Safe guide and self-certification process, which offers hoteliers access to best practices, employee trainings, signage and regulatory forms. Members that submit a Clean + Safe Checklist will receive a window decal and digital images that can be used to promote a property as Clean + Safe certified,” Christina Jelski writes  for Travel Weekly.

“If you decide to break away from your coronavirus lockdown to hit the road this summer, expect some changes at your hotel, such as no more valet parking, a sheet of plexiglass between you and the concierge and a capacity limit at the pool. And forget about using the gym. It will be closed,” writes  Hugo Martin for The Los Angeles Times. “The breakfast buffet? Gone.”

In Connecticut, where hotels will begin opening Wednesday, guidelines released by the state last week “range from plexiglass at the front desks and the discontinuation of certain services, to thorough cleanings…. Other changes will include lobbies being treated like passageways instead of social spaces, breakfast buffets being operated by employees, and room service deliveries will be bagged and left at door, with disposable dishes, cups, and cutlery,” writes  Amanda Blanco for The Hartford Courant.

“Services like valet and coat check will likely be be discontinued, as will nonessential amenities including water, coffee, mini bars, and ice machines. Rooms should be free of writing pads, pens, pamphlets, and ornaments. However, irons, ironing boards, and hair dryers are allowed as long as they are thoroughly cleaned. Key cards must also be disinfected between guests,” Blanco adds.

The impact of COVID-19 has been felt by the seediest of motels to the paragons of tacky glitz.

“Interviews with current and former Trump Organization employees and tenants, and emails obtained by The Washington Post, show the pandemic in particular has rattled operations at the company. With thousands of Trump’s hotel rooms empty, the company laid off or furloughed more than 2,800 employees and scoured for even the smallest savings. It eliminated flowers, chocolates and newspapers at its New York hotel and turned off lights in common areas in its Chicago hotel to save on electricity, according to letters that hotel management sent to investors,” ThePost’s Joshua Partlow, David A. Fahrenthold and Jonathan O'Connell report.

“‘This was not just a step down,’ Eric Danziger, the chief executive of Trump Hotels, told board members of Trump’s Chicago hotel on April 22, according to an account of his phone call obtained by The Post. ‘This was a steep dive,’” they add.

USA Today’s Dawn Gilbertson stayed at three different Las Vegas hotels last week -- New York-New York, Caesars Palace, The D Las Vegas -- to get a firsthand look at what had changed in the wake of the casinos and entertainment venues reopening June 4. 

“The biggest surprise to me: Once inside the rooms, in Las Vegas at least, nothing seemed dramatically different from a pre-coronavirus stay. There were ice buckets, glasses or cups for water, the same old mini-shampoo bottles and prehistoric telephones and alarm clocks,” Gilbertson writes

“The only thing I noticed different at New York-New York besides the amenity kit [with face masks, hand sanitizer and other safety amenities] was a black and gold cardboard cover over the remote control, long deemed one of the germiest items in a room.” 

“‘Cleaned for your safety,’ it says.” 

So, “Is it safe to stay in a hotel, cabin or rental home during the pandemic?” 

“From the start, you must assume that everyone around you may be infected. Including yourself,” maintain  Elizabeth Marder and Paloma Beamer while asking that very question for PBS News Hours’ “The Conversation.”

“We are both exposure scientists. One of us feels comfortable booking a ‘no-contact’ stay; the other still isn’t sure whether to take an overnight trip anytime soon. But we agree on two things: Traveling these days brings increased risk, yet ways exist to minimize that risk,” they conclude.

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