Goodbye, breakfast buffets and room service. Hello, temperature screening and keyless check-in.
It's usually around this time of year when the holiday itch set in, you instinctively start looking up cheap flights, stock up on bikinis and switch on an 'out of office' email that you wish you could keep forever. But this year, things are a little different - to say the least.
Whether your summer holiday has been cancelled or the very idea of getting on a bus let alone a plane fills you with anxiety, it's looking more and more likely that you'll be spending this summer on your couch.
But last week something wonderful happened, the hospitality sector was officially given the green light to re-open at the end of June. Leo Varadkar announced the summer could be saved and, as a result, the first summer staycation packages came flooding in.
Yet the experience will be radically different. Some beloved practices have to be shelved - goodbye buffet breakfasts - and new protocols have been introduced to ensure that travellers and staff feel safe and protected.
With that in mind, we spoke to Donal Minihane, General Manager of Hotel Doolin in County Clare to find out exactly what to expect from hotels this summer.
Hotels have long been renowned for their cleanliness and Hotel Doolin is no exception. But going forward, hotels will be hyper-conscious and vigilant around cleanliness going forward. Hotels will need to demonstrate that they have implemented enhanced health and safety protocols for cleaning guest rooms, meeting spaces and common spaces in their properties, as well as back-of-house areas. "We will now have dedicated cleaners who will be on-site 24/7, continuously sanitising with a huge focus on high touch areas," says Minihane. It is expected that auditing initiatives will ultimately be implemented to measure hotel compliance with the stated criteria for cleanliness.
The rumours were true, buffet breakfasts are no more. The problem is that social distancing will be impossible to maintain as we all crowd around various food and beverage stations, and the communal handling of jugs and tongs is just too risky going forward. It looks like individually plated and served meals will become the norm or “grab-and-go” options.
From virtual check-ins to digital room keys, technology will play a vital role in the re-opening of hotels post-COVID-19. One innovative way Hotel Doolin are using technology to ensure their guest and staff safety is by offering digital menus in its bar and restaurant. “Menus will be sent to people when they pre-book so that they can view beforehand or on their own phone onsite," says Minihane.
While we all love the luxury touches in hotel rooms, it looks like minimalism will be the way forward in reducing the number of items that need to be disinfected. This means waving goodbye to complimentary pens, paper, magazines and guest directories, and other items that we love but are not crucial to the room.
Similar to restaurants and pubs, hotel dining will now take place in a socially distanced dining room. Guests will have to pre-book a table for both the bar and restaurant. "On arrival, guests will be met by a dedicated but distanced host in each area to help people with seating so that this is as seamless as possible," says Minihane. “We’ll have larger tables so that families can eat together, both in the bar or in our restaurant, and we’re expanding our takeaway offering so we can be sure we to serve as many guests as possible. We’ll be offering lots of al-fresco dining availability too."
Chilling out in hotel pools and getting active in their gyms are great perks to staying at hotels, but new protocols will have to be followed when they re-open. It is likely that scheduled gym time-slots will be introduced so guests won't be able to just rock up when they feel like it. The same will be applied for hotel swimming pools where guests will have to pre-book a pool time.
Summer is wedding season and while most have been postponed until next year, many brides and grooms will be going forward with their plans. “Our first wedding is scheduled for mid-August," says Minihane. “There will, of course, be some changes. We are looking at painting a gorgeous mural on one of our walls to display the menu for each wedding. We’ll be spacing our tables to two-metres apart. We're also recommending to our couples that they keep families together on their table plan and it’s a max of six people per table."
Located in the heart of Doolin, County Clare, Hotel Doolin is a boutique-style hotel featuring elegant bedrooms with private bathrooms. Their staycation packages are tailored for families, groups and couples and include accommodation, morning and evening meals as well as activities. For more information or to make a booking, visit hoteldoolin.ie
Main image by Ashwini Chaudhary