How Will the US Hotel Experience Change Post COVID-19?

As hotel occupancy ticks up ever so slightly, the lodging industry is putting new standards in place to enhance cleaning and ensure guest safety.

One organization working overtime to make sure that these new measures are clear and communicated effectively to the public is the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA), which has created Safe Stay guidelines for the industry.

“Safe Stay was developed specifically to ensure enhanced safety for hotels guests and employees. While hotels have always employed demanding cleaning standards, this new initiative will ensure greater transparency and confidence throughout the entire hotel experience,” said Chip Rogers, president and CEO of AHLA. “The industry’s enhanced hotel cleaning practices, social interactions, and workplace protocols will continue to evolve to meet the new health and safety challenges and expectations presented by COVID-19.”

Travelers in states where shelter in place and stay at home orders have been lifted may be looking to travel and stay in a hotel soon. What will that look like in the “new normal?”

Hygiene will be the number one priority. The Safe Stay guidelines promote frequent handwashing for employees, hand sanitizer dispensers, signage, instructions for mask-wearing and more.

Major hotel brands have launched their own programs, too, partnering with brands such as Clorox and Lysol and the Mayo Clinic.

Hilton CleanStay was launched in partnership with the makers of Lysol as well as the Mayo Clinic. Marriott announced a Global Cleanliness Council, a panel of experts on everything from food and water safety, infection prevention and hygiene, and hotel operations.

Visitors will have a much more contact-less experience when they visit properties while maintaining social distancing guidelines and new standards of cleanliness.

Hilton will have a CleanStay room seal on guestroom doors and guests will no longer find shared amenities such as pens and paper in the room and room directories will be made digital.

Travelers are also likely to find keyless entry to rooms and disinfecting wipes for touching elevator buttons. Room service menus and ordering will likely be done on mobile apps.

Guests should also arrive expecting to self park their vehicles. Resorts such as Omni have limited valet services and instituted social distancing protocols where self-parking is unavailable.

There will also be limits on the number of people allowed to congregate in different areas with limited seating in lobbies, bars and restaurants in order to observe social distancing guidelines. The days of buffet dining may also be a thing of the past. AHLA guidelines say that room service should use contactless delivery and that buffets should be limited and served by an attendant in personal protective equipment. Pre-packaged and grab and go options are encouraged.

Guests may have to plan out their visits to the gym. Expect fitness centers to close multiple times per day for cleaning as well as socially distanced pool areas with lounge chairs six feet apart.

Behind the scenes there will be new cleaning technologies utilized.

One example is Marriott’s deployment of electrostatic sprayers and the use of the highest-grade disinfectant products. Electrostatic cleaning really gives a deep clean to surfaces, the spraying is a method where a device is used to apply an electric charge to a disinfectant, enabling the disinfectant to more effectively cover a surface than traditional cleaning methods.

One of the aspects of hotel stays that remains unknown is how many properties will institute temperature checks but travelers should expect the practice may become quite common.

The Venetian in Las Vegas said that it will use thermal scanners at entry points for a non-invasive temperature check.

Many properties will screen the health of their employees and include temperature checks.

Caesars Entertainment said that it will institute health screenings for all employees that include taking temperatures and COVID-19 testing.

While most hotel guidelines call for near-constant cleaning and disinfecting, travelers can also do their part.

Hand washing and the use of hand sanitizer should be frequent when traveling. Many properties plan to provide face masks and disinfectant wipes, but it doesn’t hurt to bring your own and wipe down surfaces, doorknobs and buttons.

Wearing a face mask is also recommended to protect both you and those around you.

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US Travel Announces Cancellation of IPW 2020

The U.S. Travel Association has confirmed the cancellation of IPW 2020 in Las Vegas this spring due to safety concerns and travel challenges posed by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The event, which would have featured several upgrades this year, was scheduled to take place May 30-June 3.

“The circumstances surrounding the coronavirus pandemic—including global travel restrictions, flight reductions, mandated social distancing, and stay-at-home orders both in the U.S. and abroad—have made this year’s event impossible to execute,” said U.S. Travel President and CEO Roger Dow in a statement issued Wednesday.

IPW delegates should expect to receive updates next week regarding the process for credits and refunds as well as information pertaining to IPW 2021.

“When this health crisis is behind us, IPW will clearly be more vital than ever as a catalyst for activating inbound travel and re-growing commerce, exports and jobs,” added Dow. “As always, our top priority is to provide value to our partners, exhibitors, buyers and attending media. The standard for next year will be nothing less than putting on the event that our stakeholders will remember as a key turning point in the process of rebuilding the international inbound travel economy.”

Considered the leading international inbound travel trade show, IPW connects domestic exhibitors with travel buyers and media from dozens of countries around the world and is credited with driving $5.5 billion in future travel to the United States.

“IPW is not just an event; it is a community. IPW will endure, as it has for more than 50 years, and it will be a force of strength and healing in a moment of profound need.”

“Until we are able to meet face-to-face again, everyone please be safe,” Dow concluded.

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'Get us off this ship': Coral Princess passengers frustrated with disembarkation process


Alan and Sharon Podrid’s journey on the Coral Princess cruise ship had been a pleasant one from the get-go – but they said a series of failed disembarkations, lack of communication from the cruise line and illness and death onboard due to coronavirus has turned the trip into a nightmare.

a large white building: People look out from their balconies on the Coral Princess cruise ship as it is docked at PortMiami on April 4, 2020.

“Get us off this ship, so we can get home and let them deal with these sick people,” Alan Podrid, 70, of Marietta, Georgia, told USA TODAY over the phone Monday.

The cruise ship is docked at Port Miami after it was turned away at the nearby South Florida port in Fort Lauderdale.

The Podrids have been quarantined in their approximately 180-square-foot room for six days and are thankful they have a balcony. Both feel healthy, with no fevers or coughs or other common symptoms of the novel coronavirus. They pass the time by watching movies and using their phones.

“It’s a struggle,” Alan Podrid said.

Disembarkation of the Coral Princess at Port Miami began Saturday and is likely to span several days. Three passengers from the cruise died, and USA TODAY reached out to Princess Cruises for updates on the status of the disembarkation and health of the passengers still onboard.

Sunday, passengers set for flights departing for the United Kingdom, Australia and California got off the ship, but the cruise line has since said there will be further delays for the rest of those onboard because of policy changes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC recommends those who get off the ship not travel on commercial flights nor should they share transportation with noncruise guests.

There were 1,898 people on the cruise – 1,020 passengers and 878 crew members – before Saturday. 

Podrid said the cruise line offloaded the couple’s luggage two days ago to disinfect it, and they have been without their belongings since. They were told to keep two changes of clothes. They were instructed to fill out a health questionnaire and hand it in, and they were under the impression they would then receive their luggage and board coaches. That didn’t happen. 

“We don’t know where we stand right now,” Podrid said.

Podrid is used to cruising; this was one of about 45 cruises he’s taken over the past decade or so.

He said passengers were notified during the sailing that an unusually high number of people went to the medical center with “virus-type respiratory issues.” That didn’t concern him.

“It’s not uncommon for people to get sick on cruises,” he said.

RELATED GALLERY: Coral Princess ship docks in Miami with coronavirus patients aboard

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© Lynne Sladky, AP

The Coral Princess cruise ship arrives at Port Miami amid the novel coronavirus outbreak, Saturday, April 4, 2020, in Miami. According to Princess Cruises, disembarkation of guests is expected to take several days due to limited flight availability. Guests requiring shoreside medical care will be prioritized to disembark first.

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© Joe Raedle, Getty Images

People are seen on board of the cruise ship Coral Princess after it docked at Port Miami on April 4.

Around March 31, he and his wife heard that about a dozen sick passengers were tested for coronavirus, and several crew members tested positive. Then came the news that two passengers had died and that all passengers were to be quarantined in their cabins. 

“I didn’t feel that the cruise line had been truthful with us. We had left Buenos Aires and had been sailing for a week or 10 days, and then they decided to notify us of possible coronavirus onboard. They kept telling us that everybody was healthy,” Podrid said. “When they told us that two people had passed away, everybody was really saddened, surprised and concerned. I don’t think people realized how this virus was transmitted, that people could be asymptomatic.”

If Podrid had his way, he’d be on his way to Atlanta by car.

“I can get off; I can rent a car; I can drive it up to Atlanta, which is where I live, and I can be out of here,” he said.

The mood on the ship is ever-changing, he said. 

“People are upbeat, they’re hopeful, but they’re scared,” Podrid said. They can talk to each other via phones in their rooms. Every day, the story from Princess and the captain changes, he said. 

“Every day, my hope seems to wane,” he said.

Contributing: Morgan Hines and Rasha Ali, USA TODAY; The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: ‘Get us off this ship’: Coral Princess passengers frustrated with disembarkation process

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STR study US hotels facing unprecedented low for 2020

STR and Tourism Economics have updated their 2020 U.S. hotel industry forecast in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, predicting that nationwide RevPAR will drop 50.6%, to $42.84, for the year.

Concurrently, occupancy is expected to be down 42.6%, to 37.9%, while average daily rate (ADR) is set to dip 13.9%, to $112.91. Supply and demand for the year are predicted to decline 14.9% and 51.2%, respectively.

Prior to the pandemic, STR had projected that RevPAR for 2020 would be flat, with occupancy set to fall 0.3%. Supply and demand had both been expected to increase slightly, at just under 2% growth.

“The industry was already set for a nongrowth year; now throw in this ultimate ‘black swan’ event, and we’re set to see occupancy drop to an unprecedented low,” said Jan Freitag, STR’s senior vice president of lodging insights. “Our historical database extends back to 1987, and the worst we have ever seen for absolute occupancy was 54.6% during the financial crisis in 2009.”

For the week ended March 21, STR said it saw U.S. RevPAR plummet 69.5%, the steepest drop ever recorded in the hotel data analytics firm’s 30-year history. However, Tourism Economics said it expects a fast rebound will help buoy overall performance for the year.

“Travel has come to a virtual standstill, but we expect the market to begin to regain its footing this summer,” said Adam Sacks, president of Tourism Economics. “Once travel resumes, the combination of pent-up travel demand and federal aid will help fuel the recovery as we move into the latter part of this year and next year.”

For 2021, STR and Tourism Economics are forecasting that U.S. hotel RevPAR will increase 63.1%, to $69.86, while occupancy will be up 57.3%, to 59.7%. ADR is expected to grow 3.7%, to $117.05, and supply and demand are set to surge 15.6% and 81.8%, respectively.

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