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Safety first the policy as hosts step up to staycation plate

Hotels, B&Bs, guesthouses and self-catering accommodation now follow stringent guidelines before they welcome guests

Look out for twinkly eyes  as you arrive at your lodgings because staff working front of house should be wearing face coverings.

Look out for twinkly eyes as you arrive at your lodgings because staff working front of house should be wearing face coverings.

 

Even the most cursory glance at social media in recent weeks would have told you that Irish people have warmly embraced the “summer of the staycation”, choosing to holiday at home for the year that’s in it.

And with the Government’s “Stay and Spend” tax credit scheme kicking in on October 1st, there’s an added incentive to holiday at home right through the winter months.

For those planning a trip somewhere in Ireland, however, one priority now takes precedence – safety. Hotels, B&Bs, guesthouses and self-catering accommodation now follow stringent guidelines, co-created by their representative bodies, that should instil confidence in any nervous travellers, says Mark Scott-Lennon, director and general manager of the Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel in Killiney and chair of the Irish Hotels Federation Dublin branch.

He explains the priority for the IHF has always been to ensure the safety of their guests and employees and says hotels and guesthouses across the country used the lockdown months to prepare for the “new normal”.

So, what does that look like?

When researching accommodation for a trip, would-be staycationers should look out for the Fáilte Ireland Covid Safety Charter symbol; according to Scott-Lennon, the majority of hotels at this stage will have this stamp.

“That means staff have undergone online training and that the hotel had pledged to adhere to all the new guidelines. That should be the first thing they look out for when they are looking to book a hotel.”

Once you arrive, the main difference is that there will be bookings required for every step of the journey – from breakfast to the gym and the pool. Hotels have also employed one-way systems, staff will be wearing the appropriate PPE, and sanitising stations should be plentiful, says Scott-Lennon.

“In our own hotel, from the time you’ve entered the front door to being seated in the lobby, you will have passed five sanitisation points. They are very prominent, as is the signage that everyone is now used to seeing.”

Front-of-house staff will also be wearing face coverings, as per the guidelines.

Every hotel has enhanced cleaning procedures, Scott-Lennon explains; for example, there are designated public area cleaners covering all the main touchpoints such as door handles, stair bannisters, and elevator buttons. These are all cleaned every half hour.

Hotel bedrooms also undergo a robust cleaning and sanitisation process that takes almost twice as long as it did in the pre-Covid era – so no need to come armed with your own sanitising spray and antibacterial wipes.

“There is a very clear Fáilte Ireland ‘map’ for cleaning the room, highlighting frequent touchpoints such as the remote control, light switches etc. Bed linen is bagged up inside the room. Things like the room service menu are now either single use items or available digitally, so there is nothing left there that would have been used by the previous guest,” he says.

But he adds that hotels are well used to following strict hygiene protocols.

“It’s almost not new to us, we are so used to the food safety and cleanliness aspects, and how standardised it was, so this is just a little bit extra on top of that.”

Despite the hard work going on in the background, a hotel stay should be as relaxing as it has ever been, says Scott-Lennon, who notes that hotels have had to do very little “policing” of the guidelines.

“The experience should be very similar as all the onus is on the hotel to comply with the guidelines. Obviously there is a personal responsibility element in terms of wearing face coverings and social distancing, but everyone is used to that in all walks of life now.”

Five hotel hallmarks you won’t see anymore

  1. Bye bye to the breakfast buffet: Patrons will no longer be able to pile their plate high with fruit, pastries and a full Irish. The traditional self-service breakfast buffet has fallen foul of new guidelines, with table service offered instead.
  2. Standing room no more: Hotel bars will only be operating as restaurants for the foreseeable, so standing or sitting at the bar while nursing a pint is no longer an option.
  3. Empty room: Your hotel room might look a little barer than usual. Typical amenities such as iron/ironing board, and tea/coffee making facilities are available only upon request and likewise with reusable items such as extra pillows and blankets.
  4. Gym and swim but no sauna: While trips to the gym or the swimming pool can be booked in advance, saunas and steam rooms do not allow for social distancing and must remain shut.
  5. A welcoming smile: Look out for twinkly eyes instead as you arrive at your lodgings – staff working front of house should be wearing face coverings.