Look to theme parks to inspire COVID safety measures

By now every property has assembled some sort of viral safety operations guide. But more will be required in the coming months as the Centers for Disease Control revises its guidelines and so you can meet any further mandates specific to groups.

To give you a sense of some measures you can take to ensure you are going beyond the bare minimum (and to avoid any potential lawsuits), below are some protocols being implemented by theme parks, which have just started reopening this month. By their very nature, these places deal with large crowds so their new social distancing measures will likely work at your hotel, too.

  • Require all attendees and employees to wear face masks
  • Install UV dispenser machines next to X-ray scanners for bags
  • Require all attendees and employees to undergo a rapid COVID test, where only those with negative results can enter the park as guests or to work
  • Require all attendees and employees to have their temperature taken by remote scanner or via camera software, with those testing high refused admission or not permitted to work until testing fever-free for 24 hours
  • Implement social-distancing practices throughout the grounds, such as a 6-foot buffer when queuing, when seated at restaurants and when mobile ordering
  • Limit attendance to 25%, 50% or 75% of park capacity depending on current government recommendations
  • Implement touchless payment for food, merchandise and parking
  • Eliminate self-serve food options, with employees required to refill beverages
  • Require employees to wipe down vehicles and seats between rides
  • Implement a virtual line waiting system for all or most attractions
  • Suspend parades and nighttime shows
  • Close indoor attractions and shows
Social distancing at Shanghai Disney Resort | Getty Images
Social distancing at Shanghai Disney Resort | Getty Images

Some of these have direct relevance for hotels, and I bring them to your attention because you can get to work on them right now and avoid scrambling to get up to speed once travel ramps back up. Moreover, technology solutions will help hotels immensely in creating a more social distanced and safer environment for guests.

Translating the above list for hospitality, here are some actions you can take right now:

  • Increase the spacing between tables in your restaurants, lounges and other common spaces while also aligning your POS software so that it separates reservations in acceptable intervals
  • Map out a new front desk queue so that the lineup area leaves the appropriate amount of space between each group as well as others who may be passing by
  • Develop new cleaning SOPs for public areas that include a more thorough and sanitized wipedown of seats, tables and anywhere else a guest might touch
  • Secure a PPE supplier that can brand items bespoke to your hotel in case they become a standard part of the employee uniform moving forward
  • Look to what systems you can deploy to heighten cashless and contactless payment methods
  • Investigate systems that can move onsite processes online so as to limit human interactions
  • Ask your PMS about features that more effectively adapt to social distancing during the ramp up by ensuring that guests are not assigned adjacent rooms or by not assigning a guest to a room occupied the previous night
  • Inquire about the legality of prescreening guests for COVID before entry and not allowing visitors inside who do not have a reservation, as well as a new refund policy for those guests who do test positive