Last week I shared some insights I gained from my three-day virtual travel conference, which was pretty intense in how travel comes back in the midst of Covid. I addressed the ways travel suppliers are offering more flexible policies to encourage future bookings, some of the health screening you can expect. Today, let’s look at more variations of safety and health protocols.
Maintaining a safe environment
All travel suppliers are actively designing for more social distancing and making more use of outdoor spaces. Iberostar has reorganized seating areas to aid social distancing – which is actually a great benefit as it creates a more intimate setting for all guests to enjoy.
There is more attention to touch-free entrances and exits at resorts and on cruise lines.
In particular, cruise lines are implementing more changes to provide health and safety measures to help guests feel comfortable and enjoy their experience while keeping them in a protected environment. One of the most significant changes, at least for a while, will be that cruise guests will need to go ashore on ship-run excursions only in order to maintain the ‘bubble’ of safety and proper protocols for all guests.
The cruise lines are working closely with the local destinations and the tour operators there to maintain a robust and consistent set of health and sanitation protocols. All the port cruise terminals, tour coaches, and attractions must have appropriate protocols in place to be used by the cruise line.
For excursion transportation, motorcoaches will be at 50% capacity. Social distancing and masks will be as required by each venue and local community.
Some cruise lines are enhancing their onboard medical centers. NCL will include a new dedicated Public Health Officer on every ship.
There will be apparent increased sanitation activities, with more hand sanitizer stations, enhanced stateroom cleaning, and new protocols in all public areas. There is close attention to increased sanitation of all contact surfaces such as handrails, tables, door handles, etc. There will include more deep cleaning in dining areas between meals.
For both hotels and cruise lines, there are new cleaning measures associated with the guest rooms. Iberostar has a pre-arrival deep clean and disinfection process; rooms are not occupied until 24 hours after post-cleaning procedures.
American Queen Steamship Company has focused on a heightened level of preparedness for their vessels, and each stateroom will receive a follow-up electrostatic fogging after each guest departure.
On cruise lines, there is heightened attention to the air filtration systems. Virgin Voyages touts its technology from AtmosAir Solutions — an air filtration system that kills 99.9% of viruses. They treat 100% of the air onboard, which is the first of its kind in the industry.
Numerous cruise lines have implemented the upgraded medical-grade H13 HEPA air filters onboard, which are capable of removing 99.9% of airborne pathogens and are fine enough to catch particles of Covid-19.
There are no self-service buffets across the board, but rather waiters stationed to serve guests at buffets.
Technology takes a role in health and safety
It was impressive to hear how technology can play a role in getting back to travel. Many of these initiatives have been in development for a while, but the current situation has accelerated the introduction and usage of applications to improve the client experience.
The ability for guests to do more with a phone app – whether it is to check-in, access their room, make requests – results in reduced interactions, and reinforces the health protocols. Iberostar offers private and convenient check-in through the Iberostar app; all information on services, resort activities, and dinner reservations are available through the app. NH Hotels has invested in advanced digital services to minimize human interactions and contact with services. Digital check-in, temp checks, contactless greetings, luggage sanitation, and digital check-outs are all handled seamlessly with technology.
Land tours are scheduled in 2021 and will travel based on border openings. We will see smaller group sizes, lower occupancy levels in transportation and venues, and enhanced cleaning of motorcoaches and luggage. Escorted tours will represent a safer environment than independent travel, as tour directors lead travelers efficiently through a pre-planned and vetted itinerary, including safe restaurants and stops. The delightful ‘front of the line’ access takes on a new meaning as travelers won’t be standing around in a queue waiting for admission to popular attractions.
Cruise Ships will start with a few sailings and grow over time. Once ships that cater to Americans start sailing again, it won’t be all the ships from a cruise line all at once – they will begin slowly with a few ships and add more vessels over time and continue to refine their protocols. There have been cruises sailing since July, mostly European lines and in the South Pacific. Their track record over the last few months provides an example of how cruising can be safe and healthy. Smaller ocean ships and river cruise lines, with fewer guests, will be an attractive way to sail for those who want to balance their desire to travel with health and safety concerns.
One thing that became obvious during my conference is that people are planning travel in their future. Folks are booking trips into 2022 and 2023. Cunard recently opened its 2023 World Cruise and already sold out a quarter of the space! Even though we are in a strange reality right now, travel creates hope, and people are actively dreaming and scheduling it.
When you are ready to put your travel dream on the calendar, I’m ready to help you.