Travel advisors know that picking the right hotel for a client can lead to a make-or-break vacation experience if the accommodations aren't a great fit. Maybe the hotel is in a boring suburb, when the traveler thought he or she would be near the city center. Or maybe the rooms are noisy, the hot water is temperamental or the TV doesn't get CNN.
These are some of the criteria that used to occupy us pre-Covid-19. Now, a more serious question is: Will I feel safe?
The good news is that an increasing number of hotel companies are way ahead of us in offering new health and safety protocols aimed at reassuring jittery visitors -- and by the time Americans are finally allowed to set foot in Europe, more are likely to have followed suit. Here are a few examples:
Italy was particularly hard hit by the pandemic, but the recovery has been so encouraging that the Belmond Hotel Cipriani in Venice and the Belmond Hotel Splendido in Portofino were able to reopen June 19. However, rather than take a business-as-usual approach, the hotels' new policies include temperature checks for staff and guests, online check-in, superchlorination of swimming pools and a la carte menus in lieu of self-service buffets.
Similarly, the Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni on Italy's Lake Como opened July 4 with a number of new protocols, according to Jan Bucher, the hotel's fourth-generation owner.
Ireland's Dromoland Castle reopened July 3.
In addition to enhanced cleaning and sanitizing procedures for guestrooms and public spaces, "including the use of a new and Covid-19-specific purifying machine," the hotel has added temperature checks and changes to its restaurants and fitness centers to ensure social distancing, Bucher said.
Dromoland Castle in County Clare, Ireland, which reopened July 3, also now offers contactless services, reduced restaurant and bar capacities, enhanced cleaning and disinfecting procedures and PPE equipment for spa therapists among its new policies.
In Geneva, hotels and restaurants that adhere to a special set of safety protocols designed by Geneva Tourism and developed by Switzerland Tourism can display a Clean & Safe logo to assure guests of their compliance.
The Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues Geneva debuted a Lead with Care program -- available brandwide -- that features its #FSApp, which allows guests to have a contactless experience and to access staff from their personal devices.
Also in Switzerland, the Fairmont Grand Hotel Geneva reorganized its restaurants to meet social distancing standards, enhanced its cleaning protocols for guestrooms and increased safety measures for employees.
VisitEngland is partnering with the national tourist organizations of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales to launch a U.K.-wide industry standard and consumer mark to provide a "ring of confidence" for tourism as the sector works toward reopening.
The We're Good to Go designation allows businesses to demonstrate that they are adhering to government and public health guidance, have carried out a Covid-19 risk assessment and have checked that they have the required processes in place.
"This common industry standard mark will reassure American travelers when the time comes to travel to Great Britain once again, that local businesses are following the official guidelines to welcome them back safely and with confidence," said Gavin Landry, VisitBritain executive vice president, the Americas.
To obtain the designation, hotels and other businesses complete a self-assessment at https://goodtogo.visitbritain.com/, which features a check list confirming they have put the necessary processes in place.
In London, the Rubens at the Palace, a Red Carnation property that overlooks Buckingham Palace, reopened July 4 with staff training on sanitation and physical distancing protocols, in line with recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition, public areas of the hotel are being reconfigured to allow for physical distancing wherever possible.
In an entirely different price point, Generator London opened July 4 with robust social distancing and hygiene protocols in all its rooms and public areas. All employees are Covid-19-safety certified, and other measures include reduced occupancy in shared accommodations by at least 50%, increased hygiene and cleaning frequency and standards, contactless check-in and checkout and reduced elevator occupancies.
The property also manages guest flow around public areas with one-way routes and signage.
Corinthia hotels, whose flagship property is in Malta, has begun the reopening process gradually and in line with directives from local authorities, according to company CEO Simon Naudi.
In addition to expanded safety protocols, the company updated its reservation and cancellation policies to provide more flexibility for uneasy guests.
The Grand Park Hotel Rovinj and its sister Maistra Collection properties in Croatia are also following guidelines set by the Croatian Institute of Public Health and the WHO.
Measures include daily staff training on housekeeping and hygiene protocols, with a focus on cleaning products that meet the European standards of virucidal efficacy.