By Claudia Carbone
Photos Courtesy of Antlers at Vail
As Colorado hotels and resorts reopen slowly and cautiously—like a dimmer dial rather than a light switch—a new essential worker is emerging: the hotel housekeeper. Once behind-the-scene employees, the housekeeping staff is now front and center as cleanliness, health and safety have become the most important aspects of a hotel stay. Indeed, housekeepers now are to hotels what healthcare workers are to hospitals.
Before the coronavirus, cleaning was kept in the background. “Housekeeping was done usually when guests were gone,” said Chris Daly, public relations professional in the hotel industry. “It’s not something we talked about. You might see a maid with a cart in the hallway and say ‘good morning,’ but it’s not something you interacted with. That’s gone. This [housekeeping] is now something guests want to know about. They want to be reassured.”
“Guests do ask about our cleaning protocols,” said Liana Moore, director of marketing for Antlers at Vail, which opened to the public May 25. “It’s usually during the booking process.” For example, a past guest traveling across the country recently chose the Antlers as a stop on the way specifically because of its cleaning procedures, she said.
The condo-hotel had just completed a $5 million redo of its lobby and front desk area shortly before the global pandemic hit. Eagle County quickly became a hot spot in March but has since prevented a surge with its “Five Commitments of Containment” expected to be followed by residents and visitors alike.
- I will maintain 6 feet of social distance.
- I will wash my hands often.
- I will cover my face in public.
- I will stay home when I am sick.
- I will get tested immediately if I have symptoms.
To further appease consumer confidence, hotels are working to be part of the solution. “We had to rethink everything,” said Ted Davis, chief marketing officer of BENCHMARK® Hospitality. His company manages Garden of the Gods Resort and Club in Colorado Springs and Tivoli Lodge and Manor Vail Lodge in Vail—all open.
To that end, the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) launched Safe Stay, a website created in accordance with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other public health authorities. The site outlines health and safety guidelines for hotel employees as well as protocols for guests.
Many Colorado hotels that have reopened abide by these rigorous industry-wide cleaning procedures and have added a few of their own above and beyond AHLA’s guidelines. Others have developed their own standards, such as Marriott’s “Commitment to Cleanliness” and Hyatt’s “Global Care & Cleanliness Commitment.” They all are similar in content. But no matter who sets the rules, all of the cleaning implementation falls into the lap of the housekeeping staff.
When I asked Azucena Corral, director of housekeeping at Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa in Avon, if she ever thought she would have the most important job in the resort, she replied, “No, I never thought about that. I’ve always believed every job is important and we should be proud of what we do. I believe that now, more than ever, we want our guests to be confident that we are doing everything we can so they can enjoy their home away from home.
This is a given for all employees. For example, at the Westin, employees must wash or sanitize their hands every 60 minutes for 20 seconds and after any of the following activities: using the restroom, sneezing, touching the face, blowing the nose, cleaning, sweeping, mopping, smoking, eating, drinking, entering and leaving, going on break and before or after starting a shift. Hand sanitizing stations (preferably touchless) are conveniently available throughout hotels and resorts for guests.
Signage – Front of the House
Look for signs at the entrance and inside public places such as the lobby, elevators, bathrooms, pool and fitness areas. They inform guests about hygiene practices and remind them to wear face coverings. By now we are used to floor markings showing the six-feet distance requirement. Even in elevators at The Maven in downtown Denver (reopened May 15), footprints show where guests should stand, and only one party at a time is allowed in the lift. The Maven also is only booking every other room on each floor to encourage social distancing.
“We decided to invoke a little intellectual humor in the signage,” said BENCHMARK’s Davis. “Because our hotels are outside of downtowns, we have a picture of a wolf with the message Stay With Your Pack.” When the Elizabeth Hotel in Fort Collins reopened June 4, the music-themed hotel thought to greet guests with the “Hokey Pokey” playing in the lobby to practice social distancing.
Signage – Back of the House
Signage in the employee breakroom and housekeeping quarters remind housekeepers and other employees of the proper way to wear, handle and dispose of face coverings, use gloves, wash hands, sneeze, avoid touching their faces, and other coronavirus considerations.
Cleaning – Public Spaces
Housekeepers at Embassy Suites in Boulder use Ecolab and Lysol products, which have partnered with parent company Hilton, to disinfect high-touch points in common areas, such as door handles, bell carts, elevator buttons, light switches, guest room keys and the like. They clean public bathrooms every one-to-two hours. In addition, misters spray disinfectant on high-contact points. The staff supervisor charts all cleaning procedures daily.
Cleaning – Guest Rooms
Housekeepers pay particular attention to the room in which you spend most of your time; but after you arrive, they won’t enter your room unless you request it. At Denver’s oldest hotel, The Oxford downtown, every guest room was deep cleaned before reopening on May 8. “We have new cleaning procedures in place to be sure every surface in the room is sanitized properly between each guest, with emphasis on high-touch areas,” said Marie DeLibero, assistant general manager. High-touch areas include hard non-porous items like TV remotes, toilet seats and handles, door and furniture handles, water faucet handles, nightstands, telephones, in-room control panels, light switches, temperature control panels, alarm clocks, luggage racks and flooring. “Housekeepers must wear a mask and gloves and follow a strict checklist that ensures consistency in each area,” DeLibero said. “A housekeeping manager then inspects the rooms to ensure the checklist was completed thoroughly.”
Like in all hotels, housekeepers at The Peaks Resort & Spa in Telluride, which opened mid-June, clean rooms between stays, not during. They won’t be turning down your covers and putting a chocolate on your pillow at this luxury resort. And you won’t find items like extra blankets, throws, decorative pillows and pens in the room, but you can get them if you ask—delivered outside the door. Rooms remain empty for a minimum of 24-48 hours after a guest leaves for thorough disinfecting.
In their room at The Crawford Hotel at Denver’s Union Station, guests can communicate electronically with housekeeping and other staff through the in-room iPad, which is thoroughly sanitized between each stay. This replaces the need for paper products that must be replaced between each guest.
Head For The Hills
Since air conditioning potentially can disperse droplets infected with COVID into small spaces, according to the CDC, lodging where you can open windows to cool, fresh mountain air is in demand right now.
Devil’s Thumb Ranch reopened in late May, offering outdoor activities in wide-open spaces. Appropriate sanitization and distancing protocols are implemented throughout the property. Housekeepers open windows in rooms and cabins after each guest’s departure, and the many large windows and doors in meeting spaces can be opened for maximum ventilation.
YMCA of the Rockies Snow Mountain Ranch and Estes Park Center opened in June and are abiding by Safer at Home guidelines. Each has specific procedures for checking in to lodge rooms, cabins or yurts, so be sure to look online. Most outdoor activities are available with social distancing in place.
In Breckenridge, LOGE (pronounced lodge) recently replaced Wayside Inn on Hwy. 9. The affordable motel serving as basecamp for outdoor adventure opened July 1 with Go: Together Codes for staff, guests and vendors. It states:
- Do Your Part
- Go On Your Terms
- Be Ready for Different
- Wash Your Hands
- Share Your Thoughts
- Keep Six Feet Apart
In case you don’t know what six feet looks like, they humorously describe it for you:
- ‘Two arms’ length
- The length of one LOGE Camp bed frame
- Three marshmallow roasting sticks placed end-to-end
- 1:1,910,000 the length of the Oregon Trail
- One Cale Genebacher (co-founder of LOGE Camps)
They remind staff that no one can see them smile with a mask on so use good body language. And to guests: wash your hands like they were covered with S’mores marshmallow goo! This fits nicely with what LOGE stands for: Live Outside, Go Explore.
When Considering A Hotel Or Resort
DO ask about cleaning procedures or view them on the property’s website. Every resort mentioned in this article has a webpage dedicated to its cleaning protocols.
DO ask about refund and cancellation policies should a new mandate be announced.
DO ask about spa services, dining rooms, pools and anything specific you might be interested in so you won’t be disappointed if these places are closed or have limited access.
DO ask about packages and special deals.
DO plan to bring masks for every member of the family.
DO tip your housekeeper well! If not in cash, ask the front desk how you can add a gratuity to your bill.
DON’T expect valet service. You might have to schlep your luggage and park your car yourself.
DON’T expect room service as you know it. In-room dining is more like to-go or grab-and-go meals.
DON’T expect normal – everything is now a new normal.
DON’T be disappointed if there’s no room at the inn. As of mid-June, many hotels were limited to 50-percent capacity, but that mandate differs from county to county and could change if the virus spread subsides.
Denver native Claudia Carbone is an award-winning travel writer. Currently, her work is published in The Denver Post, London Sunday Telegraph’s Hotelegraph, GoWorldTravel.com, RealFoodTraveler.com, Colorado Parent Magazine, The Villager Newspaper. Her blog Sleepin’ Around covers any place you can sleep on vacation.