My family tested the waters of COVID-19 vacation land a couple of weeks ago and took a week-long road trip from Tampa, Fla. to Savannah, Ga., to Asheville, N.C. and back. We spent most of our time in the Asheville area. We loved the Asheville and Savannah areas.
In recent months I have heard from one hotel and restaurant company after another about their plans to clean like crazy to make their guests feel welcome and safe.
This was my family’s first test to see if the hotels were doing what they said they were doing.
Our first stop was a Holiday Inn Express in Savannah. When we arrived, our room was not quite ready, but we appreciated that the front desk person had called around to find us our room. At this point her nose was showing so her mask was not really doing much good. When she called us to the desk to get our room keys, her mask was no longer on at all. Yikes! I had to wonder how many faithful mask wearers like our family had met the same greeting and been disappointed immediately with the service quality. We had been there just minutes and had already decided we would never return. With COVID-19 cases spiking just about everywhere in our country, you cannot screw around with mask wearing if you are a business open to the public. With online reviews it can take just a few seconds to scare away A LOT of future business.
We proceeded to our room. On the way we met a housekeeper with no mask and another person on staff wearing no mask. IHG, on its website, talks about the implementation of social distancing operating procedures. Where was the breakdown at our hotel? At the individual level? Management level? Ownership level. In my opinion, all three. Where was the leadership and personal responsibility! Don’t these people watch the news at night?
A couple more things about our hotel. It was eco-friendly of them to have dispensers in the shower but at first touch the system fell apart and I could have filled the bottles with anything I pleased. And, the breakfast selection was far greater than I expected. At least kudos for that.
Our Stay in Asheville
In Asheville we stayed at a Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott. The staff did a great job wearing masks and seemed the most regimented in doing such. Our only complaints there: The first morning we were given a breakfast bag with a bottle of water, thin granola bar, and muffin just a tad larger than a golf ball. There were three of us but were only given two bags. By the time we had exited the parking lot for the day, we were already hungry. On subsequent days, a banana was added to each bag. And yes, we were still hungry. We learned to buy our own breakfast items—milk, cereal, bread for toast, etc.
While leaning over the bed closest to the window I discovered two cockroaches and somebody’s pair of glasses. It was clear this hotel had not fine-tooth combed the guestroom for cleanliness. On Marriott’s website: “In guest rooms, we have elevated our rigorous protocols to thoroughly clean all surfaces with hospital-grade disinfectants.” Maybe that was what killed the roaches?
Savannah on the Way Home
Our last stop on our trip back to Tampa was a Best Western Premier property in Savannah. This time the first person greeting us was wearing a mask but there was what appeared to be a manager walking around with no mask at all. Hours later he still was not wearing one. The front desk person told us the wrong time for breakfast so when we got up to eat the area was still closed.
During our trip we time and time again met workers in restaurants not appropriately masked up. Yes, there were some who did a good job but some just did not get it—wearing the mask below the nose, not wearing masks at all when chatting with their coworkers behind the scenes, etc.
As for travelers, there were many who cared and just as many who cared less.
How do you convince our own industry’s workers to follow procedures. Some companies have talked about clean champions. That is a great idea—someone to police on-property hygiene. And frankly, if you are a traveler not wearing a mask you should not be allowed inside until you have been given one.
Air transmission of COVID-19 is its No. 1 vehicle for spreading. Together, we must all do our part to stop it, to at least slow it down. Too many people are dying and getting sick. My own aunt, who is 88, was diagnosed with the virus this past week! I am not ready to lose her. It is not her time or anyone else’s time to go from COVID-19.
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