How to Stay Healthy at a Hotel During the Pandemic

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The door to the resort room on Vancouver Island greeted us with a safety seal after we checked in at the Sooke Harbour Resort & Marina. Inside, the unit was as spotless as a Biosafety Level 4 lab, and extra blankets and towels in the hall closet were sheathed in plastic wrap to prove their cleanliness.

These housekeeping measures helped put my mind at ease during our family’s first foray from home since B.C. began welcoming travellers again in June. But I probably needn’t have obsessed. On a scale of 1 (low risk) to 10 (high risk), staying at a hotel for two nights rates a low-moderate number of 4 – it’s safer than attending a backyard barbecue, but riskier than picking up groceries – according to a risk assessment chart produced by the Texas Medical Association Covid-19 Task Force and Committee on Infectious Disease.

September 4, 2020
Aerial view of Sooke Harbour Resort & Marina overlooking the water and mountain range
Sooke Harbour Resort & Marina.   Photo: Sooke Harbour Resort & Marina

Is it safe to stay in a hotel during Covid-19?

“For the most part hotels are quite safe,” confirms Dr. Craig Jenne, an infectious disease expert at the University of Calgary, Cumming School of Medicine. “The hotel industry has really embraced public health guidelines, and we’re seeing enhanced cleaning protocols at most hotels.”

From increased sanitization of surfaces in public spaces, to deep cleaning of guest rooms, to staff safety and hygiene training, many hotels are striving beyond the bare minimum of recommended standards. Still, visiting a hotel isn’t risk-free. Keep these tips in mind when booking a stay.

Read: Where Can Canadians Travel Right Now in 2020?

8 tips for a healthy hotel stay

Here are some simple, expert recommended steps you can take to make sure your next hotel stay is safe and secure.

A health measures sign placed near the reception of the Four Seasons Hotel Toronto
Four Seasons Hotel Toronto.   Photo: Ripe Resolution

Do your research

“You’ve got hundreds of hotels to choose from, so do a little homework and pick the one that is going to help you be at ease,” says Jenne.

Many hotels have upped their cleaning protocols, and some larger chains are working with medical groups to help them make health and safety decisions – Hilton consults with the Mayo Clinic, while Four Seasons works with Johns Hopkins Medicine International. Most properties provide a link to their Covid‑19 protocols on their website’s landing page.

It’s also worth asking about the cancellation policy, in case you fall ill prior to travel. Hotel Zed, with locations in Kelowna, Victoria and Tofino, lets you cancel the day before you travel with no penalty, for example.

Read: Our Favourite Canadian Hotel Stays

Checking for health and safety measures on the Hyatt Hotel reservation page on a mobile device
   Photo: Hyatt Hotels

Download the loyalty app for your hotel

Earn points for your stay and manage all aspects of your reservation, including contactless check-in and check-out, plus payment, with the hotel’s loyalty app. Hilton’s Honors app lets guests bypass the front desk entirely with a digital key so they can go directly to the room.

A close up of the health measures sign in effect at the Four Season Hotel Toronto
Four Seasons Hotel Toronto.   Photo: Ripe Resolution

Pack pandemic travel essentials

Face coverings are now mandated in indoor public spaces in many Canadian cities. Additionally, some hotel chains including Marriott and Hyatt require hotel guests to mask up in common areas like the lobby and elevators.

If you forget your mask, a few hotels, such as The Fairmont Château Laurier in Ottawa, offer “stay safe” kits available on request, that include a mask, hand sanitizer and wipes.

Read: The 2020 Travel Essentials We All Need Right Now
 

Request a hotel room on a lower floor

Though you can ride an elevator safely – many hotels have hand sanitizer stations just outside (or sometimes inside) the elevator, and floor stickers to demarcate a maximum occupancy of three or four people – Jenne recommends waiting for the next ride if the elevator looks cramped, or taking the stairs instead. Better yet, ask for a room on a lower floor to skip the elevator ride all together.

Hilton QR codes placed on doors to provide additional information on cleaning measures
Hilton.   Photo: 2020 Hilton

Trust that your hotel room is clean

Many hotels have upped their housekeeping game, going so far as washing that once-cringey duvet cover between guests, or steam cleaning upholstered couches and chairs. Some, such as Fairmont, even let rooms “rest” for two days between occupants. Many are also adopting the safety seal door protocol like the one we had in Sooke, so guests know no one has been in the room since it was cleaned.

Still, Jenne encourages using common sense (don’t lick the doorknob). And when in doubt, it doesn’t hurt to use a disinfectant wipe on high touch points like the TV remote, light switches and door handles.

Consider room service instead of restaurant dining

Hotel chains including Four Seasons, Hilton and Fairmont are now doing “contactless delivery” for room service, with orders placed outside the door. But Jenne says skipping the hotel restaurant meal or nightcap at the bar really depends. If it’s not crowded, seating between tables is well spaced and staff are wearing masks and asking for your details for contact tracing, it may be okay, depending on your comfort level.

Eggs, croissants, toast and orange juice room service
   Photo: Alev Takil

Rethink your hotel workout

Though some hotels have reopened their fitness facilities, Jenne says gyms pose the most risk, as there have been Covid-19 outbreaks linked to fitness studios across Canada.

“Fitness centres have a lot of common touch points ­­– the same machine, the same towel rack, the same weights,” he says. “We want to avoid touching things that 20 other people have touched in an hour, because that’s where we could pick up the virus.”

Plus, people are breathing heavier and exhaling more droplets in close proximity to others during a workout. Skip the gym and head outside for a jog instead.

Sofas surround an indoor hotel swimming pool
    Photo: Li Yang
An earth-toned suite at Hotel Zed with forest views
    Photo: Li Yang
Hotel Zed.    Photo: Hotel Zed

Pack your bathing suit

There is no evidence of Covid-19 being transmitted in pools or hot tubs, says Jenne. The risk with public bathing is the common touch surfaces such as hand railings or lockers in a change room (and let’s be honest – you don’t want to be in a Jacuzzi with a bunch of strangers talking loudly because the jets are on high).

To ensure social distancing, properties such as Hotel Zed and Fairmont are letting guests sign up for a time slot.

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