How We Travel Now: Safer Hotel Stays


Does Frédéric Dimanche, director of the Ted Rogers School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at Ryerson University in Toronto, feel comfortable staying in a hotel right now? The answer is, yes. He compares it to climbing: “As a mountain climber, I know that to survive you have to manage risks and protect yourself,” he says. “Like mountain climbers, travellers have to do their part in keeping themselves – and others – safe.” And that includes doing a little pre–booking research. This summer, Dimanche flew to France and was impressed by the pandemic–related intel he got from his hotel, beginning with what he found on its website before he booked (“they did a good job reassuring me that all precautions were taken”). He was also pleased by his warm welcome at check–in (“it seemed they were making an extra effort to thank people for staying”), but was a little less impressed by the limited food service. Still, it was a positive experience – one he plans to have again soon, when he returns to Europe to visit family.

Whether you’re embarking on a staycation, an extended workation or are just giving up and going glamping, here’s how hotels are adapting to keep you safe.

December 16, 2020
Hilton QR codes placed on doors to provide additional information on cleaning measures
   Photo: 2020 Hilton


In our new reality, the basics of hospitality remain the same, Dimanche says. “It’s all about building trust with physical distancing – and heavy cleaning.” Some spots, like the newly renovated Hazelton Hotel in Toronto, present guests with sleekly packaged wellness “tool kits” containing wipes, gel and a mask upon arrival, while others are boosting confidence by joining forces with cleaning–product companies – Hilton has partnered up with Lysol and also consulted the Mayo Clinic to ensure its sanitization standards are up to snuff (a “CleanStay seal” on the door of your room is proof that no one has entered since it was cleaned).

Picturesque mountains provide a backdrop to the outdoor pool at the Torre del Marqués in Spain
Torre del Marqués, Matarraña, Spain.     Photo: Small Luxury Hotels of the World
The elegant Royal Suite Dining Room at The Savoy London
The Savoy London.     Photo: The Savoy London


Many properties reduce your chances of human contact simply by being in the middle of nowhere, like the recently reopened Wylder Hotels’ all–season mountain resort in Hope Valley, where you can hide away in a cozy yurt in the Sierra Nevada, or Spain’s new Torre del Marqués in Matarraña, which offers a rural escape to an 18–room, 18th–century farmhouse with activities including olive–oil tasting, truffle hunting, horseback riding and stargazing. You can also fan out in an urban setting at Chateau Denmark (opening in 2021 in and around London’s Denmark Street, birthplace of the British music scene, with opulent rooms inspired by genres from punk to rock ’n’ roll). The hotel’s 55 rooms are spread across 16 buildings. Like many hotels, the Chateau will offer contactless check–in via an app also used to order room service, while a “maxi–bar” replaces the conventional minibar should you wish to stay in for your evening cocktail. For a fuller gastronomical experience, some hotels are turning unbooked rooms into private pop–up dining experiences, like Savoy London’s Suite Dining, which launched in October. At Stadshotellet in Lidköping Sweden, enjoy veal schnitzel with red–wine sauce, lemon, capers, peas, anchovy butter and roasted potatoes at 67 Pop Up Restaurant – your exclusive dinner is served in one of the hotel’s 67 rooms.

The cozy lounge at a Onefinestay hotel in Paris
Onefinestay, Paris.     Photo: Onefinestay
A hanging swing within one of the room offered by Stay Kooook in Bern, Switzerland
Stay Kooook, Bern, Switzerland.     Photo: Stay Kooook

Comforts of home

Hotel–meets–vacation–home accommodations are more coveted than ever, Dimanche says. “It reflects the desire for ‘homey’ environments, but also the concern people have with large urban hotels with too many people.” Many hotels are diversifying and getting into the vacation home rental business: Accor’s Onefinestay, and Villas by Marriott, as well as newer hotel chains like Oyo Homes. And many of these spaces can be personalized. “Travellers don’t want traditional, uniform–looking hotel rooms,” Dimanche says. At Stay Kooook, which debuted this year in Bern, Switzerland, you can even move the walls and personalize your pad, choosing from a range of accessories from picture to plants. At the Annex in Toronto (tagline: a street–level hotel made to feel like home), there is no front desk and every floor features a self–serve linen closet, as well as works by local artists to help make you feel like part of the neighbourhood.

A window view workstation within a room at the Annex in Toronto
The Annex, Toronto.   Photo: Norr Studio (@norrstudio6)

Frédéric Dimanche’s recommends asking these five questions before booking

  1. What kind of safety measures are in place? Do all staff wear masks?

  2. How is the air quality? Can I open the windows in my room?

  3. Will there be a line at check–in, or can I do it electronically?

  4. How is breakfast served (i.e., not by buffet)? Hotels should be clear about how services have changed and if, for instance, they’re delivering a breakfast box to your room in lieu of the regular sit–down service, the price should be adjusted.

  5. What’s the cancellation policy? (Many hotels now offer refund policies or long–term credit without penalty.)