Va. lodging industry launches safety initiative as commonwealth reopens

Va. hotels implement "safe stay" initiative as state reopens

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - With most of the commonwealth under phase one guidelines, a new initiative called “Safe Stay” is being implemented by Virginia’s lodging industry to focus on the enhanced practices, social interactions and workplace protocols in response to COVID-19 pandemic.

The Safe Stay Initiative was created by the American Hotel & Lodging Association and was launched nationwide earlier this month.

The President of the Virginia Restaurant, Travel & Lodging Association, Eric Terry, says that since the pandemic began the lodging industry has lost over $1.5 billion. He hopes the new initiative will help bolster consumer confidence as the commonwealth reopens.

“Virginia lodging has lost arguably almost 80 percent of their normal business so it’s going to take a long time to recover for government travel to comeback and corporate meetings and things like that,” Terry said. “This really is meant to be both for the employees in terms of how they react and what they do that might be different than what they did before.”

Safe Stay is broken up into four main categories to address the health needs of employees, guests and the overall sanitation of Virginia’s lodging industry.

Under Employee & Guest Health the program outlines that hotel employees must engage in frequent handwashing with soap and the use of hand sanitizer with no less than 60 percent alcohol content.

Signage with hygiene reminders indicating the proper way to wear handle and dispose of the mask must also be placed in high-traffic detailing how gues areas on property including the front-lobby areas, employee break rooms, and all exits.

Under the Safe Stay guidelines, all COVID-19 cases must be immediately reported to local authorities, and employees of hotels exhibiting COVID-19-like symptoms must remain at home.

Regular cleaning intervals of high touch surface areas in hotel rooms, like elevator buttons and share equipment, must also be conducted and new physical distancing protocols which will be updated in accordance with CDC guidelines in guest room meeting spaces, parking and pool areas.

With this new initiative, Terry says things like reusable goods in the room may be eliminated and traditional room service will be replaced with a no-contact delivery method.

“Buffets aren’t really going to be permissible at least in these second phase, and maybe even in the third phase, so they’ll have to go to a different type of foodservice and really adapting that to what’s necessary,” Terry said. “In many cases, there will be barriers between them and the front desk clerks, handling of keys and credit cards will be different than what’s been done in the past a lot more touchless transactions.”

Many of these Safe Stay protocols will be adapted further to meet the specific needs of hotels as consumer confidence returns with the states reopening.

“I think the next phase is getting in things like youth sports travel - which we get a lot of in Richmond - corporate meetings, conventions, that will probably be somewhere in the fourth quarter to sometime next year,” said Terry “We’re hopeful that corporations and government will start traveling again those are two really important segments for Virginia and for our hotels.”

Terry says that many hotel employees were furloughed when the pandemic began so guests should expect slower wait times as staff is trained under these new protocols.

For more information on the Safe Stay initiative, click HERE.

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