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  • Writer's pictureNaman Mittal

Ultimate Guide to Accommodation in India post-Coronavirus

The Coronavirus has made it not only to travel out to any place but the fact that when we look at a new place or a new person, we get that feeling of being scared of catching the virus that our willingness to travel is also gripped. Such an extreme feeling has become really common and the fact that a new place or a new location might have a higher chance of getting a person infected restricts a traveler to even go out of their house. Making this feeling a new normal, traveling to a new place, and staying at that place is going to change for good to push towards safer means of travel.

When we think of staying and sleeping at an accommodation that is not our home, the first thing we think of is how many people have actually been here and used it? Is it really been cleaned after their stay? Or is it even safe from any disease that the person might carry? All of these questions are not just going to be our simple thoughts but a grave concern, a concern that will be needing complete addressing and safety measures that will make sure that these doubts are vanished as quickly as they come inside a traveler’s mind. Leading hoteliers believe that these concerns and risks can be simply taken care of with a few safety precautions and wearing a mask at all times when outside the accommodation.

You can check out the guidelines by the government of India to make face masks at home here and make a mask for all your needs to be safe from Coronavirus.

Travel includes staying at a new place(obviously!) and a traveler could have a preference for staying at a posh location that has all the amenities and a person need not even go out of the property to have fun, and a traveler could even have a preference of going with the cheapest closest option to stay for the night or the day and be gone the next morning. However extreme a traveler would want their accommodation preference to be, the coronavirus is set to bring a few changes to all of them.

Checking-in to accommodation is the first thing that a traveler has to do to start their stay at a new place. During check-in, there can be several violations of social distancing norms, like touching each other’s documents, handling cash, staying close to the attendant at the reception, standing close to other guests, etc. Having a digital, contact-less check-in will be the new normal in each accommodation, where a traveler will just walk into a hotel and head directly for their room that will be pre-allocated to them before even their check-in. A possible tech-travel solution for this could be, no need to show any documentation or a booking voucher, just QR or bar code on the phone that enables the door and unlocks it for a traveler to enter the hotel premises or the accommodation premises and head straight for their rooms.

Escalators, lifts, or staircases, which one to prefer? It is pretty much clear that lifts are our worst enemies when it comes to social distancing. Staying in close proximity to a person for longer than 10 seconds is always a factor of risk. So, stairs might be safer than lifts and you can even eliminate the bulk of the threat by not touching anything like the railing or handles and walking at a distance from anyone walking close to you.

The common areas like lobby, gyms, pools, spas, etc. will have to be tackled with utmost safety. Since these areas attract a lot of visitors, there is not only a chance of catching the virus from coming in contact with an infected person but from a surface that was in contact with an infected person. These areas will be limiting the number of guests on the floor and ensuring that each area is cleaned off at regular intervals. Swimming pools are much safer when it comes to Coronavirus because chlorine does not let the virus sustain. You can have a chill time at the pool but make sure that there are not a lot of people present and you are still steering clear and swimming at a distance. Although not a lot of hotels have opened swimming pools, it is something to look out for.

Eating at a restaurant is going to be a little problematic. Not exactly problematic but very different. There will be a lot fewer customers that would opt to eat out, and even if they do, restaurants need to have a strict policy of how many foodies can even be present at once in the vicinity. The best solution to eating a meal at your favorite restaurant would be to order room service. Sanitizing your hands and eating a meal in your room is the best way to stay safe and eat during a trip when the pandemic is still at large.

Getting to the accommodation and checking-in is fine but how do you really stay? Remotes, handles, faucets, toilets, surfaces, room keys, etc. All can carry a potential risk to infect a person from this highly contagious virus. Now we have two options, either you go berzerk and start sanitizing every corner of the room you’ll be staying in, from the handles to the TV, or you make sure that you keep your hands clean every time you want to eat something or do an activity that might involve you touching your face repeatedly. If you’re really paranoid, sanitize the hell out of the entire room.

Another solution to the above problem is to make sure that the traveler that stayed in that room had no health conditions. If we try to determine how can we even get infected by staying in a room, it is most likely to happen if the person staying before had the coronavirus. The simple solution is to know their health status as well. Also, knowing that the room had been cleaned thoroughly after the traveler left the room and left untouched for at least a day as the virus can not sustain for long on surfaces. Many accommodations are going for this idea to make travel and stay safe, and also make travelers feel safer about their stay.

Coronavirus has made human interaction to a bare minimum. To actually have bare minimum contact during a travel excursion is going to be a tough ask. When it comes to staying in outside accommodation, the main interaction is done with the staff present at the hotel or stay. Housekeeping is the major point of concern. To tackle this, hotels have reduced the number of staff in their property and also are keeping checks of whoever is coming to work to ensure this virus is not spread through the staff. A possible solution for you during your stay would be to have the cleaning done before your arrival and try to keep the room clean until it’s time for your checkout.

The biggest problem that I think I would have addressed will be whether the linens and the blankets have been washed or not. Some stays have a bad reputation of not cleaning the linens properly, they just wash them in simple water and are done with it. When it comes to trusting a hotel for the same, I would recommend going to the hotel that you have already been in. It just brings that factor of trust and you can always say that they put their customer’s safety first. Another solution is to inquire first about the cleaning process of the accommodation and ask them what kind of cleaning product they use to wash the linens, I’m sure that if they know the answer to this and tell you the same, it will be a safe place to live in.

The last thing that I would be concerned about would have to be the parking measures or arrangements in the accommodation. It might sound really weird but the fact that traveling will soon be shifting towards personal road trips and which means a ton of cars at a single accommodation. This parking concern also brings in the factor of valet parking and whether that is a safer option rather than walking towards a group of people that just came from another state. The problem with valet parking would be to trust a person that handles a lot of cars and hence meets a lot of people too, to counter this, make sure to sanitize your cars completely when you get it back from the valet.

Another point is regarding hostels, how will hostels even undergo such drastic changes? Hostels have also come up with a few solutions of their own. First, not more than 50% occupancy in dorms will be allowed. Each dorm bed will be assigned alternatively to ensure social distancing. Common kitchens and bathrooms will have not more than 2-3 people at max at one time in them. Finally, making travelers aware of all the safety norms and basic rules of the hostel and social distancing will be their top priority.

There’s this one thing that my friend asked me recently, what if a traveler falls sick during their stay in a hotel? It caught me off guard but I managed to ring-in a few hoteliers and asked what is their take on this, their replies. First, the person will be quarantined inside their room at the time of showing symptoms. Second, the concerned hoteliers will provide everything for their essential living and cordon off the entire floor. Third, they will have to contact the concerned authorities of the situation. Lastly, if the person is found positive for Coronavirus, they’ll be shifted to an appropriate place and the accommodation will be closed off for further stays and the guests living there will be tested and quarantined.

Today, travelers are getting impatient over getting out of their houses and are looking for safe options to just go somewhere and relax. To make this possible, the accommodation managers have come up with unique solutions making this “dream” of vacation come true. Here are a few measures that are being taken by the accommodation authorities:

  1. Reduced and Trained staff with a sense of measures to be taken, all the staff undergo regular symptom testing and have a complete list of their health records.

  2. Guests have to carry a mandatory COVID-19 negative report to stay in the rooms, that too taken within 72 hours of stay.

  3. Touchless or digital check-in has been made the only option to start a stay.

  4. Areas have been marked inside the accommodation premises that are specified as zones to keep empty or only have a maximum number of people in it.

  5. There are boards and charts all over the properties that aware the travelers of the safety measures they need to take during their stay.

  6. The number of people that can be stayed in one accommodation at a given time is being capped depending on the area and rooms.

  7. In the event of a traveler getting sick, the staff has to follow proper protocol and inform the authorities.

  8. There will not be more than 1 person to carry out any task at the hotel unless it is urgently required, for example, one person to clean a room, to attend at the reception, at a restaurant to serve, etc.

  9. Every staff member is checked for symptoms regularly throughout the day, trained well in terms of each rule and protocol, and kept on accommodation premises to keep them safe.

You can find the SOP on preventive measures in Hotels and Other Hospitality Units to contain the spread of COVID-19 ordered by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India here to check out all the safety measures each hotel has to take mandatorily.

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Now, the question is, is it safe to stay in hotels or any other accommodation during the Coronavirus outbreak? Simple answer, it is safe but with a lot of implications. You’ll need to be safe too and take safety precautions in order for your own safety and even the safety of others. Since we have to live with this virus as we live with any other disease, we have no option but to accept it and find solutions to different problems. In terms of stay, I would personally recommend staying in homestays as they are the safest bet of not having the virus anywhere near them but hotels are safe too with proper measures.

Another safe and convenient option for any traveler would be to stay out in their camps at places with less to no traveler at all. A number of travelers have already started going out in their self-driven cars with camps in their trunks to stay out for a night. The Tarzan Way has come up with even a better solution, stay in Caravan. Caravans are motor homes that can be driven to any place that has a road and can be parked somewhere.

a motorhome or caravan in India with kitchen
A Caravan, a car on steroids that has it all.

A Caravan comes with a kitchen, a bathroom, chairs that double up as beds to sleep at night, and obviously, that has wheels to take you places. A caravan, also known as a Recreational vehicle(RV), and also know as a motorhome is like a car on steroids. You won’t need to really go out when traveling in a caravan, you can obviously get out, if there are not a lot of people around but it’s the wholesome travel experience you would need in a world where there still looms the risk of getting infected by the coronavirus.

If you are looking to travel during social distancing norm then you should check out our guide on transportation in India during the pandemic still at large.

You can check out our Caravan experience here and our advisory for COVID-19 and traveling around India here.

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