For much of the spring, the COVID-19 pandemic placed travel plans on hold as millions of Americans stayed safer at home. If you’ve been dreaming of a California vacation from the comfort of your couch, you now have the option to make that dream come true. As of June 12, hotels across the state were authorized to reopen if approved by county authorities under California Department of Public Health guidelines.
“From a state perspective, the government is very optimistic about our numbers. From a consumer perspective, we know that consumers are ready to travel,” explains Lynn Mohrfeld, president and CEO of the California Hotel and Lodging Association (CHLA). For hotels, the focus has been on creating the safest environment possible. “In order to welcome guests back, we have created a nine-page Clean + Safe Guidance. We are so prepared, it’s ridiculous.”
The guidance was created by CHLA in conjunction with hotel leadership from across the state, as well as COVID-19–specific protocols created by the California Department of Public Health and OSEA. In order to receive Clean + Safe certification, hotels must adhere to the guidelines for guests, employees, and cleaning practices to create a safe environment that allows for social distancing.
In practice, this means limiting the number of people per elevator; ensuring employees are outfitted with proper protective equipment; washing all towels and linens on the hottest setting; increased sanitation with extra attention paid to higher-touch items, including light switches and remote controls; as well as a host of additional protocols. Mohrfeld says that the guidance remains a dynamic document with regular updates and modifications made to reflect the most up-to-date recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization.
When and Where to Go
During shelter-in-place orders, some California hotels remained open for essential workers and travel. Now hotels have the option to resume normal business if their county has given them the green light. As you plan your stay, check up-to-date information on the specific region you’re planning to visit, as well as the statewide reopening roadmap. This collection of links to local guidelines and regulations is also a valuable resource.
Studying the various measures in place will not only help you be in compliance, it will give you greater confidence in your decision to stay in a hotel or resort. “I think we could all use a change of scenery right now,” says Mohrfeld. “Hotels are one of the safest types of accommodations out there. I would highly encourage everyone to get out there and travel. I know in my house we’re ready to go.”
When selecting a property, Mohrfeld recommends ensuring that the property has been certified as Clean + Safe by CHLA. You can also check to see if the hotel adheres to the American Hotel & Lodging Association’s Safe Stay initiative and learn about any other measures the staff is taking to ensure your health and comfort by visiting the hotel website or calling the front desk. Keep in mind that many hotels are also providing luxury packages, special discounts, and flexible cancellation policies to provide extra peace of mind.
What to Expect
“Hotels are in the hospitality business, and we will find a way to make guests feel completely comfortable and taken care of,” Mohrfeld points out. At the same time, you may notice some new social distancing measures as well as limitations to the amenities provided.
For example, at the Carneros Resort and Spa in Napa Valley, guests will receive a welcome packet, complete with face mask and hand sanitizer, during their contact-less check-in. The two pools on the 28-acre grounds are open for swimming, but spa services may not be available. At Los Angeles County’s Terranea Resort, the focus is on outdoor activities, including guided coastal hikes where it’s easy to stay socially distanced. At The Lodge at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, the resort allows for a minimum of 48 hours between guest stays and has expanded room service offerings to provide that resort feel in a safer way.
Tips for Travelers
Before you embark on your vacation, make sure you are up to speed with travel recommendations outlined by the Centers for Disease Control. It never hurts to review basic safety measures like frequent hand washing, wearing cloth face covers when in public, and staying on the lookout for symptoms.
Apart from the fundamentals, remember to be respectful of fellow travelers, remain aware of your surroundings, and practice good common sense. And if you are ever unsure about protocol, simply ask.
“We use labeling, so guests should never worry if they are doing something right,” explains Rachel Welsh, spokesperson for The Lodge at Torrey Pines. “It’s our job to keep our guests well-informed, and we continue our level of luxury by being a resource during this time.”