The European Commission agreed on Wednesday to advise member states to open their borders to countries with similar coronavirus risk profiles under a plan to bolster the ailing tourist industry.
Among the recommendations proposed by the European authorities are those that affect the operation of hotels in the coronavirus era. Greece is scheduled to open all of their year-round hotels on June 1, and seasonal hotels will open at some unspecified time in July.
The Commission says that a precondition for any touristic activity to resume is that the incidence of COVID-19 has declined to low levels and sufficient health system capacity is in place for local people and tourists, so that in the event of a sudden increase in cases, primary care, hospital and intensive care services are not overwhelmed.
This would be especially important on a regional level, for tourism regions which expect higher rates of visitors, such as resorts, areas close to beaches and landmarks, which may not be necessarily close to healthcare infrastructure.
Furthermore, the Commission notes that remote tourist areas may have limited health care services and if a considerable number of visitors is expected, they may require the implementation of additional response mechanisms, such as medical evacuation flights.
The Commission says that the “health and safety of guests and workers is key priority.” It lists a number of procedures that hotels are advised to implement:
Action Plan in case of infection
Establishments should have a preparedness plan that includes actions to be taken in case of infection in the establishment, covering the periods from the decision to reopen up to 14 days after guests have left the establishment.
All staff working in tourism facilities should be aware of COVID-19 symptoms and should be briefed on basic infection prevention and control (IPC) measures. Staff should be trained on IPC measures and actions to be taken in case of guests presenting COVID-19 compatible symptoms, or themselves presenting symptoms.
Management of staff
Measures that decrease the presence of staff in the establishment should be considered, such as working from home for all staff performing duties that may be compatible with teleworking.
Measures decreasing the number of physical contacts and the time of physical contacts between people in the establishment should be considered, including shifts in work, shifts in meal-times, using phones and electronic means of communication.
Information for guests
Guests should receive all necessary information in an accessible manner, including through digital means, prior to arrival and in the place of hospitality establishment, on all current guidance by local public health authorities, as well as specific measures that are put in place and affect their arrival, stay and departure.
Guests should be informed through specific signage (information infographics, including adaptations for visually impaired guests) before the entrance of the establishment of the signs and symptoms of COVID-19, what to do in case they develop symptoms during their stay or within 14 days following departure. The establishment could also provide leaflets with this information.
Establishments should ensure that the contact details of the guests are available in case they are needed for contact tracing.
Physical distancing and hygiene
The establishment should put in place targeted measures to ensure that physical distancing is maintained in communal areas where guests are likely to gather for prolonged periods of time (i.e. longer than 15 minutes), such as establishing a maximum number of guests allowed in each common facility (i.e. restaurants, cafés, bars, lobby).
Allocating slots, or making available (digital) slot booking for meal times or visits to pools or gyms should be considered.
When physical distancing cannot be fully observed, alternative measures should be considered to protect guests and workers, such as the use of glass or plastic teller panels, wearing of masks, etc.
In principle, a distance of 1.5 to 2 meters (four to six feet) should be applied in the communal areas of the whole establishment (except for persons traveling together and sharing rooms), complemented by other measures (e.g. wearing a mask), where this is not possible.
For outdoor areas (beaches, pools, cafés, bars, restaurants, etc.) and outdoor servings, special arrangements should be made to allow for physical distancing and special hygiene measures applied. Indoor areas such as spas and pools should also adhere to strict hygiene measures. Each establishment should carefully consider whether special facilities (e.g. childcare facilities) should remain closed. Larger scale events e.g. concerts should be postponed.
Infection prevention and control measures
In addition to physical distancing, specific personal protective measures and cleaning and disinfection protocols need to be considered, communicated to staff and guests and implemented.
These measures include:
i) Respiratory etiquette: strict respiratory etiquette should be communicated and followed (coughing or sneezing into a paper tissue or the elbow) by guests and staff members. Establishments should ensure the availability of paper tissues and bins.
ii) Hand hygiene: hand hygiene is an essential control measure and should be communicated to guests and workers through information infographics at key areas (e.g. at the entrance, in the restrooms, at the cashier, etc.). Establishments should ensure easy access to hand washing facilities with soap, single use paper towels or automatic dryers for drying, and alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
iii) Use of face masks: The use of face masks by staff and guests should be considered only as a complementary measure, not replacing core preventive measures. Appropriate use of face masks is important and should be communicated to guests and staff.
iv) Ventilation: Increasing the number of air exchanges per hour and supplying as much outdoor air as possible is recommended, either by natural or mechanical ventilation, depending on the establishment. Increased ventilation of rooms for at least one hour are recommended after guest check-out.
v) Cleaning and disinfection: Cleaning of frequently touched surfaces as often as possible (at least daily and if possible more frequently) is key. Examples of these surfaces are doorknobs and door handles, chairs and armrests, table-tops, light switches, handrails, water taps, elevator buttons, bar counter tops, etc. Staff should be informed of and perform the procedure of cleaning after check out, as well as regarding the treatment of cleaning equipment, waste management, laundry and personal hygiene following cleaning.
Source: European Commission