3 nights, 3 hotels: What it's really like to stay in a hotel during the coronavirus pandemic
LAS VEGAS - The voicemail indicator flashed when I checked into my room at the New York-New York Hotel & Casino during the reopening of the strip last week.
Instead of a normal greeting or a leftover message that a previous guest never called, a hotel employee's voicemail was about cleanliness.
My room and bed sheets were cleaned thoroughly before I arrived, she said, noticing the cleaning seal I had broken when I swiped the magnetic key card to enter the room.
"If you would like us to clean your room again during your stay, please contact the cleaning service," the message said. '
That's right: the daily cleaning service, a staple for a hotel stay, is now available on request.
This is one of the many changes triggered by the coronavirus crisis. Hotels such as airlines and other tour operators have had to introduce new health and safety protocols to ensure employee safety and attract customers as travel restrictions are relaxed.
The American Hotel & Lodging Association issued "Safe Stay" guidelines in May, and individual hotel chains have developed their own plans. MGM Resorts, which operates New York-New York and a dozen other Las Vegas hotels, has developed a seven-step operation security plan and includes a link to the plan on the sticker attached to each room door.
To see firsthand what it was like to stay in a hotel during the pandemic, I spent three nights in three different hotels while reporting on the reopening of Las Vegas. In addition to New York-New York, I checked in at Caesars Palace, part of the casino gaming giant Caesars Entertainment, and at The D Las Vegas, an independent hotel on Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas. All trips were paid for by USA TODAY and the stays were anonymous.
Hotel policies vary across the country, of course, and the precautions you'll find at a mega resort in Vegas are likely to differ from those at a budget motel, luxury inn, or convention hotel across the country, with some of the changes being different State specified and local regulations. Even within Las Vegas there are deviations: The Venetian still offers a daily cleaning service in every room.
However, the topics will be similar.
The biggest surprise for me: once in the rooms, at least in Las Vegas, nothing seemed to differ dramatically from a stay before the corona virus. There were ice buckets, glasses or cups for water, the same old mini shampoo bottles, and prehistoric phones and alarm clocks.
The only thing I noticed differently in New York-New York besides the equipment set was a black and gold cardboard cover over the remote control, which for a long time was considered one of the most germinating objects in a room.
"Cleaned for your safety," it says.
The TV remote control in the New York-New York Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas now offers a little protection in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
6 things different from staying in a hotel during the coronavirus pandemic
The lobby: Before you get a room key, temperature checks are required. At D Las Vegas, I went through a metal detector with a temperature scanner at the hotel entrance. I scanned my wrist, registered 98.7 ℉ and was on my way to the reception. In New York-New York, a paramedic scanned my forehead with a non-contact thermometer at the entrance to the check-in line. At Caesars Palace, guests who use the reception go through a thermal scanner, while those who check in at kiosks have their temperatures measured with a contactless thermometer.
I have never registered a temperature above 98.7 ° C. If I had, I would have been tested again after being given the opportunity to cool off. If I still had a fever, I would get a COVID-19 test in Caesars and New York-New York and be evaluated by a doctor at The D to see if I could check in, hotel representatives said.
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USA TODAY Travel reporter Dawn Gilbertson has her temperature checked before entering the check-in line at the New York-New York hotels and casinos in Las Vegas when she reopens in early June.
Hotels promote mobile check-in and kiosks for express check-in, but traditional receptions still exist, and I've used them in two of the three hotels. In New York-New York, there were acrylic dividers, like the ones you see in the supermarket, that separated me from the agent at the front desk.
Social distance signs were everywhere on floors, easels and video screens in the lobby and on the way to the rooms.
New York-New York had a sign at the entrance to the elevators saying that masks are required if you are traveling with hotel guests outside your group. If you are not wearing one, wait for a private elevator. However, no one enforced the policy during my visit. Caesars had signs that dictated a maximum of four people per elevator, although nobody counted. In the D, a representative asked for my room key and entered the number for me on the bank of the lifts.
New York-New York and Caesars have their version of a good housekeeping badge, a sticker on the door that declares the room clean. The red sticker from Caesars says: "Cleaned and sealed for your protection." "The sticker on my room on the 68th floor in the Forum Tower was either not attached firmly enough or a joke tore it off because I put it on the carpet in front found my door.
When you check in at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas you will find this red sticker on the door to let them know that your room is clean and hygienic. A daily cleaning service is not planned at least for the time being.
Equipment kits or free face masks and gloves: A red bag was waiting on the desk in my room in New York-New York. Inside: two evergreen face masks with the name of the hotel in the lower right corner; a 2 oz. Containers of Locke Teddy hand disinfectant, a pen that doubles as a pen for touch screens, and a silver tool for opening doors with a pen for pushing buttons. The tool looks like a cross between a bottle opener and a key chain.
Guests checking in during the coronavirus pandemic at the New York-New York Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas and other MGM resorts will find a new convenience in the room: a bag with two face masks, a hand sanitizer, a pen and a silver tool, that you can use to open doors.
The D distributed white face masks with its logo. Caesars had employees hand out generic face masks at the entrances. Guests don't have to wear them in most places in the hotels I've stayed in, and many didn't when I was there. A Caesars security officer estimated that 80% didn't wear any on the opening weekend.
Daily housekeeping on request, if any: Like New York-New York, Caesars and The D had notices of changes to housekeeping guidelines. When express check-in at a kiosk in Caesars, the following message appeared: "In accordance with the guidelines of the Centers for the Control and Prevention of Diseases for Social Distance, no cleaning service is offered for guests staying longer than one night. Garbage collection and refreshing of the towels is only available on request. ''
At The D, the room key holder had a note that housekeeping would not be offered, but guests could request additional bedding and towels for delivery to their rooms.
Bill Hornbuckle, acting CEO of New York's parent company MGM Resorts, had highlighted budget changes when speaking at a conference call to Wall Street analysts in late April about plans to reopen the chain.
"When I'm a guest in Bellagio, I want to know that my room is immaculate when I go in," he said. "And during my stay, I probably won't do it unless I want and need clean towels." Let a maid or other service staff come to my room. ''
Bell service: I checked my suitcases in front of Caesars Palace so I can walk around if my room isn't ready. (It was.) After the hotel was closed for two and a half months, the bellhop was so rusty that he forgot to give me my ticket and found me in the lobby. When I called for my bags, the front desk asked me to stay in the room, explaining that the staff knock and leave the guests' bags in front of the door so they can pick them up. The doorman, who delivered my bags with gloves and a mask, dropped them directly into my door because I opened the door and greeted him with a big tip.
Parking: During a pandemic, nobody wants to get in your car and vice versa. As a result, valet parking has been suspended in each of the hotels I've stayed in. (It is still available in some locations, including The Venetian.) Self-parking is the only option in most locations in Las Vegas and across the country - at least for now - and is free in Las Vegas, unlike corona virus.
Room service: Room service was not available at Caesars and The D does not offer it, but New York-New York resumed it on the opening weekend. However, you won't find any of these chunky, leather-bound menus in the room. There is a QR code that you can use to access your phone's menu. And yes, it is still expensive.
This article originally appeared in the US TODAY: Hotel Security During COVID-19: What We Learned at 3 Hotels in Las Vegas
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