Courtesy of Hasbrouck House
Courtesy of Calistoga Ranch
Calistoga Ranch in Napa Valley is open. Napa Valley starting welcoming back travelers on June 5.
If you’re ready to embrace a domestic getaway but aren’t sure what your options are for hotel and resort stays, we’re here to help.
As coronavirus lockdown measures ease across the United States, a domestic trip is likely to be one of your first travel experiences. If it’s a hotel or resort stay you are truly yearning for, you may have more options than you realize.
When the coronavirus pandemic reached a crescendo in the United States in mid-March and states throughout the country began issuing shelter-in-place orders in an effort to flatten the curve, thousands of hotels were forced to temporarily close. They did so either because regulations prohibited them from operating (such as in California where hotels were only allowed to stay open if they were housing essential workers), or because of a severe drop-off in guests as travelers canceled their plans en masse to adhere to the lockdown measures and to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
In recent weeks, states have been easing restrictions on businesses and in many cases that includes hotels, which are increasingly being given the green light to welcome leisure travelers back.
Of the 57,528 hotels in the United States (or 5.4 million hotel rooms), at least 5,241 hotels temporarily closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to data provided to AFAR by hotel research company STR. As of June 10, 3,172 of those hotels had reopened, and 2,069 properties remained temporarily closed due to the pandemic, STR stated.
Marriott International last month reported that roughly a quarter of its worldwide hotels were closed (it did not specify what percentage of those were in the United States). Occupancy levels at the start of May dipped down to 20 percent at Marriott’s North America properties—but the company said it expects occupancy levels to begin to climb back up “as national, state and local restrictions around travel and business are gradually relaxed.”
Data indicates that demand for hotel stays is beginning to return. Hotel searches in the United States rose 36 percent for the week ending May 31, compared to the week ending March 29, according to a recent report released by travel booking site TripAdvisor. “Since mid-May, searches for domestic travel due to take place in less than 30 days’ time have grown rapidly in the U.S.,” the online travel site stated in its report.
While a growing number of us may be searching and dreaming about a hotel stay, it’s important to remember that a hotel stay during the coronavirus pandemic is likely going to look and feel a lot different than in prepandemic times. Here are some things to take into account before you start looking at rates and dates.
State and country rules determine if a hotel is allowed to open. If you aren’t quite sure what the rules are most hotel search and booking tools like Hotels.com, Booking.com, and TabletHotels.com already have hotel openings and availability baked into their search.
However, things are changing so quickly that even these highly efficient online booking giants can’t always keep up. If you find a property on a booking site that appears to be open, it is worth double-checking directly with the property to find out if they in fact are open. Some are having to push back opening dates due to restrictions and regulations.
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For properties that don’t show up as available on a booking engine, check directly with the hotel to find out if they have maybe opened up earlier than expected or are open on a more limited capacity basis. There could also be other restrictions such as minimum stays that would be important to know about before booking.
The destination marketing organizations for individual cities and counties throughout the country can also serve as a good resource. Some, such as Visit Napa Valley, are maintaining lists of travel-related businesses, including hotels, that are open and those that aren’t for prospective travelers.
As government officials, public health authorities, and hoteliers themselves work to establish best practices, guests may find that hotel features and amenities they had come to expect may not currently be available. Every property is different and must adhere to newly established local guidelines intended to ensure that transmission risk remains low on-property.
While hotels navigate this new normal, you might find that the on-site restaurant is closed or only open for takeout—but it could also be open. (Don’t assume it will be closed because restaurants are also increasingly being given the go-ahead to offer dine-in service either outside and/or inside with proper social-distancing measures in place.)
The pool is also not a given—some are open, some are open with social-distancing guidelines, and some are closed. Many hotels have closed their fitness and spa facilities for the time being (but again not all—it really is all on a case-by-case basis, we found plenty of differences even among hotels in the same jurisdiction).
If there’s a particular experience that is important to you, make sure to find out whether it will be available. And also ask about relevant resort fees and what they cover depending on what is and isn’t available.
Over the past several weeks, hotels and resorts have been instituting new health, safety, and cleanliness protocols intended to assure travelers that they’re taking infection prevention seriously.
The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) has developed a Safe Stay program, which established industry-wide guidelines for hotel cleaning standards that includes things that both employees and guests are encouraged to do, such as wash their hands frequently and be aware of the local public health recommendations—for instance, where and when it is required to wear face masks. On the face masks front, be aware that some hotels are asking guests to wear masks in public areas, so be sure to get information about the property’s mask-wearing policy.
There is a long list of cleaning products and protocols for hotels that include which areas should be cleaned most frequently (like elevator buttons) and how social-distancing measures should be practiced both among staff and guests (think pool seating that is six feet apart and no more turn-down service).
Those are in addition to health and safety regulations set forth by local governments that hotels must adhere to in many jurisdictions in order to safely reopen, as well as the many programs that hotels—from Four Seasons to Marriott International and Hilton—have rolled out on their own to ensure enhanced cleaning and safety.
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The vast majority of hotels now have a section of their website dedicated solely to providing a detailed breakdown of all the new cleaning and sanitation measures they have implemented. As always, if this is an area of particular concern and questions remain after reading through the policy online, pick up the phone and call the property or email the hotel with your questions. Better to find out well in advance whether your concerns will be addressed.
Making sure you are well versed in the change and cancellation policy for any travel booking you make has become standard procedure in the era of coronavirus, but we will repeat it until we are blue in the face. Thankfully, many hotels are maintaining lenient change and cancellation policies as they work to lure back travelers. Nevertheless, don’t assume it will be gracious and call to make sure you understand the conditions.
There are tens of thousands of hotels that are open or are reopening across the United States. Here, we’ll spotlight some of our favorites in some of the states our readers travel to and within the most.
After the California Department of Public Health released updated guidance on June 5 giving individual counties throughout the state the ability to allow various sectors of their economy to resume operations, California hotels and resorts were finally able to safely reopen to leisure travelers on a county-by-county basis.
On June 5, Napa Valley became one of the first counties in California to officially start welcoming back travelers, and the majority of hotels in Napa Valley are either currently open or are planning to reopen in June. They include some of our absolute favorites:
In New York State, hotels are considered an essential business and thus were allowed to stay open throughout the pandemic. Nevertheless, many did temporarily close due to health concerns and/or because of an extreme drop-off in guests. As the state gradually emerges from its lockdown, hotels that had closed are starting to reopen.
As of the start of June, authorities in the Florida Keys and Miami allowed hotels and tourism establishments to begin welcoming back visitors. In the Keys, the first phase of reopening requires that lodgings be limited to 50 percent capacity.
In early June, hotels in Chicago were given the green light to start reopening based on new health and safety guidelines provided by city officials.
The Hyatt-owned Chicago Athletic Association Hotel and Loews Chicago remain closed until further notice.
In early June, hotels and casinos along the strip were allowed to begin reopening after being closed for more than two months. The first wave of openings included:
In Texas, hotels are considered essential businesses and thus were allowed to remain open throughout the COVID-19 crisis. Nevertheless, STR estimates that around 95 hotels remain temporarily closed in Texas due to the pandemic and its impact on travel.
The iconic and opulent Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek remains temporarily closed, but bookings can be made for stays starting August 1 and beyond.
Products we write about are independently vetted and recommended by our editors. AFAR may earn a commission if you buy through our links, which helps support our independent publication.
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