Hotels in Europe to Re-Open, Cautiously!

Main Photo: The global approach to hotels re-opening….courtesy Daily Telegraph of UK

Date: May 2020

Location: Europe – Global

What Are They Doing: UK hotels to earn coronavirus-safe badge. As anticipation builds about what Prime Minister Boris’ address on Sunday May 10th will mean for domestic travel, plans are being put in place to empower hotels, attractions and self-catering accommodation to prove that they are able to open and operate in accordance with health and safety guidelines – when the time comes.

On Wednesday morning Visit Britain announced the plan for a “quality mark” to be rolled out across the country. Similar to a kitemark, but with fewer legal obligations, the hope is that the mark will denote to potentially nervous customers that the operator is conforming to Government recommendations.

The badge will act as a safeguard for staff as well as visitors, and earning it will involve a rigorous online training and assessment session focussed on hygiene and social distancing which suppliers will need to complete before self-certifying.

“We’ve been working closely with various groups, bodies and tourist boards to see how the industry can navigate its way out of lockdown,” Patricia Yates, CEO of Visit Britain told Telegraph Travel. “After hearing concerns from across the industry, we wanted to be able to implement something quickly and effectively.

“Visit Britain already works on common standards for hotels and across lots of different regions. In theory, this new quality mark will work in exactly the same way. Spot checks will be carried out on places that have self-certified and the mark will be stripped from any business that is found to be non-compliant.”

The move comes at a time when the industry is eager to get back to work. Summer is a crucial time for the British travel industry and there are concerns that if the Government does not act soon, many businesses will be forced to close and the three million plus jobs provided by the industry will be put at risk.

This is over and above what the major hotel chains, Accor, Hilton, IHG, Radisson et al have also already announced.

In light of this, Visit Britain has also suggested that a flexible furlough extension be offered to the tourism and hospitality sector beyond the end of June. “It’s likely that we will see a staggered reopening of visitor attractions and hotels across Britain,” said Yates. “For example, hotels are likely to open in a room-only capacity with just 10 to 20 per cent of their rooms operational. This will slowly increase throughout the year, so a part-time furlough scheme could prove crucial.”

For Visit Britain, though, the message is clear – the UK’s domestic tourism industry needs to be operational, even if in a diminished form, throughout the summer in order to survive.

“The domestic industry is our backbone,” Yates said. “Hopefully, people that haven’t holidayed at home for a while are going to be amazed at the quality of what we have to offer. This is the year that we need our domestic travellers to save our industry.”

While the UK remains firmly in lockdown, with social distancing rules in place and only essential shops and services still running, many countries around the world are tentatively loosening their lockdown measures.

In Brandenburg, Germany, museums have opened their doors. Restaurants in Texas reopened last Friday, and beaches in Spain are no longer fenced off. All, of course, come with strict social distancing guidelines in place, but they show progress towards a return to some sort of normality.

The question is, when will leisure and business travel to these places resume?

Italy: What has reopened? In mid-April the country extended the shops that could open (essential stores, like supermarkets and pharmacies, never closed), allowing bookshops, dry cleaners, stationery shops and shops selling baby clothes to open their doors. This is on a regional basis. Those shops not currently open will be able to reopen on May 18, along with museums and libraries.

As of May 4, parks reopened and bars and restaurants are now allowed to operate takeaway services, not just delivery as was previously the case. Food must be eaten at home or inside an office. Dine-in services at restaurants and bars, as well as hairdressers and beauty salons, are expected to resume from June 1. Last week thousands of restaurants, bars and shops in Italy staged a mass “reopening” in protest against the country’s lockdown measures.

Hotels in Italy were never ordered to close, but very few have continued operating since the travel ban was put in place in March. Marie-Louise Sciò, CEO and Creative Director of Pellicano Hotels told Telegraph Travel: “I want to be positive and say that in Italy, hopefully by the end of May, people will be able to travel again. We are planning to open our hotels at the end of May/early June, unless something changes. Like everyone, we are seeing [what happens] day by day, one foot after the other.”

On April 28, Italian restaurant and bars owners staged a protest against the ongoing lockdown. What it might look like CREDIT: GETTY

One airport per region has remained open during lockdown. Flights to Italy are currently few and far between. The next services to Rome, operated by Alitalia, depart on Friday from Heathrow and start from £334 one-way.

On April 24 Sicily’s tourism chiefs said they will pay for half the airfare and a third of accommodation costs for those who holiday on the island this summer – €50 million has been set aside to pay for this scheme, with vouchers to be made available online.

However, commenting on the plans, Telegraph Travel’s Italy expert Anne Hanley said: “This doesn’t get round the fact that no one can come into the country without a two-week quarantine. And Sicily can’t do anything until they get central government go ahead. If there’s the slightest uptick in numbers after the May 4 opening of some shops and factories, then we go back to square one. Everyone has lots of lovely ideas. They just aren’t allowed to put them into practice.”

France: What has reopened? On April 28, France announced that it will ease its lockdown, ushering a new phase of its pandemic management.

What we know is that it will be in stages. Small museums, galleries and libraries – that can respect distancing guidelines – will be able to reopen from May 11. Beaches will remain shut at least until June.

However, big museums such as the Louvre in Paris, alongside theatres and concert halls will remain shut until June at the earliest. Public parks, which are currently shut nationwide, will be able to open starting from May 11 but only in “green” zones where the level of infection is considered to be safe. France will make a decision at the end of May on whether restaurants, cafes and bars can open starting from June 2.

Meanwhile major sports events, concerts and festivals with more than 5,000 participants are banned until September at the earliest – including the top flights of the French football leagues. Under the latest loosening of lockdown, cemeteries will be reopened starting from May 11 but weddings remain postponed. Gatherings in public spaces will be limited to ten people.

Permanent residents of EU countries, including France, are able to cross the UK/France border into France if they have proof of residence. UK nationals can enter France if returning to their principal residence. You must, however, complete the necessary “attestation” to enter France, confirming that your travel is absolutely necessary.

Guillaume Fonquernie, CEO of the luxury hotel company Airelles, said: “We feel positive about this coming summer and are hopeful that we’ll be able to fulfill the bookings we have during this period at Airelles Gordes, La Bastide and Château de la Messardière. We believe that domestic travel will bounce back first and we’ll have a strong focus on French travel to begin with, hoping that international travellers will follow soon after.”

Germany: What has reopened? The country started lifting lockdown measures on April 20, allowing shops with a retail space of under 800 sq metres to reopen, as well as bike shops, florists, book stores and car dealerships. This is in addition to the supermarkets, pharmacies and essential services that have remained open during lockdown. As of May 6, all retail outlets could reopen.

Bars, restaurants and cafés remain closed to punters, although restaurants can offer takeaway or delivery services. Body care services, such as hairdressers and nail salons, remain closed, although medically necessary appointments such as therapeutic massages are allowed.

Museums in some German states will start to reopen in the coming weeks. There will be strict safety and hygiene measures in place and restrictions on group tours. On April 22, Brandenburg opened some small museums – the first of Germany’s 16 states to do so. According to The Art Newspaper, museums in Berlin and Saxony will begin reopening as of May 4.

Since lockdown measures were introduced on March 13, hotels have been only for essential use and not for tourism, whether domestic or international.

Gatherings of more than two people are banned in most, but not all, parts of the country. In Saxony-Anhalt, a small state in east Germany of 2.3 million residents, people can now meet outdoors in small groups after six weeks in which Germans have been restricted to seeing just one person from outside their household. All big public events such as festivals and fairs are banned nationwide until the end of August, while Oktoberfest, which was due to start on September 19, has been cancelled. Restrictions on religious services are still in place. A minimum of 1.5m should be maintained at all times, and in some states it is mandatory to wear a face mask outdoors. Bundesliga football is expected to be given the green light to restart soon.

Germans aren’t allowed to leave the country. The nationwide travel ban will be extended to mid-June, according to a report in the Spiegel.

Last week the country’s tourism industry association’s head, Reinhard Meyer, said a resumption of day trips would only be possible in late summer at the earliest, and that there would be strict measures to stop domestic beaches from becoming overcrowded.

The Federal Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner has made noises that suggest summer holidays in the countryside could be permitted – albeit, most likely, for German residents in the first instance.

“Many small holiday apartments can offer farm holidays with your own living space,” she told Funke Media Group. “There is also room for sufficient social distancing in many country inns with large outdoor areas.”

Spain: What has reopened? On April 28, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez outlined a “plan for a transition to normality” in four phases, each lasting around two weeks.

Beaches are still closed, although the Spanish government is planning to reopen some for parents and their children under the age of 15 – so long as they live no further than a kilometre away. This applies to regions including Marbella and Mijas.

Restaurants and bars remain closed, although the rules were loosened to allow for takeaway collections from restaurants. No specific date has been given for when bars and restaurants will reopen. However, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said most coronavirus cases were concentrated in cities, so restrictions would be loosened in rural areas first.

Initially, some bars and restaurants with outdoor terraces will be allowed to open 30 per cent of their outside tables, and hotels will be allowed to fill 30 per cent of their rooms. Cinemas and theatres will also open at one-third of capacity. No specific date has been given for when the above will happen.

Spain has seen some of Europe’s strictest social distancing rules, with armed servants of the state including Spanish Marines patrolling the streets to enforce the rules. However, the Spanish government has unveiled a “gradual de-escalation” of its social distancing measures. As of April 26, children under the age of 14 are allowed to spend an hour each day exercising outdoors. As of May 2, all Spanish citizens are now allowed to go for walks and engage in outdoor sports.

Malagueta beach has reopened for parents with young children CREDIT: GETTY

In the Balearic Islands, the most optimistic forecast is currently for a summer occupancy of only 30 per cent – largely from domestic tourism – which would not be financially viable in many cases. Hotel groups there are already looking to spring 2021 for any sort of normal operations, rather than autumn this year.

Greece: The Greek Prime Minister announced an easing of coronavirus lockdown rules as of May 4. Around 10 per cent of businesses that shut will be able to reopen, including hair salons, electronic shops, bookstores and vehicle testing centres. All direct commercial flights between the UK and Greece have been suspended until May 15. There’s eagerness for tourism to recommence, however. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said he hopes tourism will resume by mid-June: “Ideally we want more high-end tourists where we can actually respect social distancing,” he told CNN.

Crowds returned to Thessaloniki this week CREDIT: GETTY

Portugal: As Portugal emerged from lockdown this weekend, there are signs that suggest Portugal’s hotel chains hope to salvage something from this summer. Reuters reports that Vila Gale, Portugal’s second-largest hotel chain, is “stocking up on sanitisers, gloves, masks and thermometers, re-arranging dining tables to keep guests at least 1.5 meters apart, and drawing up a la carte menus to replace buffets” ahead of a June reopening. “We have to endure the situation and get some revenue this summer,” said executive board member Goncalo Rebelo de Almeida. “I hope… that will at least allow us to pay fixed costs. And then we will bet on it returning to normal in 2021.”

Croatia: There have been rumblings of promising news from Croatia, from the point of view of holidaymakers. Croatia’s national carrier, Croatia Airlines, has announced plans to restart routes from Zagreb to Dubrovnik, Split and Frankfurt on May 11. Meanwhile Istria, a peninsula in northern Croatia popular for its culinary scene, is said to be ready to reopen from May 11 should border restrictions be lifted.

USA: What has reopened? Non-essential businesses have been closed since the United States entered lockdown in mid to late March. National parks have been closed for weeks, although Donald Trump announced that they would reopen this week – as a result of the closures, some parks like Yosemite have seen the return of certain species like bobcats and bears.

Some states are beginning to end stay-at-home measures and are paving the way for businesses to reopen. In Texas, for example, the governor Greg Abbott plans has begun a phased exit of social distancing, allowing businesses like retail stores, restaurants, theatres and malls to open with limited capacities of 25 per cent. The order also allowed libraries and museums to open. Other states, including California, have seen the easing of lockdown measures.

While New York City remains under strict lockdown, Governor Andrew Cuomo has started laying out the exit strategy for upstate New York, paving the way for manufacturing and construction businesses to reopen.

In an 18-page document outlining the US plans to lift lockdown restrictions, President Trump said that people would still be advised to stay at home when sick, maintain social distancing in public and continue to wash their hands often with soap. The announcement marked a key turning point in America’s battle against coronavirus, with Mr Trump now focusing on improving the US economy as well as tackling the outbreak.

Only 13 airports are open to flights from the UK, including JFK in New York and LAX in Los Angeles. On April 29, American Airlines flew from Heathrow to Miami (£336 with BA code-share), British Airways flew from Heathrow to JFK in New York (£372). On April 30, Austrian Airlines flew from Heathrow to Denver (£558).

Do we know when travel will resume? It’s hard to say, although an LA Times report on when holidays will restart for Americans has concluded that the majority of experts think domestic trips by car will be possible by the summer and overseas breaks by the autumn. However, it anticipates that demand for travel will be slow to recover.

As to when international tourists will be able to enter, President Donald Trump was quick off the mark to ban travel from Europe and the UK, and has placed a 60-day ban on immigrants seeking permanent status in the US. Yet the president has been keen to jump-start the country’s struggling economy by paving the way for reopenings. No timeline has been given for when inbound tourism will resume.

The Trump administration has given states the ability to manage their own reopening rules. The three phases are listed below.

Australia: What has reopened? The banned list reads similar to that of the UK. Pubs, cinemas, museums, libraries remain closed. However, restaurants and cafés can offer delivery and takeaway food. Essential stores, like supermarkets, pharmacies and medical centres, remain open.

While there was no ban on beaches, many have been fenced off. Sydney’s Bondi Beach has now reopened to local swimmers and surfers after a month-long closure.

Only essential travel is permitted between most States and Territories within Australia. Only NSW, the ACT and Victoria have not implemented restrictions on interstate travel. Social distancing measures are in place in public, including physical distancing of 1.5 metres, avoiding public gatherings, staying at home unless absolutely essential and using contactless payment instead of cash.

However, after a successful effort to limit the spread of the virus (Australia reported 12 new cases on Tuesday) they have started to relax restrictions, reopening some schools and allowing individuals to drive for longer distances.

In New South Wales, two adults (under 70) with their children will now be able to visit friends in their homes. In Western Australia, people can now have up to ten people around to their home, so long as they practise social distancing. New Zealand has also started relaxing its lockdown measures, and the two countries are in talks about introducing a possible ‘travel bubble’ in the coming months.

There are currently no flights operating between the United Kingdom and Australia.

THPT Comment: We thank UK’s Daily Telegraph for this comprehensive report on who’s doing what….Generally it’s a real game of wait and see…what other countries are doing, what is the effect…and how do we avoid the second spike.

First Seen: The UK’s Daily Telegraph

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