San Diego County has given the green light for hotels to welcome back tourists just in time for summer.
Now, many local hotels have reopened or announced plans to reopen in coming days or weeks, with the goal of targeting local leisure travelers and regional road trippers from neighboring cities and states to help the tourism industry reboot amid the pandemic.
Niveesha Hill, general manager at Carlsbad by the Sea Hotel, said she predicts a lot of drive-in business to start. As far as occupancy goes, she believes the 66-room hotel will reach 50% by the end of the year.
“I think we’ll see people who want to drive to places that are close to them, like the families that haven’t gotten out in a while, and visitors from neighboring states that don’t want to get on a plane just yet,” she said. “People have been cooped up for a while, and some have been unemployed. So, they are either using money they’ve saved and need a somewhat affordable vacation that is close or simply taking the family on a much-needed vacation that is nearby for safety and comfort reasons.”
In order to keep its 22 staff members and guests safe, Hill said Carlsbad by the Sea has implemented a number of CDC mandated protocols. Because the hotel doesn’t anticipate many guests to start, it has only opened two out of its five buildings, said Hill. It has begun using a hospital-grade disinfectant, added six-foot markers throughout the building to encourage social distancing, and, for guests that don’t want contact with housekeeping staff, they will be provided a black and a white mesh bag, the former to fill with dirty linens and the latter to receive clean ones.
All amenities have been removed from the rooms, said Hill, including K-cups, condiment packs and soap. And, hygiene kits will be provided to all visitors, which include mask, gloves and hand sanitizer with the company’s logo on them. Lastly, plexiglass partitions have been added to every front desk station, clean and used pen cups have been placed at every check-in point and face masks are required by all staff members and guests.
Michael O’Donohue, general manager at the Pendry San Diego, located in the Gaslamp District, said the 2017-founded boutique hotel is hoping to capture local travelers looking to embark on staycations.
“As we reopen and now, more than ever, we expect to welcome more locals and people looking for a long-awaited getaway,” he said. Part of the draw is the health and safety protocol program the Pendry is observing, O’Donohue said.
All dining rooms will be operating at a reduced capacity and will provide disposable and digital menus that can be viewed on diners’ mobile devices, he said. Aside from enhancing its focus on overall cleanliness and hygiene throughout the hotel, with more frequent sanitation and deep cleaning in high-touch areas, guests will be offered complimentary access to One Medical. This will allow visitors virtual healthcare from the comforts of their hotel rooms should they fall ill, said O’Donohue.
Additionally, upon arrival and check-out, registration cards, credit card devises, room keys and pens will be sanitized with a UV wand prior to being provided to guests, he added.
Key Feeder Market
Eric Manning, director of sales and marketing at the InterContinental Hotel San Diego, located downtown, said with leisure travel now approved, the property will be marketing to San Diego’s key feeder and local markets.
“We expect leisure business to drive occupancy throughout the summer,” he said, “with larger groups and events resuming in the fall. We are still awaiting the Governor and/or County’s gathering guidelines to ensure compliance for larger group events.”
To help promote a worry-free environment, The InterContinental has enhanced some of its existing safety measures and also added: the use of electrostatic disinfectant sprayers for public areas and guest rooms; has made its menus available via QR Codes; and has partnered with Ecolab, a provider of water, hygiene and energy technologies, and the Cleveland Clinic, a medical center, to develop the “IHG Clean Promise” standards.
Leading this work is their Global Cleanliness Board, a group of IHG experts in operations, health, safety and guest experience colleagues working with external specialists to define solutions, best practice and implement processes, according to the company.
Hampton Inn & Suites Imperial Beach opened its doors for the first time on May 22 and has applied a lot of the same CDC requirements as others, like the use of face masks for all team members and gloves for all housekeeping staff. It has also taken additional measure, according to Dean Manternach, VP of operations at Tharaldson Hospitality Management LLC, which owns and operates the Hilton property. For example, the hotel has partnered with Lysol as an added measure, which will provide a disinfecting chemical for added sanitization throughout the property. Through the partnership, the hotel will also provide sanitizing wipes to guests who request them, he said.
Elsewhere, the complimentary breakfast has been modified to a grab-and-go method, said Manternach, with all produce and goods place in a labeled bag for patrons.
So far, the 104-room Hampton Inn & Suites Imperial Beach is running at over 40% occupancy, he said. That number is anticipated to increase to more than 60% this week as a large group of military Navy soldiers has checked in, according to Manternach, who believes that figure will continue to increase week-over-week.
He added that while he and his team are currently targeting leisure, drive-in travelers, he predicts business travel will pick up soon.
“Right now, it’s a lot of drive-in traffic as a lot of people have been cooped up in their homes with orders to shelter-in-place, so that will be the bulk of what we see at first,” said Manternach. “I will say, I travel quite a bit and have been seeing more and more business travelers. I do think business communities, companies and corporations out there will be giving the green light to their employees to go out and travel soon albeit face masks and all the safety protocols we should be taking.”
Local Market First
To help push these efforts, the San Diego Tourism Authority has a marketing plan in place that will focus on the local market first and then expand to regional drive markets as is appropriate, said Jennifer Davies, director of cultural tourism at SDTA.
“The timing and rollout are flexible and are dependent on when the community is ready,” she said. Julie Coker, president and CEO of the San Diego Tourism Authority, added that SDTA has a recovery marketing plan ready to deploy “designed to support our local hotels and tourism businesses.”
“The San Diego Tourism Authority will continue to work with our local elected officials, industry partners and Members on responsible reopening efforts or all facets of our local tourism economy,” she said.
Caroline Beteta, president and CEO of “Visit California,” said she looks forward to the tourism industry launching its economic comeback with the help of all Californians and other visitors who are comfortable traveling at this point.
“Visit California and California’s tourism industry welcomes new state public health guidance that will allow hotels to serve leisure travelers in parts of California that are ready to welcome them,” she said. “It also will allow the tourism industry to launch its economic comeback and begin to restore jobs for hundreds of thousands of tourism and hospitality workers whose lives and livelihoods have been severely affected by the coronavirus.”