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Reality Of The Emergency Road Trip: Safety Insights From An Unplanned Hotel Stay

What are some thoughts you may have if you had to stay at a hotel during COVID? Is your room thoroughly cleaned? Are employees taking the proper precautions? Linda, our Global Director of Client Services, shares her discoveries during an unexpected hotel stay.

My husband, daughter, two dogs, and I took an RV halfway across six states to minimize contact and to experience this pandemic-friendly form of travel. We were self-contained, ready for “contactless” travel, on our way to take care of pressing family business.

Unfortunately, life happened.

Our travel was extended due to a sudden medical event, resulting with a trip to the hospital and four-night stay. We ditched the RV, daughter, and dogs, and approached the return, instead, by car 700 miles home.

We thought the hospital could have been the most likely place to contract COVID-19. That is, until we checked in to a major branded hotel on the first day of travel.

First Impressions

It started out great: we were greeted by an extrovert with a smile that extended through the mask. There was information sharing and a feeling of caring and warmth.  The conversation fluidly moved from where to eat to “by the way, here are the COVID precautions,” followed with “you won’t need to worry about those for one night!”

I was astonished to hear this and was sure that was not true.  I scanned the lobby and noticed one sanitizing station placed near the entry door, and partition and flooring decals for social distancing at the front desk and within the elevator. Perhaps enough? To instill trust? No.

Quality Service

Tired and not functioning normally, we moved onwards to our room, using the luggage cart that was left available for guest use. Entering our room, we found the fold-out bed in disarray, amenities previously used and others missing, and trash in one garbage bin.

The room assigned to us had not been cleaned! We reached for our own sanitizer.

Making It Right

The front desk manager was mortified! He changed our room right away, called to receive verbal satisfaction afterwards, stating he had never been so embarrassed to check on guest satisfaction. Later, we received an email expression of apology from the General Manager and promise of loyalty points. The service recovery completed well.

Investigative Research

The next overnight stay, I decided to do some research. I approached the (mask-less) front desk attendant at the hotel and asked what they are doing for COVID precautions. I let the attendant know we were traveling because of a medical condition. The attendant looked surprised and explained she “did not know the precautions” and went behind the desk to ask her manager.

Returning, she stated they are performing additional cleaning and sanitizing. Was this true? Who knows. My original room had not been fully cleaned so I was not feeling very confident. I asked about the lack of signage (i.e. CDC guidelines or ‘Safety Tips’), and she told me they were waiting on them from corporate.

I decided to check out the competitors within walking distance, and ask my scenario question: “What are you doing in response to COVID? I need a hotel room for the night and have a medical condition.”

Immediate Competitor Analysis: Competitor A

Competitor A had the partition to keep the front desk attendant and guest safe. Sanitizer and distancing signage were present in the lobby.

However, when I asked the scenario question, the attendant said they are washing the linen and towels and are using chemicals in the room. I certainly hope she meant to say they are washing the linen in higher temperatures and are using sanitizer after cleaning on all high touch areas, but, hard to say.

She was not wearing a mask, so I could only infer her meaning. While they were not expecting someone to walk in and ask, knowledge is a minimal expectation for guest-facing personnel.

Immediate Competitor Analysis: Competitor B

There was no partition at the front desk, but floor decals for social distancing and sanitizer were present.  Several signs had been printed from their computer, and they were in place and ready for guest review.

I asked my question.  Without skipping a beat, I was given a list of what precautions were in place for guest protection, and asked me if there was anything they could do further to accommodate me.

Not hard to say where I would have stayed if I had completed this exercise earlier. Additionally, I see this as a reflection of the hotel brand, which I will further recommend in this area. I have confidence that the team was trained on precautions and understood the importance of their actions.

The reality of this small front desk exercise is that 2 of 3 brands were not following their own expert-created health and safety protocols. 


We may need to travel during COVID. Do not give up an opportunity: instill trust by communicating internally and externally what actions are being taken to protect guests. Monitor compliance to ensure everyone is doing what they should be for both old and new procedure.  We’ll all come out better for doing so.

We are all in this together.


Linda Amraen, Global Director of Client Services, Hospitality – BARE International

+1 (703) 995 3105 • LAmraen@bareinternational.com