Robot butlers, digital menus are hotels’ latest weapon against covid-19

Set in the kelly-green hills of Ireland’s County Clare, Dromoland Castle is the type of getaway that never sits empty. Why would it, with a pampering spa tucked behind 16th century walls, a par-72 championship golf course, and more stars on travel review sites than in all of Hollywood? And yet, in the wake of covid-19, the fairytale 450-acre estate-like many hotels around the world-closed its doors for safety in March. “We’ve stayed at Dromoland Castle twice and have been dreaming about going back, but obviously, right now we’ve been hesitant to travel,” says Natalie Payne, a Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, travel adviser with two teenage sons.

According to the American Hotel & Lodging Association, “leisure and hospitality” was the hardest-hit industry in the covid-19 era, far worse than retail and construction. In the U.S., hotels have lost more than $31 billion in room revenue since mid-February; as of June 3, 60% of open-for-business accommodations are sitting empty. Some 7.7 million hospitality and leisure jobs were lost in April alone.

While reopening the tourism industry may feel like risky business, hoteliers are pivoting into recovery mode with the help of cutting-edge technologies that can help minimize contamination and human touchpoints. “Frankly, it’s as much about keeping the employees safe as it is the guests safe,” says Neil Jacobs, chief executive officer of Six Senses, whose 18-hotel portfolio has installed chemical-free ozone cleaning systems that use electrically-charged oxygen molecules to rid the air of bacteria, viruses, and odors. Here’s how hoteliers are readying themselves for the new normal.

Among the hotels most firmly doubling down on high-tech cleaning gadgets is the Carillon Miami Wellness Resort, whose apartment-like accommodations in South Beach, Florida, reopen July 1. The property is using a device called the Curis fogger, which vaguely resembles the Ghostbusters Proton Pack, to decontaminate air and hard surfaces with a hydrogen solution and spray hose. In the spa, a UV-C Sanitizer zaps 99.9% of bacteria on objects and surfaces.

Throughout public spaces, it’s also deploying hospital-grade electrostatic sprayers that are capable of decontaminating 18,000 square feet per hour. Likewise, 1950s Scottsdale, Ariz., icon Hotel Valley Ho has ordered three of the devices for its property.

These sprayers are also the main weapon of choice for the recently reopened, 4,029-room Venetian Resort in Las Vegas, where the typically buzzing lobby is now sterile as an operating room. Greeting guests and team members at each entry are security officers with temperature-taking thermal scanners. UV lights decontaminate shipments to the mailroom, receiving docks, and even bellhop carts. And around the first floor’s many dining and retail venues, you’ll spot almost a thousand physical distancing markers…

Read MoreRobot butlers, digital menus are hotels’ latest weapon against covid-19

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